Flags outside in Manhattan

Governance and Multilateral Agreements

The frameworks that govern global economic activity and international environmental governance touch every aspect of our lives – from our internet data privacy, to how countries share knowledge about food, to our ability to buy affordable, safe products in line with social and environmental norms.

While the number of multilateral agreements and governance frameworks abound, they vary on multiple levels. They cover different topics, from monetary policy to international trade, chemicals management to climate change. They have different memberships that do not fully overlap, and each have their own types of obligations. They also have varying legal implications, with some taking a “soft law” approach without enforcement mechanisms, while others take a “hard law” approach with the prospect of sanctions for non-compliance.

At IISD, our work on governance and multilateral agreements involves working with countries, regional and international institutions, academics, and civil society representatives to better understand these systems and their implications for sustainable, inclusive development. We consider issues such as policy coherence and conflict; governance gaps and overlaps; transparency and accountability; and the implications of these frameworks for national and regional policy space. We advise governments, hold expert meetings, participate in international forums, document and analyze negotiations, and conduct in-depth research into trends, reform options, and best practices.