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A Glimpse at the Democratic Legitimacy of Private Standards


  • Nicolas Hachez
  • Jan Wouters


This article seeks to shed light on a notion that is often considered essential in conferring global regulatory authority, but is rarely defined in contemporary scholarship on global governance: the notion of legitimacy. The authors centre their analysis on the value of democracy as one of the seminal determinants of the legitimacy of regulatory actors and the norms they adopt. They further focus on the democratic legitimacy of norms adopted by global private actors. A specific breed of such 'private standards' is studied, namely those addressing food safety. More in particular, the leading standard scheme for good agricultural practices--GLOBALG.A.P.--is taken as a case study. The authors view democratic legitimacy in global governance as a function of the 'public accountability' of the relevant regulatory actors, which comprises a prospective and a retrospective dimension. Public accountability is analyzed as this link which unites, in a democratic fashion, a regulatory actor and its public, i.e. the ensemble of the people who are affected by its regulatory activities. GLOBALG.A.P.'s standard-setting is assessed in light of this analytical framework. The authors find that, while the accountability of GLOBALG.A.P. as a regulatory actor in the field of food safety is satisfactory in respect of its internal members, additional efforts need to be made to ensure stronger (democratic) accountability vis-à-vis its other--external--stakeholders, particularly those located in developing countries. Oxford University Press 2011, all rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicolas Hachez & Jan Wouters, 2011. "A Glimpse at the Democratic Legitimacy of Private Standards," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(3), pages 677-710, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jieclw:v:14:y:2011:i:3:p:677-710

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    Cited by:

    1. Probst, Lorenz & Houedjofonon, Elysée & Ayerakwa, Hayford Mensah & Haas, Rainer, 2012. "Will they buy it? The potential for marketing organic vegetables in the food vending sector to strengthen vegetable safety: A choice experiment study in three West African cities," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 296-308.
    2. Baddeley, Shane & Cheng, Peter & Wolfe, Robert, 2011. "Trade Policy Implications of Carbon Labels on Food," Commissioned Papers 122740, Canadian Agricultural Trade Policy Research Network.

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