Sunday, June 28, 2009

Some thought on E-GAL, Edinburgh 2009

Next things next, a brief account and a few reflections on the E-GAL event in Edinburgh on Tuesday the 17th of June. It was, as I suspected it would be, a huge pleasure to be involved in this event, not least of all because it was the first time since I returned to Edinburgh University in an official(ish) capacity since graduating almost ten years ago. More importantly, I think I am correct in saying that this is the first global administrative law event in whose organization neither NYU nor the IRPA in Rome played any role whatsoever. GAL has, of course, had to date some fairly serious institutional backing from some fairly serious institutions, and there can be no doubt that this has played a major role in its increasing prominence; however, if it is really to establish itself as a genuine field of research and study, the ideas and framework it proposes must stand or fall on their own, entirely independently of its initial institutional backers. Events such as these are a crucial next step in testing whether this is in fact possible.

And if this event is anything to go by, it is indeed possible. The organizers (Kasez Lowe, Pierre Harcourt and Danielle Rached) did a first class job of selecting the abstracts for presentation, and of inviting a good mix of those with some experience of the GAL field on one hand and those largely new to it on the other. Amongst the presentations, for example, were (excellent) contributions by Matthias Goldmann and Tiago Fidalgo de Freitas, both of whom have been involved in the GAL project for longer than I have; and, amongst professorial contributors, having the continued, challenging input of Neil Walker (who, incidentally, has a provocative new paper on postnational constitutionalism up on SSRN) was, as always, a real plus; unfortunately, Professor Janet MacLean from Dundee – another who was contributing to the GAL literature prior to my own involvement – had to pull out at the last minute due to illness. Hope she got well soon.

Many of the contributors, however, had no prior knowledge of the GAL project, and were weighing its usefulness as a frame of analysis within their own fields. It is here that GAL – if it is to flourish – must provide real traction. The various contributions provided, in my view at least, real grounds for optimism in this regard. It was also of real interest to have the input of Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Scottish Commission for Human Rights; he sounded both interested in and cautious about the potential for GAL to drive progressive developments in his own field.

The abstracts of all of the papers are available here; for ease of reference, here is a list of the titles of presentations given:

The Added Value of Global Administrative Law by Tiago Fidalgo de Freitas, European University Institute.

GAL, Investment Law and Equality by Jarrod Hepburn, Oxford University.

Weak Judicial Review: Lessons for Global Administrative Law? by Aruna Sathanapally, Oxford University.

If I was to make one minor critical comment about the event, it was that these abstracts, and not fully fledged papers, were all that was circulated in advance; I always find it difficult, under these circumstances, to engage fully and in detail with the arguments being made – particularly when they are as advanced and as complex as they were here – and that the actual “conferring” suffers as a result. In the event, the quality of the papers and the presentations went some considerable distance to offsetting this problem; however, there is to my mind ultimately no substitute for the possibility to read the substance of the arguments to be made in detail in advance.

A quick recap of what seemed to me some of the major points, in conclusion. Professor Alan Boyle (who I think could fairly be described as a traditional-European-international-lawyer-and-GAL-sceptic) raised the issue of what he called GAL’s “lack of focus”, and suggested that this was one of the major obstacles to it achieving more widespread adherence. By this, I think he intended the fact – to which I alluded in my previous post on Viterbo – that GAL can sometimes appear (indeed, be presented) as all things to all people; as a simple catch-all under which all global governance can be subsumed, and which consequently lacks in analytical clarity and bite. There is something of a fine line that must be tread in this regard; one one hand, I can but agree: those writing in the field of GAL must have a clear idea of what the “added value” of this framework is, and not allow it simply to become a placeholder for “global governance” (Tiago’s paper did examine precisely this issue of added value, but did so with reference to the global constitutionalist and international public authority projects; it did not discuss the other side / the added value of GAL as opposed to simply “governance”). On the other hand, there has been a real effort within the GAL project – and rightly so in my view – not to be too proprietorial about the definitions of the field, in order that it might be informed by as many different perspectives as there are national administrative laws. This balance has not yet been ideally struck.

