The International Organisations Partnership

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The International Organisations Partnership

An Interview with Céline Kauffmann, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

Q. Why was the IO Partnership organized?

A. The International Organisations (IO) Partnership was set up to offer a voluntary platform that fosters collective action among IOs and their constituents in support of greater quality, effectiveness, and impact of international rules, regardless of their substantive scope.

The IO Partnership is an initiative of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Regulatory Policy Committee, which gathers representatives from various countries who are in charge of the quality of laws and regulations at the domestic level.

The partnership grew out of the realization that working together on common rules is a critical dimension of regulatory quality and of achieving policy goals. It also ensures interoperability of regulatory frameworks and quality infrastructure. However, policymakers and stakeholders everywhere are faced with a myriad of international instruments. They need to better understand the landscape of international rule makers and standard development organizations (SDOs), ranging from traditional intergovernmental organizations to networks of regulators and private SDOs.

Ultimately, the objective of this initiative is to help build greater understanding of and confidence in a variety of domestic players in international rules, including regulators and legislators, and support the greater use of high quality international instruments.

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Q. Why is international rule-making and standards setting “more crucial than ever,” as described in the recently published brochure, The Contribution of International Organisations to a Rule-Based International System?

A. Over the past few decades, the interconnectedness of countries and the integration of the world economy have increased drastically, in part due to the many technical revolutions of the last 30 years. The rapid flow of goods, services, people, and finance across borders is testing the effectiveness and the capacity of domestic regulatory frameworks. Global trade intensity doubled between 1990 and 2015, with the result being that products cross many borders before final purchase. Air traffic is expected to continue growing by 3% to 6% annually over the next 15 years, showing the intensity of global population movement. This interconnectedness is compounded by the rapid development of new information technologies. Social media viewing trends show that users increasingly access content outside their own country. The Internet is also enabling significant cross-border financial transfers on a daily basis.

In the face of this reality, cooperation and international rulemaking are needed to address the inherently and increasingly trans-boundary policy challenges faced by governments in all countries and jurisdictions. Regulating or hoping to manage the range of inherently trans-border issues raised by this state of play in isolation are not options anymore. At best, such strategy risks being ineffective. At worst, this approach raises costs and limits innovation.

The rapid pace of innovation offers new fields for international cooperation with regard to sharing and protection of data where cross-border issues need to be managed. It also creates new and revolutionary technologies such as gene editing, where pooling of scientific expertise will benefit partners. There are also important challenges, including the risk of fragmentation of countries progressing in isolation and the lack of coordination among IOs, which can lead to the duplication of international instruments, creating confusion.

Q. What results have you seen to date as a result of the IO Partnership?

A. The partnership offers a forum for IOs to exchange information regularly on their rulemaking practices, including their challenges, and to meet with and gather the perspective of domestic policy makers. Members of the partnership have benefitted from the in-depth work carried out by the working groups on five selected topics to improve the rulemaking practices of IOs. [See sidebar.] The increasing and continued collaboration of some 50 secretariats of IOs since the beginning of the initiative confirms its relevance. The participation of academics and OECD Regulatory Policy Committee delegates from various countries in the meetings has brought a broader range of perspectives to the discussion and has built bridges between the domestic and the international levels to develop stronger and more effective international rules.

Through its activities since 2014, the IO Partnership has developed a number of products in support of stronger and more effective international rulemaking. This has included a cross-cutting effort to take stock of the governance modalities and rule-making practices of some 50 IOs, as well as specific studies of the rulemaking practices and governance of selected IOs and the creation of a brochure highlighting the key features of international regulatory cooperation and the standards development landscape.

Ultimately, the IO Partnership has pedagogic value by bringing transparency and greater understanding of the working of international rulemakers and standard developers to a broader public. The partnership fosters the dissemination of best practices in the development and implementation of international instruments regardless of the IO sector and area of competence, with a number of IOs undertaking reforms based on the lessons learned from the IO Partnership. The partnership has also triggered innovative dialogue and coordination on the quality of international instruments among IOs, and with domestic policy makers.

The IO Partnership

The IO Partnership comprises 50+ international organizations. Intergovernmental organizations, standards setting groups, and trans-governmental regulatory networks, including ASTM International — that invite contributions from a broad range of stakeholders. Five working groups currently focus on:

  • Enhancing the understanding of the variety in international instruments;
  • Strengthening the implementation of IO instruments;
  • Ensuring stakeholder engagement;
  • Developing a greater culture of evaluation of IO rules and standards; and
  • Maximizing the opportunities for coordination.

The partnership fosters collective action to promote higher quality and effective international rules.

Learn more about the IO Partnership.

Céline Kauffmann, Ph.D., is the deputy head of the Regulatory Policy Division, Directorate for Public Governance, at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, where she leads efforts on international regulatory cooperation. She has been with the OECD since 2000.

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