Transnational New Governance and the International Coordination of Nanotechnology Oversight
36 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2010
Date Written: April 29, 2010
Two critical questions for the regulatory oversight of nanotechnology are: at what level of government should regulation take place, and what form should regulation take? These questions are intrinsically linked. As to the first, it is widely assumed that national governments are the appropriate locus of authority for regulating technologies, including nanotechnology. In this view, sub-national, international and private measures should all be relegated, at most, to subservient and tentative roles. As to the second question, since national governments are presumptively the appropriate regulators, often it is assumed that the traditional tools of governmental oversight - command-and-control regulations - are appropriate for addressing the risks of new technologies.
Despite this mainstream wisdom, we and others have argued that international coordination of national regulation would provide important benefits. International coordination promises to avoid many of the pitfalls experienced by prior technologies as a result of inconsistent national regulation. In addition, an international approach to regulation may create incentives for inter-state cooperation in trade, environmental protection, labor and the numerous other fields that nanotechnology will necessarily implicate.
We focus here on a third advantage of international coordination: it offers an opportunity for states to develop and promote new regulatory approaches that are both more flexible and responsive than command-and-control and better attuned to promoting the benefits of nanotechnology as well as controlling its risks. In particular, we argue that at the international level - or more appropriately, the transnational level - an approach that one of us has called “Transnational New Governance” is particularly suitable to addressing the challenges nanotechnology currently poses.
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