Between Participation and Capture: Non-state actor participation in international rule-making

The Society's 114th Annual Meeting—and first Virtual Annual Meeting—took place June 25–26, 2020. The 2020 Annual Meeting theme, "The Promise of International Law," was an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of international law, while reaffirming our commitment to achieving its promise of a more just and peaceful world.
At a moment when global governance is heavily criticized for being led by and devoted to the interests of the few, a fireside conversation with a panel of experts will examine different efforts to address the risks of capture in international rule-making and seek to draw lessons emerging from these cases. Over the past decades, non-state actors—particularly industry representatives—have been increasingly admitted to international rule-making as providers of legitimacy, expertise and funds. This trend towards inclusiveness is likely to increase, owing among other reasons to the endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals to objectives such as “inclusive institutions at all levels”, “enhancing multi-stakeholder partnerships” and promoting “public-private partnerships”. Yet, it is often overlooked that increased non-state actor participation may skew agenda-setting and ultimately international rule- making in a way that disproportionately reflects sectoral interests. Criticism has emerged in this regard in different areas of governance: UN climate change bodies have been criticized for cozying up to corporate fossil fuel lobbies, global financial governance institutions are charged with leaning towards the interests of the large banking and financial industry they are meant to regulate, and the pharmaceutical industry is accused ofexerting outsized influence in health-related international standard-setting, sometimes in contradiction with public health objectives such as access to medicines. Moreover, philanthropic foundations earmark their contributions, thereby de facto steering the decision-making processes in international organizations that rely on these funds. Some organizations, such as the WHO’s Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors, have recently sought to address these concerns.

Igor da Silva Barbosa, Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Brazil
Ayelet Berman, National University of Singapore (Moderator)
Hassane Cisse, International Development Lawyer and Former Governance Director, World Bank Group
Melissa ("MJ") Durkee, University of Georgia School of Law
Nancy Thevenin, US Council of International Business

(Speaker organizations are shown as of June 2020)