Global Public Goods: Between International Law and Economics

Esil Conference 2017 > Theme > Global Public Goods: Between International Law and Economics

Global public goods are potentially of interest to all states, peoples and generations (extending to both current and future generations or at least meeting the needs of current generations without foreclosing possible development for future generations). This property makes humanity as a whole the beneficiary of global public goods. The ways in which global public goods are created, designed, and managed have far- reaching implications. Today’s issues of globalization are precisely those that are beyond the policy endeavours of states, reflecting a mismatch between the scope of the problem and the authority of decision-making bodies attempting to address such issues.

First, in the case of global public goods – such as climate change mitigation, financial stability, security, knowledge production, the fight against terrorism, and global public health – international or supranational legal norms and entities (both public and private) must be created to manage these goods. As different types of global public goods often require different types of legal structures to manage them, this can contribute to a proliferation of norms, regimes, and institutional actors. Such a proliferation could lead to overlap and normative inter-actions, which require careful analysis.

Secondly, goods often become private or public as a result of deliberate policy choices. New considerations can change and expand the definition so as to recognize that, in many cases, goods exist not in their original forms but as social and economic constructs, largely determined by policies and other collective human actions. International or supranational norms thus need to be flexible and reflexive in order to capture such changes appropriately in order to solve the underlying problems.

Thirdly, there are a number of global public goods that are necessary conditions for continuing global trade and transactions. Continued global economic stability is based on the economic interdependence of national-level economies. Thus, continuing global trade and transactions require global public goods such as widespread peace, international economic stability, functioning supranational trade authorities, stable financial and monetary systems, effective law enforcement, and relatively healthy populations of consumers and labourers.

Bearing these implications in mind, this forum will offer an opportunity to reflect on the international and supranational legal structures (norms, regimes, actors, institutions) in place or required to provide global public goods.



Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann, European University Institute


Giovanna Adinolfi, University of Milan

Isabel Feichtner, University of Würzburg

Jan Wouters, Catholic University of Leuven