Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

7. International Law

David P Fidler


Subjects of international law and GPGH

  • Historically only states subjects of international law
  • Today, list of subjects includes:
    • individuals
    • non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
    • multinational corporations (MNCs)
  • But, states remain dominant subjects of international law for GPGH production

Historically only states were subjects of international law, but the list of subjects now includes non-state actors, such as individuals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations (MNCs). This expansion reflects the extent to which states have, in the development of international society, created new tools (e.g., IGOs) and crafted new public-private partnerships with NGOs and MNCs as part of international cooperation. The production of GPGs through international law is therefore not strictly global in sense that states and non-states actors are involved. Eg FCTC and IHR revisions.

Non-state actor involvement in the production of GPGs through international law does not, however, mean that non-state actors have equal status or authority with states. States remain the dominant subjects of international law for the purposes of GPG production. Rules of international law overwhelmingly address state rights and duties in the international system. This fact is important for understanding the production of GPGs. Whether at the national or international level, public goods require governmental intervention because private actors have insufficient incentives or resources to produce the goods. The growth of NGO and MNC involvement in international law does not, by itself, represent progress in the production of GPGs because whether states - the public actors - actually produce the public goods remains the central question.

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