Interdisciplinary Approaches to Global Commons and Global Public Goods

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"Both concepts of (global) commons and (global) public goods are increasingly being used, both as powerful rhetorical devices in the policy discourse of international organisations and the debates of civil society, and as analytical and normative frameworks in international legal scholarship, economics and political theory.

Since the landmark book Governing the Commons by Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom, ‘commons’ have come to represent an alternative to both the market and the State. Social activists all across the world now use this term to say that the world is not for sale, that not all goods are meant to be commodified, and that some areas of social life should remain governed as commons – that is by the communities themselves, in an autonomous and collective fashion. With some resources domains being described as global commons, such as the high seas or the Antarctic, this begs the question of how to translate commons-based governance to the global level.

At the same time, since the publication of three books under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the term of ‘global public goods’ has enjoyed a spectacular success and permeated much of the international policy discourse. Global public goods refer to cross-border challenges like the fight against infectious diseases, international financial stability and climate change mitigation. In this age of globalisation, it cannot be denied that an increasing number of public goods transcend national boundaries and require collective action among States.

Why have these concepts become such buzzwords? How can we explain that so many scholars from various disciplines (from economics and history to law, philosophy and political science) have engaged in commons and public goods research? What difference does it make to express and frame policy challenges in the light of one concept or the other? What kind of cooperation and governance schemes do these concepts imply? Is it possible to extrapolate such schemes to the global level? Which democratic qualities and shortcomings in (global) decision-making processes do they reveal?

In the Spring of 2017, the Leuven Centre of Global Governance Studies’ Centre of Excellence Research Programme on ‘Global Governance and Democratic Government’ organises a high-level lecture series with distinguished guest speakers who share their perspectives on these two new ideas. The Spring 2017 Lecture Series draws together leading academic voices from the fields of history, political theory, international law and political science under the same thematic focus. At play in these discussions is the role of both (global) commons and (global) public goods as new models of governance. All lectures are free and open to the public."

More Information

For any additional information, please contact Mr. Nils Vanstappen: [email protected]