Another theme that emerged from discussions, related to the above, was the difference between the “US” and the “European” conceptions of global administrative law (as an aside, an interesting point about the sociology of GAL: the project seems to be mostly popular with international lawyers in the US, and with administrative lawyers in Europe, where most international lawyers remain skeptical. This can be seen even in the two major institutional backers of the GAL project: the Institute for International Law and Justice at NYU and the Institute for Research on Public Administration in Rome). A useful distinction was introduced in a working paper by David Dyzenhaus to encapsulate this: administrative law can, he argued, be either “constitutive” (i.e. the actual rules establishing administrative bodies, delineating powers within them, etc.), “procedural” (i.e. the rules by which these bodies operate) or “substantive” (i.e. the norms, regulations and decisions that they actually produce). The US vision of GAL is limited fairly strictly to the second, procedural form (mirroring largely the limitations on the discipline of administrative law within the US academy); the European version, on the other hand, explicitly includes at least the first two elements, and often also the third (in Sabino Cassese’s work, for example, there is often a degree of slippage between the terms “global administrative law” and simply “global law” – indeed, I on occasion have the impression that for him these two terms are largely interchangeable). The extent to which these need to be reconciled before GAL can become a discrete “field” of study is, of course, an open question.

A third theme, and one that I addressed in my own paper, and was picked up by Tiago and Neil Walker, was that of the relationship between GAL and “global” constitutionalism. Neil insisted – I think probably correctly – that a legitimate GAL can ultimately not afford to ignore the issue of the “constitutive moment” of the bodies that it seeks to regulate; and – again, probably correctly – that there is no need to think of GAL and constitutionalism as in competition (I would agree entirely on this point, despite the manner in which I sometimes present the issues: I would, however, insist that GAL and global constitutionalism are different and not necessarily complementary projects, and that the image of community ultimately implied in the latter need not inform the former). A general level of agreement was, I think, reached on the idea that while any future global constitutionalism would need a global administrative law, the inverse did not hold; and that there was no need to view GAL as in any way opposed to the deployment of constitutional discourse in particular postnational regimes.

Other key themes touched upon in the presentations and in the discussion was that of the concept of “law” that informs GAL (Nuhaile Carmouche did a good job of critically mapping the various contenders, while Matthias made a strong argument in favour of using a “refurbished” notion of legal positivism); the various ways in which GAL might – and might not – contribute to the increasing legitimacy of global regulatory governance; and of the need for GAL to actually result in tangible improvements in concrete cases if practitioners are going to take it at all seriously (Alan Miller’s contribution was particularly illuminating on this point).

Unfortunately, memory dictates that I will have to stop at that point, which even I find entirely unsatisfactory given the amount of rich discussion that this brief recollection has omitted – particularly in terms of the more concrete papers (relating to investment arbitration, cultural heritage, etc; Jared Hepburn, for example, made an intriguing argument as to the interaction between the global and domestic levels in the interpretation of “fair and equitable treatment” in investment disputes). In any event, congratulations to the organisers on putting together a first-rate symposium; and I very much hope to get a chance to read the assorted presentations in more detail in the not-too-distant future. Again, if anyone present wants to add to or correct this account, please do leave a comment below!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some brief reflections on Viterbo V

I am moving house (again) this week, having not long returned from my GAL European Tour (well, Viterbo and Edinburgh – I certainly can’t complain), and so do not have a huge amount of time. I wanted, however, to post some reflections on the two events, while they are still (relatively) fresh in my mind. I’ll begin with Viterbo in this post, and move on to the Edinburgh meeting in the next. I won’t go ionto huge detail, however; in the hope that someone will produce a report in the not-too-distant future.

First things first: it was, as always, a huge pleasure to be present at the Viterbo event. The organisers – led, as usual, by Professors Sabino Cassese, Giulio Vesperini and Doctor Martina Conticelli – by now have things down to a fine art form. A selection of photos from the conference is available here. I know of no other event that manages to establish and maintain such a sense of community amongst ist participants; nor, for that matter, that succeeds in attracting people back year after year, even if they are not formally participating. The obvious attractions of Italy in June only account for a small part of the reason for this. I certainly hope to attend next year; employer permitting, of course.

On to the papers themselves, which are available here: all were to some degree preliminary (some, of course, more than others); all, however, seemed to be very promising, touching on some important – and often understudied – themes, under the broad heading of “Legality Review in the Global Administrative Space”:

Review Bodies in Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Competences, Coherence, Coordination
Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou

Implications Of Transparency In The International Civil Aviation Organization’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme

Jimena Blumenkron

Proactive Strategies in the Global Legality Review
Gianluca Sgueo

Deference in U.S. Domestic Courts and Implications for Legality Review

Catherine Sweetser

Beyond Multilateralism and Regionalism. Analysis of the Review Process of Global Trade Dispute Resolution
Blake C.Y. Wang

What Makes Networks Effective: Evidence from the SEC

David Zaring

As will be immediately clear from the titles of the pieces, all of the authors used a very broad understanding of what constitutes “legality review” in the so-called “global administrative space” (as an aside, this latter term, I confess, causes me some discomfort; although it was postulated by Kingsbury, Krisch and Stewart in the Project framing paper, I have yet to see much beyond postulation in support of its existence. To me it implies a much more unitary space than as yet exists). This is, to my mind at least, at once an indication of both the strength (in terms of its institutional and forms of activity coverage) and weakness (in terms of its frequent lack of hard legality) of the GAL framework more generally.

