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  • Series: Leuven Global Governance series x
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Lorand Bartels

Since the early 1990s, the trade agreements entered into by the European Union (EU) have included a ‘human rights clause’ requiring the parties to respect human rights and democratic principles. More recently, beginning with the 2008 EU-Cariforum Economic Partnership Agreement, they have also included ‘sustainable development’ chapters, which contain obligations to respect labour and environmental standards. This chapter considers the extent to which, legally, these two sets of provisions give the EU the means of implementing its obligations to ensure that its external activities respect human rights and pursue the objective of promoting sustainable development. It also considers the desirability of these differences in the EU’s approach to human rights and democratic principles, on the one hand, and labour and environmental standards, on the other.

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Rafael Leal-Arcas and Catherine M. Wilmarth

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Michel Bauwens

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Samuel Cogolati and Jan Wouters

The main purpose of this book is to understand what the ground-breaking model of cooperation of the commons implies for global governance, especially in relation to the debate on the (non)-democratic nature, institutions, and legal underpinnings of global governance. The research on the implications of the commons for our system of global governance is still scarce. The book therefore aims to contribute to fill the gap between the study of bottom-up commons and global governance. Global governance, which stands for ways of problem-solving cooperation that take place within global networks of relevant stakeholders, is indeed gradually substituting itself for the democratic deliberation within nation-states and comes to have more of a say over what political projects ought to be prioritized. In an interdependent and globalized world, a fair and representative system of global governance will therefore be critical to protect and promote the commons. Hence, we submit that the commons cannot only be studied at the micro-level, where they often emerge. While it is true that decision-making processes for the commons are generally locally owned, the commons also represent at a more macro-level a ‘third way’ to overcome the extractive forces of capitalism and the top-down logic of states. In this sense, the commons have evolved into an alternative ‘paradigm’ to rethink the traditional private-public divide, and prioritize the ecological and human needs of communities over market and state. Following this broader normative interpretation, this book explores the democratic, institutional and legal issues linked to the commons for global governance today. Based first on the study of the commons as vehicles for democratization of global governance, then on the assessment of the role played by commons-based institutions in the current global governance system, and finally on a more normative interrogation around what international law ought to look like to recognize and support the commons, this book will provide its reader with solid foundations to look further into the introduction of ‘commoning’ practices into global governance.

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Pierre Dardot

This chapter claims that the ‘common’, in contrast to global public goods, implies a collective production of a good that is not up for appropriation. It suggests that the ‘common’ could be an alternative to current international economic policies and could have, in that sense, important repercussions on democracy in the global arena. This chapter expands on this premise and tries to outline the democracy of the global commons. Indeed, it seems that global commons require a kind of democracy that is different from that of the local commons. This chapter’s main argument is that if we wish to have any chance of halting and reversing the logic of cosmocapitalism, we have to institute a global democracy for the global commons. Only such transnational citizenship-in-action can give full meaning to this idea of cosmopolitics: politics for the world, as long as the ‘world’ implies what resonates in the Latin term mundus, namely, not the Earth as a planet and not the totality of individuals living on Earth but instead, the living connection between the individuals inhabiting in and on the Earth itself. In this sense, the anti-globalization slogan ‘the world is not for sale’ is more meaningful than it might seem at first sight: the world, in itself, is not a ‘thing’ that we can own; it must be recognized as inappropriable and instituted as a common. Instituting the world as a common cannot be understood as an extension of the nation-state or city-state models at the global level. The democracy of the global commons is irreducible to a mere change of scale. Instead, it requires a genuine collective political invention, which is based on the multiplication of self-government at all levels. What is at stake here is the confrontation between two diametrically opposed logics: whereas the logic of the commons is fundamentally plural, polymorphic, non-centred in nature, and the logic of state sovereignty as it was constructed in the West is intrinsically linked to an indivisible and absolute centre of power. The solution is not for several sovereignties to overlap on the same territory, as this would be incompatible with the very notion of sovereignty, but for several types of self-governments to limit each other’s power reciprocally.

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Nicolás Brando and Helder De Schutter

This chapter analyses Pierre Dardot’s institutionalization of the commons as a federal political project. Through the use of the literature on the political theory of federalism, we assess the credentials of his federalist programme, arguing that his refusal to grant salient competences and authority to central institutions makes his proposal more of a confederal or treaty-based argument, rather than a federal system. Based on this assessment, we present three connected concerns with his proposed system of governance of the commons, arguing that it is not fully able to deal with the global problems that it intends to tackle. We consider that solidarity at higher levels is currently not stable enough to protect global commons; that the absence of shared rule (through state-like authorities) in Dardot’s federal proposal cannot fully protect common concerns more broadly than at the local level; and that the exclusive focus on the practices of commoning, disregarding seeing commons as goods, may enable unsustainable, inefficient, and potentially oppressive practices. We close by recommending a series of amendments to his proposal, in order for it to, first, be a truly federal political system; and, second, to ensure the protection of and access to the commons as both local and global goods.