Regulatory reform

OECD study signals the importance of collective efforts by international organisations to improve global standard setting


03/11/2016 - The role of international organisations (IOs) is critical in the development of rules and standards that can help advance the well-being of citizens in an increasingly globalised world. IOs could improve their effectiveness by building on their respective experience in setting global rules and standards and doing more to coordinate their actions and technical expertise, according to a new OECD study of the rule-making practices of 50 international bodies.


International Regulatory Co-operation: the Role of International Organisations in Fostering Better Rules of Globalisation looks at the challenges of monitoring and evaluating the implementation and impact of international standards and guidelines set by bodies that rely largely on nonbinding instruments. It notes that transparency, flexibility, focus and co-operation are vital to ensure complementarity in the different agendas.


“This study is an important step in helping us understand how international organisations can improve their contribution to a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, presenting the report. “Countries are under pressure to deliver better policies to keep up with the rapid pace of globalisation, but they cannot act in isolation. A multilateral approach is more than ever essential to promote the well-being of citizens in a globalised world.” Read the full speech.


The report indicates that IOs provide a platform and source of expertise to support countries in their collective policy action, and have become increasingly transparent and inclusive in their standard-setting activities. It finds that IOs are actively involved in exchange of information, data collection and development of norms, standards and best practices. However, they are much less involved in the downstream activities of the rule-making process, including enforcement, dispute settlement and crisis management.


In most cases, international co-operation through IOs consists of sharing scientific or technical information; developing common regulatory goals, strategies or policies; and adopting common standards. More stringent forms of co-operation such as mandatory harmonisation of regulations, regulatory procedures or inspections are less common. This suggests that IO members are willing to share experience and develop a common language, but are more reluctant to give up autonomy for stronger outputs of international regulatory co-operation (IRC). IOs could benefit from more systematic coordination, more and better evaluation of the impact of their instruments, and increased stakeholder engagement in the development of these.


The report considers five groups of public and private international or regional organisations: open and closed membership IOs, secretariats of convention, trans-governmental networks of regulators and private standard-setting organisations. Around half of the organisations studied are UN bodies. The report also analyses results by type of instrument (legally binding instruments, accreditation, technical standards, soft instruments or exchange of information) and IO scope of activities (broad or sector-specific).


For further information, journalists should contact the OECD Media Office (, +33 1 45 24 97 00).


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