What are global public goods?

What are global public goods?

Inge Kaul and Raul Mendoza: What are global public goods?

Global public goods are goods with benefits and/or costs that potentially extend to all countries, people, and generations. Global public goods are in a dual sense public: they are public as opposed to private; and they are global as opposed to national. Like publicness in general, globalness is in most instances a matter of policy choice. For example, capital controls or trade barriers are often being removed based on governmental and/or intergovernmental decisions. Or, greenhouse gases must not rise and burden the atmosphere to the extent they do. All of this is today a matter of policy choice.

Thus, few global public goods are global and public by nature. The ozone layer is one of these few naturally global and public goods. Most other global public goods are national public goods that have become interlinked in the wake of increasing openness of borders and as a result of increasing international regime formation and policy harmonization behind national borders.

What is a global public good? – Global public goods are goods with benefits that extend to all countries, people, and generations.

“Advancing the Concept of Global Public Goods”, Inge Kaul and Ronald U. Mendoza, in Inge Kaul, Pedro Conceição, Katell Le Goulven, and Ronald U. Mendoza, eds., Providing Global Public Goods: Managing Globalization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

International Task Force on Global Public Goods

The International Task Force on Global Public Goods has defined global public goods as “issues that are broadly conceived as important to the international community, that for the most part cannot or will not be adequately addressed by individual countries acting alone and that are defined through a broad international consensus or a legitimate process of decision-making.” (p. 13 of their Final Report).

The Task Force also provides brief complementary definitions of various categories of public goods:

  • A local public good benefits all the members of a local community, possibly to include the citizens of more than one country.
  • A national public good benefits all the citizens of a state.
  • A domestic public good benefits all the members of a community situated within a single state. National public goods are domestic public goods, but domestic public goods need not be national public goods.
  • A regional public good benefits countries belonging to a geographic territory.
  • A global public good benefits all countries and, therefore, all persons.
  • An international public good benefits more than one country. Global and regional public goods are both international public goods. However, some international public goods may be neither regional nor global. The public good of collective defence under NATO, for example, applies to North America and Europe.

Road Map towards the Implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. United Nations, Report of the Secretary-General. 6 September 2001.A/56/326. New York.

The international community’s vision of the global public domain focuses on 10 global public goods (summarised by Kaul and Mendoza, 2003):

  • Basic human dignity for all people, including universal access to basic education and health care.
  • Respect for national sovereignty.
  • Global public health, particularly communicable disease control.
  • Global security or, put differently, a global public domain free from crime and violence.
  • Global peace.
  • Communication and transportation systems harmonized across borders.
  • Institutional infrastructure harmonized across borders to foster such goals as market efficiency, universal human rights, transparent and accountable governance, and harmonization of technical standards.
  • Concerted management of knowledge, including worldwide respect for intellectual property rights.
  • Concerted management of the global natural commons to promote their sustainable use.
  • Availability of international arenas for multilateral negotiations between states as well as between state and nonstate actors.

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
17 May 2008