15 Global Governance 107 (2009)
Global Public Goods: Critique of a UN Discourse

handle is hein.journals/glogo15 and id is 109 raw text is: 

Global Governance 15 (2009), 107-122


                 Global Public Goods:

             Critique of a UN Discourse


               David Long and Frances Woolley


    The concept of global public goods has been advanced as a way of under-
    standing certain transborder and global problems and the need for a coor-
    dinated international response. It has been used to describe everything
    from global environment, international financial stability, and market effi-
    ciency, to health, knowledge, peace and security, and humanitarian rights.
    Using an internal critique, this article finds that the concept is poorly de-
    fined, avoids analytical problems by resorting to abstraction, and masks
    the incoherence of its two central characteristics. The conclusion is that
    even if the concept of global public goods is effective rhetorically, precise
    definition and conceptual disaggregation are required to advance analysis
    of global issues. KEYWORDS: public goods, externalities, international pub-
    lic policy.


n the last several years, academics and policymakers have turned to the
  concept of global public goods as, to use former UN Secretary-General
  Kofi Annan's words, the missing term in the equation for understand-
ing and addressing a number of international problems. Though the shift of
focus as a result of September 11, 2001, has negatively impacted the promi-
nence of the global public goods literature-for instance, work on humani-
tarian intervention or human security-the concept continues to be an im-
portant one in certain policy, official, and academic circles. While the basic
notion of public goods is borrowed from the public economics literature,
in the broader policy community, global public goods have come to en-
compass everything from the global environment, international financial
stability, and market efficiency, to health, knowledge, peace and security,
and human rights.
    The concept of public goods has been used in international relations
scholarship for some time. The term global public goods itself goes back at
least to the early 1990s.I But the most recent wave of interest was generated
in the context of the UN's Millennium Development Goals as a way of un-
derstanding certain transborder problems and the need for a coordinated in-
ternational response. The global public goods concept has been promoted
most particularly by researchers associated with the United Nations Devel-
opment Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.2 Kofi Annan claimed that
to secure peace, greater well-being, social justice, and environmental sus-
tainability, collective action is a prerequisite since no country can achieve

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