Ngos, the Internet and International Economic Policy Making: The Failure of the OECD Multilateral Agreement on Investment

35 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2003

See all articles by Jürgen Kurtz

Jürgen Kurtz

University of Melbourne - Law School


The research question posed by this article is how the Internet has affected the debate on whether to provide non-governmental organisations ("NGOs") with access to trade and investment negotiations. The article begins by summarising the key arguments for and against increased NGO participation. Within this debate, international lawyers have largely ignored the question of whether the Internet pushes the debate in either direction. This article offers a contribution to this gap in the analysis. The methodology employed in examining this question is that of a case study of the failed negotiations among the member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development ("OECD") from 1995 to 1998 towards the Multilateral Agreement on Investment ("MAI"). The MAI was chosen because the OECD approach to negotiations was characterised by low levels of transparency and little scope for NGO participation. Further, the very active (and to some extent successful) campaign by NGOs against the MAI relied heavily on the Internet. The article finds that the MAI case study pushes the debate slightly in favour of greater NGO access to negotiations. Of itself, the Internet does not overcome the proper concerns of opponents based on questions of representativeness and accountability of NGOs. However, the article argues that these problems are counterbalanced to some degree by the expanded ability of electronically networked NGOs to assist in the sensitive process of conferring (or opposing) public approval and hence legitimacy for new agreements. The article concludes with some modest suggestions for greater transparency in negotiations as a response to these research findings.

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Kurtz, Jürgen, Ngos, the Internet and International Economic Policy Making: The Failure of the OECD Multilateral Agreement on Investment. Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 3, pp. 213-246, October 2002. Available at SSRN: or

Jürgen Kurtz (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
613 8344 4770 (Phone)
613 8344 9971 (Fax)

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