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International Regulation Without International Government: Improving International Organization Performance Through Orchestration

Kenneth W. Abbott

Arizona State University

Duncan Snidal

University of Chicago

June 1, 2010

International organizations (IOs) have been widely criticized as ineffective. Yet scholars and commentators assessing IO performance frequently look at the actions of those organizations in isolation and focus on traditional modes of governance such as treaties and inter-state dispute-resolution mechanisms. When commentators observe poor performance, moreover, they often call for strengthening those same activities. We call this reliance on traditional state-based mechanisms “International Old Governance” (IOG). A better way to understand and improve IO performance is to consider the full range of ways in which IOs can and do operate – including, increasingly, by reaching out to private actors and institutions, collaborating with them, and supporting and shaping their activities. Such actions are helping to develop an intricate global network of public, private and mixed institutions and norms, orchestrated by IOs (and states), that we call “Transnational New Governance” (TNG). With proper orchestration by “the state” (including IOs), TNG can ameliorate both “state failure” – the inadequacies of IOG – and “market failure” – the problems that result when the creation and evolution of norm-setting institutions is highly decentralized. Orchestration thus provides a significant way for IOs to improve their regulatory performance. Some IOs already engage actively with private actors and institutions – we provide a range of illustrations, highlighting the activities of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Yet there remains a significant “orchestration deficit” that provides real opportunities for IOs. We draw on the lessons of existing IO activities to suggest additional possibilities for improving IO performance.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 42

Keywords: international organizations, international governance, international regulation, public-private partnership, NGOs, new governance, soft law

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Date posted: October 14, 2009 ; Last revised: March 13, 2016

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth W. and Snidal, Duncan, International Regulation Without International Government: Improving International Organization Performance Through Orchestration (June 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1487129 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1487129

Contact Information

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)
Arizona State University ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)
Duncan Snidal
University of Chicago ( email )
1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
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