The Setup for the Project

The main question that encapsulates this project is: What is the relationship between Intergovernmental organizations (IOs) and the private sector like?

This project aspires to explore the effect the money of the private sector has on intergovernmental organizations and in turn the effect that these IOs have on the markets. Below you will find some interesting articles on the subject and also a couple of IO-made handbooks on partnerships between themselves and the private sector.

The concept of an IO is certainly not a clear one. This article written by Jan Klabbers, the head of this project, will provide some further guidance on the subject. 

This article explores the concept of international organisation, starting from the observation that many of these entities seem to exist and that few seem to be alike. This raises issues of cognition: how to establish whether an entity is indeed an international organisation? The question is all the more relevant in light of the suggestion, sometimes heard, that international law ought to treat different (groups of) organisations in different ways. Having first established the enormous variety of international organisations in existence, the article presents an overview of attempts by international institutional lawyers to differentiate between organisations, followed by an excursion into the relevant judicial decisions. Whereas the literature remains content with discussing formal characteristics, the courts suggest that a public task is one of the core elements of international organisation. This discrepancy is further discussed and it is concluded that the law of international organisations cannot include a public task as an essential element of the concept of international organisation, as this criterion is too fluid and too general to be of much use. In the end, the discipline cannot but uphold a single formalistic conceptualisation of international organisation.

One of the most significant changes in the multilateral system in recent years is increased private sector participation. There has been a substantial increase in both scale and impact of inter action as new forms of cooperation have emerged. These range from global, multistakeholder initiatives to operational partnerships in indi vidual countries and communities. Some multilateral institutions have a long history of involvement with the private sector, whereas for several others, these forms of cooperation mark a significant departure from the sometimes hostile relationship with the private sector that existed in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Most of what has been written about this subject is either concerned with the very normative question of whether increased private sector influence is inherently bad or good, or with issue-specific operational ly and efficiency. Critics argue that we are currently experiencing a "privatization" of the multilateral system?a strategy by default, trig gered by the financial crisis of the multilateral institutions. Proponents, on the other hand, see new forms of partnerships as one way that multi lateral institutions can pursue their tasks more efficiently in a world in which governments of rich countries are not able or not willing to pro vide the resources necessary for pulling poor countries out of poverty and misery. These issues are certainly important...

Authors: Benedicte Bull, Morten Boås and Desmond McNeill. Published by Brill. Global Governance 10 (2004), 481-498. 

Since the 1980s, neoliberal policies have been diffused around the world by international institutions established to support a very different world order. This article examines the repurposing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to become the world’s leading promoter of free markets. Social scientists commonly point to two modes of global-level institutional change: formal and fundamental transformations, like renegotiated treaties, or informal and incremental changes of a modest nature. The case of the IMF fits neither of these molds: it underwent a major transformation but without change in its formal foundations. Relying on archival material and interviews, the authors show that fundamental-yet-informal change was effected through a process of norm substitution—the alteration of everyday assumptions about the appropriateness of a set of activities. This transformation was led by the United States and rested on three pillars: mobilization of resources and allies, normalization of new practices, and symbolic work to stabilize the new modus operandi. This account denaturalizes neoliberal globalization and illuminates the clandestine politics behind its rise.

This article is written by Alexander E. Kentikelenis (Bocconi University) and Sarah Babb (Boston College) and was published in the University of Chicago Press Journals. The conclusions represented in the article is of importance for this project as well. The article clarifies the setup for the circumstances of the multilateral system of today.

In the other article above "Private Sector Influence in the Multilateral System: A Changing Structure of World Governance?" it is stated that the influence of the private sector significantly increased during the 1980s when politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher introduced the ideology of neoliberalism, an ideology that emphasizes privatisation and private sector involvement.

The current article further explores this issue and argues, for instance, that the Baker-plan presented by the Reagan-administration in the 1980s had a big impact on the shift towards more neoliberal policies in the multilateral system. The Baker-plan was launched by the United States secretery of the Treasury, James Baker, at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1985. The plan aimed at helping the debt problems among third-world countries by proposing and demanding fiscal conservatism and more market-oriented ideas than before. This had an impact on the future role on the IMF, which subsequently adopted a more neoliberal approach to its operations. At the end of the 20th century this development was adopted by the GATT and WTO as well. 



Public-private partnerships as governance tools have been around for quite a while in domestic affairs of highly industrialized states. Corporatist arrangement, for instance, constitute one such form of private-public partnerships (PPP). However, it is only recently that they have become the objects of research beyond the nation-state. For decades, research on international institutions has concentrated on inter-state regimes solving collective action problems and providing common goods (Hasenclever, Mayer, and Rittberger 1997). To the extent that non-state actors were taken into consideration at all, they appeared either as actors shaping state interests through domestic politics (cf. the literature on “two level games,” Putnam 1988; Evans, Jacobson, and Putnam 1993) or as transnational actors (from Multi-National Corporations to International Non-Governmental Organizations [INGOs]) lobbying international negotiations and/or international organizations (IOs; cf. overview in Risse 2002). Only recently did they emerge in the international relations (IR) literature as direct partners of national governments and IOs in structures of international governance...

Authors: Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse

The growing importance of the private sector, and its strengthened role in relation to the public sector, has been central to contemporary analyses of politics and public policy. This has led to abundant literature on privatisation at the national level, most notably in the US, the UK and, more recently, the countries with economies in transition in eastern and central Europe. The term privatisation has been used commonly to describe the transfer of ownership of an enterprise or of the means of production from the public (state) sector to the private (market) sector. In addition, privatisation can be defined in a broader sense to refer to the rolling back of the social and economic activities of the state. According to LeGrand and Robinson, these activities can be categorised as the state provision of goods and services, subsidies and regulations. Cook and Kirkpatrick write that there are three types of privatisation: changes in ownership of state enterprises; liberalisation and deregulation; and franchising or contracting out. 

As an extension of privatisation at the national level, a transnational managerial class of core public-private interests can be observed emerging within them. Thus, in all three cases, profit-making concerns have gained strong representation that has enabled them to influence a broad range of activities. This process of "privatisation" at the international level challenges the definition of the UN as a system of intergovernmental organisations (IGOs).

Is the process of "privatisation" at the international level challenging the definition of the UN as a system of intergovernmental organisations (IGOs)? In the article the trend of privatisation towards increased for-profit influence is analysed in three UN organisations which regulate essential components of the global neoliberal economy: communications (International Telecommunication Union); transportation (International Maritime Organisation); and natural resources (International Tropical Timber Organisation).

Global Society: Journal of Interdisciplinary International Relations. Vol. 11, No. 3, 1997. 

Kelley Lee , David Humphreys & Michael Pugh

The United Nations handbook on business partnerships emphasizes the importance of the private sector in the UN framework. The handbook poses as an idealistic example of how partnerships between IOs and the private sector should work. Unfortunately, as some items on this web page point out, these goals have not always come to fruition in all UN agencies. 

Beginning in the late 1990s – and coinciding with the launch of the UN Global Compact –engaging and building partnerships with the private sector has become increasingly desirable and feasible for the UN. Over the last decade and a half, UN entities have engaged with the private sector in a range of ways, from fundraising to jointly developing normative principles and frameworks. Collaborative arrangements have proliferated in number, scale and scope. UN entities with relevant missions, operational capacity at the country level and the proper strategy have moved from opportunistic ventures to structural engagement with the private sector...

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