What is Global Administrative Law (GAL)?
Today almost all human activity is subject to some form of global regulation. Goods and activities that are beyond the effective control of any one State are regulated at the global level. Global regulatory regimes cover a vast array of different subject-areas, including forest preservation, the control of fishing, water regulation, environmental protection, arms control, food safety and standardization, financial and accounting standards, internet governance, pharmaceuticals regulation, intellectual property protection, refugee protection, coffee and cocoa standards, labour standards, antitrust regulation, to name but a very few.
This increase in the number and scope of regulatory regimes has been matched by the huge growth of international organizations: nowadays over 2,000 IGOs, and around 40,000 NGOs, are operating worldwide.
There are, of course, great differences among the various different types of regulatory regimes. Some merely provide a framework for State action, whereas others establish guidelines addressed to domestic administrative agencies, and others still impact directly upon national civil society actors. Some regulatory regimes create their own implementation mechanisms, while others rely on national or regional authorities for this task. To settle disputes, some regulatory regimes have established judicial (or quasi-judicial) bodies, or refer to those of different regimes; while others resort to “softer” forms, such as negotiation.
Within this framework, the traditional mechanisms based on State consent as expressed through treaties or custom are simply no longer capable of accounting for all global activities.
A new regulatory space is emerging, distinct from that of inter-State relations, transcending the sphere of influence of both international law and domestic administrative law: this can be defined as the global administrative space. IOs have become much more than instruments of the governments of their Member States; rather, they set their own norms and regulate their field of activity; they generate and follow their own, particular legal proceedings; and they can grant participatory rights to subjects, both public and private, affected by their activities. Ultimately, they have emerged as genuine global public administrations.
In other words, the structures, procedures and normative standards for regulatory decision-making applicable to global institutions (including transparency, participation, and review) and the rule-governed mechanisms for implementing these standards are coming to form a specific field of legal theory and practice: that of global administrative law. The main focus of this emerging field is not the particular content of substantive rules generated by global regulatory institutions, but rather the actual or potential application of principles, procedural rules and reviewing and other mechanisms relating to accountability, transparency, participation, and the rule of law in global governance.