The Setup for the Project

The full name of this project is Intergovernmental Organizations between Mission and Market: International Institutional Law and the Private Sector (PRIVIGO). The main question that encapsulates the setup is: What is the relationship between Intergovernmental organizations (IOs) and the private sector like?

This project aspires to explore the effect money from the private sector has on intergovernmental organizations and in turn the effect that these IOs have on the markets. Traditionally sovereign states have had power over the bureaucracies of multilateral institutions of which they are members. According to some critics, private actors also appear to be exerting such powers. Since private actors aren't elected authorities, a question of the legitimacy of multilateral institutions arise.

Below you will find some interesting links with further information on the subject, such as an IO-made handbook on partnerships formed between IOs and the private sector and some articles written about the topic. The idea is that these links will provide you with some background information on the subject in order to better understand the information under each research angle.

Academic article by Klabbers, Jan – "Unity, Diversity, Accountability: The Ambivalent Concept of International Organisation"

The concept of International Organisation is ambivalent. 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.

Klabbers, Jan: "Unity, Diversity, Accountability: The Ambivalent Concept of International Organisation". Melbourne Journal of lnternational Law 6; (2013) 14(1) Melbourne Journal of International Law 149 

Academic article on the subject - Private Sector Influence in the Multilateral System: A Changing Structure of World Governance?

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 individual 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, triggered by the financial crisis of the multilateral institutions. Proponents, on the other hand, see new forms of partnerships as one way that multilateral institutions can pursue their tasks more efficiently in a world in which governments of rich countries are not able or not willing to provide 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. 

The article argues that one can distuingish between five different forms of private sector cooperation: 

  1. Policy dialogue: Participation of the private sector in official intergovernmental deliberations, such as participation in task forces and committees. 
  2. Advocacy partnerships: Cooperative initiatives between IOs and the private sector with the aim of raising public awareness on and support for certain issues.  
  3. Mobilizing private funds: Moblizing public and private capital for multilateral programs and development in general. The contributions from the Gates Foundation and Ted Turner, discussed under research category 1 on this web page, belong to this classification.
  4. Information and learning partnerships: Joint efforts to share research and learning. Interpol's IGCI Project under the second research angle at least partly belongs to this category, as it cooperates with the private sector in order to share learning on cybercrime.
  5. Operations: Partnerships where the private sector plays a role in design, implementation and/or evaluation of projects/programs on the ground. There's a lot of examples of this form of cooperation on this page, especially under research category 3. Just to name a few IOM's baby kit project and ILO's Leed project certainly belong to this partnership-model.
The Introduction of Neoliberalism in the 1980s - a Game Changer for the Multilateral System

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. 



Academic article: Privatisation in the United Nations system

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

UN business partnerships handbook

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...

Copyright © 2013 United Nations Global Compact Office

A Snapshot of the Budgets of the UN, NATO and WTO and the Populist Threat Against the International Order

Access to stable and adequate financial resources is a crucial condition for the realisation of the global goals of intergovernmental organisations(IGOs). In recent decades, alongside global political changes and the evolution in the role of multilateral cooperation, the resourcing and budgetary management of IGOs have also changed. Moreover, funding available to IGOs has become ever more diversified and complex both in terms of its origin and type. This briefing presents selected aspects of the financing of three of the world's largest IGOs: the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It presents the size and evolution of their budgets as well as the main contributing countries to these budgets, with a particular focus on the EU Member States. The analysis is based mainly on budgetary data for the financial year 2018.

The text behind the first article provides clear and concise background information on the financing of intergovernmental organizations, with a focus on money flows from states. It also discusses current financing problems for IOs, such as the Trump administrations partial withdrawal from global politics and the increased national tendencies in the world of today.

The next two links follow on these current problems and discuss the impact of the money flows from the United States to the UN. 22 % of the UN budget is made up of money from the United States. Former president of the USA, Donald Trump, did at many times propose cuts to the US-contributions to the United Nations. In the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic the Trump administration formally notified the UN of its intent to withdraw from the UN agency, the World Health Organization. President Joe Biden and his administration did, however, end these proposed withdrawals from global governance. The Trump administration still constitutes a great example of a government with populist and anti-globalistic views that posed a threat to intergovernmental organizations who depend on contributions from the member states. Even though Donald Trump is no longer president, the populism movements in the world of today are still power players holding on to a great deal of power and their impact can and should not be downplayed. In countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela, Hungary and Poland the leaders could be regarded as populists. The final link focuses on the populist threat against the international order in general. Even though it focuses mostly on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the points about the populist threats are of importance for this project as well.

And why does this concern this project that focuses on IOs and the private sector and not IOs and the public sector? Well, if the public funding is less certain than before, the need for IOs to engage in sustainable relationships with the private sector increases. 

The Challenges of Financing Intergovernmental Organisations, The European Parliament; Trump's Planned Cuts to the UN, UN Dispatch; The Impact of US Contributions to the UN, Council on Foreign Relations; Heike Krieger, Populist Governments and International Law, European Journal of International Law, Volume 30, Issue 3, August 2019, Pages 971–996.