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TBGI Working Paper 10

Emerging Private Governance: The Challenges of Choosing a Policy Focus

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Graeme Auld

November 2012

Abstract

Across sectors of the global economy, private governance has emerged as a new instrument for addressing pressing social and environmental problems. Although better suited for tackling the challenge of reaching agreements among states to address problems transcending national borders, these initiatives create new boundaries based on what problems they choose to focus on and which actors they choose to regulate – that is, the different policy foci of individual programs. Specialization is not inherently problematic. Private governance can focus attention on the problems of a single-issue area and build capacity among actors to resolve its problems, but equally a particular policy focus can create more problems than it fixes. Using certification systems, developed and run by non-state actors, from the forest, fisheries, and coffee sectors, this paper explores the reasons behind the different policy foci certification programs take on and how programs, alone and through coordinated efforts, seek to manage interactive and spillover effects arising from the issue-area boundaries that separate them. It closes with recommendations for future coordination strategies that draw from work in international relations and public administration.

Keywords

Environmental governance, institutional design, certification, private regulation, regime complexity