The Law of Global Governance. By Eyal Benvenisti. The Hague: Hague Academy of International Law, 2014. Pp. 331. $21, 15. [euro]
Eyal Benvenisti was just elected the Whewell Professor of International Law at Cambridge University, succeeding James Crawford, who, in 2014, became a judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Most recently the Anny and Paul Yanowicz Professor of Human Rights at Tel Aviv University and earlier the Hersch Lauterpacht Professor of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Benvenisti has also, since 2003, been a Global Visiting Professor at New York University School of Law, probably the epicenter of work on global administrative law. The Law of Global Governance, Benvenisti's slender but potent pocketbook, is adapted, with copious annotation, from a set of five lectures that he delivered on that topic at the Hague Academy of International Law in 2013.
Administrative law has been developing for centuries. But the notion of a distinct field of global administrative law is very new. The term can take on a variety of meanings. Different approaches to administrative law applied in different parts of the world create a global body of administrative law, much of it concerned with regulation of human activity and the economy. While at times in the industrialized world we have believed ourselves to be overregulated (with comical excess of trivial regulation much criticized within the European Union), the problem in the developing world is the reverse--not enough effective regulation, particularly as economies begin to take off there.
Because international organizations, such as the World Bank, long considered regulation as an avenue for rent-seeking by corrupt officials, it was not much encouraged for several decades. But as many poorer countries began to succeed on their development tracks, a dynamic that has accelerated within the last twenty years, the paucity of transparent, reliable, and enforceable regulation started to exact serious costs on emerging powers such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Turkey.
But what Benvenisti primarily addresses here, linking up to conceptions of global administrative law, is the need for more and better review of decision making in formal intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), informal global networks (IGNs), private institutions (Pis), such as the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and other bodies taking on some of their characteristics, all of which have been multiplying to a dizzying extent. He also focuses on a more systematic approach to redress for those sideswiped by bad or self-interested decision making by international forums, of which, as he documents, there has been a great deal, as most recently exposed within the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
The book's introduction highlights the exponential growth of international decision making. Ostensibly, merely consultative groupings but in fact often vastly influential bodies, such as the self-selecting Group of Eight (G-8) and Group of Twenty (G-20), make recommendations and decisions that affect many lives around the globe, including in countries whose governments, parliaments, civil societies, and economic actors are not consulted. Less high-profile IGNs often also engage in aspects of regulation, such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (created in 1974 by another informal grouping--the central bank governors of the Group of Ten (G-10) countries), affecting many countries unrepresented in those bodies. They operate more opaquely than the much maligned World Trade Organization does today, perhaps most sharply in public focus during the kinetic antiglobalization demonstrations in Seattle in 1999. And they have been much more influential in guiding key economies among the industrialized and emerging countries of the global South than have the essentially universal forums like the United Nations or the World Bank.
Benvenisti argues that while many of these bodies are formally accountable, often to a small minority of powerful governments, they are not answerable to the billions of individuals affected by their decisions, which may be reported in fairly technical terms drawing on catatonia-inducing communiques, if at all, in the back pages of the international financial press in sometimes impenetrable finance-speak. He worries not only about democratic deficits, which are hard to challenge and overcome in a world characterized by globalization, but also about institutional fragmentation at the international level, which makes monitoring of myriad bodies extremely difficult. Many important decisions influencing national policy are made or managed by informal, indeed sometimes private, or privatized, bodies, in a process of "deformalization" of global governance, to use Benvenisti's apt phrase (p. 25). The parentage of those decisions, reached by these bodies and refracted through national channels of transmission, is often sufficiently diffuse as to make all but the hollowest of accountability impossible and, in some instances, amounts to a deliberate flight from responsibility.
After the introductory chapter, the volume unfolds through five highly substantive chapters, followed by a very brief conclusion. Chapter II provides a short but fascinating account of early IGOs such as the Central Commission for Navigation of the Rhine (formally constituted in 1815) and the International Telegraph Union (formed in 1865). The first health-oriented IGO turns out to have been an inter-American one: the International Sanitary Bureau of 1902, whose direct descendant is today's Pan American Health Organization, affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO). The chapter includes a succinct but skillful account of the League of Nations, which featured some important innovations later imported into the UN system--notably, a focus on economic matters.
At its core, chapter II addresses the emergence of global governance (much of it concerned with regulation) through a "spaghetti junction" of new, sometimes evanescent organizations, committees, and negotiating processes, several of them hospitable to the representations of civil society, but many entirely inaccessible to them. Much of this activity is occluded from public view and, in any event, too complex for all but the most expert analysts to follow. A pattern has emerged of a shift towards informal bodies and networks, in part designed to...