New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 108, No. 2 (April 2014)


A myriad of specialized and fragmented global regulatory bodies – established by states, domestic regulatory officials, international organizations, business groups and NGOs – wield ever-increasing power and influence. In making decisions, these mission-oriented authorities tend systematically, due to deep-seated structural factors, to give greater regard to the interests and concerns of some actors, especially powerful states and well-organized economic actors, and lesser regard to the often peripheral interests and concerns of more weakly organized and less powerful groups and of vulnerable individuals. The overall pattern of global regulation reflects a similar bias. The most powerful global regulatory regimes promote the objectives of dominant states and economic actors, whereas regimes to protect weaker groups and individuals are often less effective or virtually nonexistent and are thus unable to protect their interests and concerns. As a result of these two types of disregard, the dominant actors in global regulatory governance enjoy disproportionate benefits from international cooperation, while weaker groups and individuals suffer deprivation and often serious harm.

This article has two related objectives. First, it examines, as a matter of positive analysis, the institutional mechanisms and structures of global regulatory decision making to explain how current global regulation and governance practices operate to create the problem of disregard. The analysis presents a new taxonomy of governance mechanisms, distinguishing three basic types – decision rules, accountability mechanisms, and other regard-promoting measures – that substantially determine whose interests and concerns are given regard by global decision makers. It also unpacks the concepts of accountability and participation, so widely and often indiscriminately invoked as cures for the ills of global governance, and clarifies their roles. Second, it diagnosis the normative failings of the existing governance structures and decisional mechanisms and argues that they should be reconfigured to enable the disregarded to secure greater regard for their interests and concerns and thereby promote a more just system of global regulatory governance. It presents several strategies for achieving this objective, focusing on redeployment and innovation through the three types of governance mechanisms.

Date of Authorship for this Version



global governance, global adminsitrative law, accountability, participation, responsiveness, global equity