The papers, for the most part, do pretty much what they say on the tin: Dionysia Avgerinopoulou gives a useful, if basic, overview of the wealth of different review bodies established by international environmental treaties, and the different roles they play; Jimena Blumenkron has an in-depth analysis of the transparency rules relating to the production of Standards and Recommended Practices by the International Civil Aviation Organization; Gianluca Sgeuo asks the intriguing question of why an increasing number of global review bodies are insisting upon “proactive” (i.e. programmatic), rather than reactive, sanctions-based solutions to breaches of legality; Cathy Sweetser looks at how different doctrines of deference by courst to administrative decisions in US law might be applied in the context of global institutions, and what the effects of this might be; Blake Wang, who unfortunately couldn’t attend the meeting due to illness (thankfully, rumours of “swine flu” proved to be premature…), looks at relations between the WTO and regional FTAs, asking whether we might envuisage the creation of a Court of International Trade; and finally David Zaring, a long-time contributor to the GAL Project, in his paper looks to propose an answer to the important issue of why some regulatory networks “work” (in his terms, why some are able to produce standards or regulation with real applicability and “bite”) and why others fail to reach this standard.

If you can only read two, and have no specific interest in any of the particular organisations or regimes focused upon, then I would recommend the pieces by Zaring and Sgeuo (the English in the latter is a little clunky, but worth the effort. And the fact that it is clunky is largely my fault, as I didn’t have time to make good on a promise to edit it…). Both tackle relatively new issues within GAL, general in scope, and make a number of interesting propositions with regard to each; as yet, I’d say, more provocative than persuasive, but that’s very much the point of events such as these.

The rest of the Friday session was largely taken up with general and specific comments to the authors of the papers, and with their responses thereto. There were some interesting exchanges, but as I didn’t take particularly copious notes, we will have to wait for the (hopefully) forthcoming report to give a fuller account of these. Perhaps inevitably, a number of comments focused on the extent to which the subject-matter of the papers could be accurately characterised as “legality” review. One comment in particular that I wanted to flag, however, was that made by Mario Savino in his role as discussant of three of the papers: he went beyond challenging the “legal” nature of the reviews in question, and raised directly a broader, but related issue: how does global administrative law differ from global governance? Specifically, what is the “added value” of adopting a public law approach to these issues? Savino’s concern was that this particularly public law element was missing from many of the papers; my view is that it is missing from many of the articles and discussions of global administrative law more generally, and is perhaps more than any other factor responsible for the feeling – very widespread amongst many academics – that GAL is too lacking in focus, spread to thin, to be an analytically useful framework or tool.

The next and final session, which took place on the Saturday morning, was devoted to short talks by Professors Armin von Bogdandy, Richard Stewart and Eyal Benventisti, before discussion, led by Professor Sabino Cassese, moved on to the date and substance of next year’s event. As would be expected, all contributions here were thoughtful and provocative: none more so than the remarks by von Bogdandy, who spoke on “international courts in a discourse theoretical perspective”. In some ways, this can be seen as a continuation of the impressive Max Planck project on international public authorities that he led, and was successfully completed last year; as always with discourse theory, however, if it is to be at all persuasive the audience is required to have swallowed a fairly large chunk of Habermas prior to listening; those who have doubts about the Habermasian approach find those transferred to whoever relies upon it. More concretely, although I found myself in broad agreement with much of what Professor von Bogdandy had to say, and in particular on the “perils” of applying constitutionalist rhetoric to the global sphere, I felt that his talk overplaed the importance of democratic forms of legitimacy in global governance (that is, overplayed not just how important they are, but how important they can and should be). As I have argued elsewhere, democracy is in my view but one of many justifiable bases upon which legitimate global governance could rest; and, given the difficulty of making international institutions genuinely accountable to hundreds of different demoi simultaneously, the almost complete absence of any viable post-state demos (excluding perhaps the EU), and the certain absence of anything like a truly global demos, it is not now and nor should it be a particularly important one. (This is an argument that I developed at greater length in the paper that I gave at Edinburgh – I’m currently toying with the idea of putting it on SSRN, will link to it if I decide to).

