Executive interpretation within the UN system: the rule of law as a means to implement UN norms and standards

Rule of law assistance has been an integral part of UN activities over the past fifteen years. While the concept has experienced some push-back from member states, especially visible in the negotiations of Sustainable Development Goal 16, where the term “rule of law” was demoted from goal- to target-level, it remains an important component of UN field operations. This contribution explores how “rule of law assistance” is understood by UN civil servants, with a focus specifically on the substantive standards that it promotes. I argue that rule of law assistance is a valuable tool for the UN as an international organization to promote the domestic implementation of legal standards that were negotiated under UN auspices, irrespective of their formal legal value. This promotion of “UN norms and standards” persists, despite political contestation of the term “rule of law”, and it has been pushed by UN international civil servants through what I label “executive interpretation”.

The Protean Consumer: Competing Conceptions of the Consumer as Drivers of EU Law and Policy-Making

The consumer, as a real person and socio-legal category, is a central character in the EU. Consumer interests are at the core of the oldest EU supranational policy – competition. Consumer protection motivates the emergence of much of EU private law. The consumer also features prominently in new strategic EU policy areas: the digital single market and data protection. Yet, these areas of EU law and policy are developed based on competing implicit understandings of what a consumer is and does. The consumer emerges as bargain-seeking or loyal, vulnerable or resistant, compulsive or confident, ethical or irresponsible. Scholarship has mapped how these different roles emerge in the law, but little attention has gone to how such roles are mobilized by different actors – EU institutions, the Member States, NGOs. My contribution focuses on different conceptions of the consumer within EU law and policy, thus adding nuance to how law-and-policy-making works at the supranational level.

Gender, Equality, and ‘Gender Equality’ in World Athletics: The Constitution of a Global Norm by Private Regulatory Administration

World Athletics – “the sole competent international authority” for the original Olympic sport – has evolved from an exclusively male institution to a self-proclaimed “leading voice on issues of gender equality”. My research into this institutional evolution reveals less a process of norm internalization/translation and more a (continuous) process of norm creation/constitution. World Athletics has incrementally and unevenly adopted various reforms to incorporate women into its domain, which have together given meaning(s) to ‘gender’ and ‘equality’. The resulting norm of gender equality has conceptual tensions and ambiguities, precisely because it is constituted by a combination of discrete regulatory practices with distinct origins and trajectories. I explore how these regulatory practices develop through the administrative structures and processes of World Athletics, and continuously (re)shape ‘gender equality’ – a norm-in-progress privately created and publicly disseminated worldwide.

The Role of the UN in Global Land Governance: (Re)Conceptualizing Tenure Security for the Global Indicator Framework

For the first time in the history of global UN-led goal-setting processes, so-called ‘land targets’ and ‘land indicators’ are explicitly included in the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Land indicators are indicators that supposedly allow for monitoring and tracking of progress of land governance. A core component is the ‘measuring’ of ‘tenure security’. However, as explored by recent scholarship, such indicators do not only ‘measure’ reality but create new realities. Importantly, the concept of tenure security is not only crucial in the context of land indicators but also at the core of many recent efforts in the realm of global land governance. This paper investigates the role that three of the most important actors in this realm – the World Bank, UN-Habitat, and the FAO – had through interpretive and executive action on the (re)conceptualization and (re)shaping of the concept of tenure security in the process of developing the Global Indicator Framework.