'Intergovernmental Organizations between Mission and Market: International Institutional Law and the Private Sector' (PRIVIGO)

Duration: 2021-2026
Funder: European Research Council Advanced Grant

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) such as the World Health Organization or International Maritime Organization have always been assumed to work for the public good.

Yet, they also engage the private sector in many ways. Some are funded by the private sector or set up public-private partnerships; IGOs themselves act and compete on markets when procuring goods and services or when marketing their own services; and their operations and standard-setting activities inevitably affect the distribution of benefits between private parties. Like most organizations, IGOs allocate costs and benefits, and therewith affect the private sector. IGOs are said to exercise functions on behalf of member states and for the public good, yet the encounter with the private sector may see them act in tension with this public mission.

PRIVIGO will investigate this tension, first, by examining how widespread private sector involvement is and how IGO law responds to this involvement. Second, PRIVIGO will examine how the underlying framework of the law is affected: the legal rules are informed by theoretical considerations that are, in turn, informed by assumptions and axioms that are rarely questioned yet may be fundamentally irreconcilable with private sector involvement. In this manner, PRIVIGO will change how IGO law and IGO lawyers perceive and understand IGOs, renewing IGO legal theory.

PRIVIGO will build on case studies conducted in eight different and varied domains where IGOs with a clear public mission are active and connections to the private sector are visible: food security; transportation; energy provision; health; human re-settlement; finance; resources and environment; and arms control. PRIVIGO aims to develop the law relating to IGOs and build up solid theoretical foundations, mindful of the huge impact of IGOs on our everyday lives.

Project leader: Jan Klabbers
Professor of International Law

For further details see the PRIVIGO project website and the European Research Council website.