Unusually, neither the date nor the topic for next year’s seminar was definitively fixed: sometime in mid-June (either the 11-12 or the 18-19) 2010 seems almost certain; potential topics cover a much wider range, so there isn’t a huge amount of point in speculating. I will post on this further when I hear that the decision has been taken.

Lastly, if I were to have any quibble at all with the manner in which this part of the conference was structured, it would be that there was perhaps slightly insufficient time devoted to the discussion of the individual papers: these were presented by the discussants in two back-to-back sessions, then there was a break, and then a general discussion on all six contributions. Only at the very end were the authors given a chance to respond, and this meant that formal opportunities for actually “conferring” were kept to a minimum (although this, of course, was largely compensated for by the informal opportunities that came with dinner and drinks afterwards). My own view is that perhaps another session could have been added; that discussion could have focused on each of the sets of three papers individually, and allowed for more back-and-forth between authors and audience. The conference itself – running from 3pm to 6.30 on Friday, and from 9.30am to 1pm on Saturday – was anything but overlong, and could perhaps have benefitted from an extra hour or two. Then again, perhaps it’s no bad thing to leave us wanting more…

In, then, not-quite-so-short-as-I-had-intended, it was, as anticipated, an extremely worthwhile event; I’m looking forward to reading future iterations of the papers as they develop over the coming months. If anyone wants to add to - or, indeed, correct - this account of the event, please feel free to leave a comment below!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Viterbo V papers up...

The 5th annual Global Administrative Law seminar will take place in Viterbo, as always, on Friday and Saturday of this week (11-12 June). I'm fortunate enough to be going this year - it always is a fantastic event, attended by a great mix of younger and more experienced scholars (many of whom continue the day's discussions in the less formal setting of one of the city's wine bars in the evening, showing an impressive commitment to what we might call the "bottoms-up" approach to GAL...). And, of course, mid-June is a not-entirely-unpleasant time to visit Italy...

This year's topic is "Legality Review in the Global Administrative Space", and most of the papers are already available here.

I will post up some reflections on this - and on the GAL event in Edinburgh that immediately follows it - upon my return from the latter.

EJIL:Talk! discussion on the role of courts in the international system

A quick post to flag a discussion coming next week over at EJIL:Talk! which will undoubtedly contain much of real interest from a GAL perspective:

Starting next week, EJIL:Talk! will be hosting a discussion of the changing role courts and tribunals in the international legal system. This conversation will be structured around a discussion of two articles in the current anniversary issue of the European Journal of International Law. The articles are: Eyal Benvenisti & George W. Downs, “National Courts, Domestic Democracy, and the Evolution of International Law“ and Yuval Shany, “No Longer a Weak Department of Power? Reflections on the Emergence of a New International Judiciary”. Both are available here.

Professors Benvenisti and Downs in particular have written directly on GAL issues (see here for some of Benvenisti's solo work on the development of GAL in international institutions, and here and here for work by him and Downs together on fragmentation and on checks and balances in global governance respectively). Definitely worth both reading the articles in question, and keeping an eye on what is sure to be an interesting exchange at EJIL:Talk!.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A little more still on the fallout from Kadi

Thanks to Mathias Vermeulen over at the excellent blog The Lift, we have the (belated) news of the steps proposed by the European Commission to address, in general terms, the concerns regarding the terrorist listing mechanism expressed by the ECJ in the Kadi case. These are contained in COM(2009) 187 final, and are in essence simply a general expression of the particular measures relating to Kadi that I had blogged about previously here.

5. The revised procedure should include providing to the listed person, entity, body or group the reasons for listing as transmitted by the UN Al Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, so as to give the listed person, entity, body or group an opportunity to express his, her or its views on those reasons. The purpose of Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 is to freeze the funds and economic resources of persons, entities, bodies and groups included in the Al Qaida and Taliban list drawn up by the UN. As the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions provide that such freezing has to take place “without delay”, such measure must, by its very nature, take advantage of a surprise effect. Therefore, the Commission should be able to take a provisional decision before informing the person, entity, body or group concerned of the reasons for listing. The reasons for listing should, however, be notified to that person, entity, body or group without undue delay, after that decision has been published, to give the person, entity, body or group concerned an opportunity to make effectively his, her or its point of view known.

And that - together with some recognition of the need for a similar procedure backdated to those who are already on the list - is more or less that. Remains to be seen, however, whether these fairly cursory tweaks will be sufficient to placate the ECJ in the next installment of the saga. I would suspect - and hope - not; indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if they were a little miffed by what might well be styled as a pretty blunt challenge to their authority...