The theme of transnational governance has become again a hot topic at this years’ conference of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE). The SASE’s 24th Annual Meeting is taking places at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge on June 28-30, 2012. It brings together academics from various disciplinary backgrounds to discuss the issue of “Global Shifts Implications for Business, Government and Labour”. One of the mini conference themes within SASE (“Regulating Labor and Environment: Beyond the Public-Private Divide“) explicitly deals with the dynamics and impacts of transnational governance arrangements and their relationship towards national regulation (see also  other recent blog entry).

This mini conference brings together a variety of contributions dealing with the question of how transnational standards are effectively enforced locally. While several contributions discuss the “top down” implementation of rules one panel in particular looks at the domestic mobilization of private and state regulation. The panel “mobilization of private and state regulation” addresses the question of the relationship between state and other forms of regulation by examining how citizens and communities make use of and try to mobilize national and extraterritorial judicial, non-judicial and/or voluntary mechanisms in order to seek redress for local grievances: Scholars present ample empirical evidence from different countries and continents including China, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Brazil and discuss the following questions:

How do local societal actors make use of and employ transnational and national regulation? When do local actors fail in their attempts to mobilize domestic and transnational regulation, and why? And in general, what do we learn about the role of domestic citizens, workers or non-governmental organizations for putting regulatory regimes into practice and broader contextual conditions which either enhance local redress mechanisms, or undermine their capacity to address grievances?

The four contributions reflect upon the various ways, possibilities and limits of local actors engaging transnational and national regulations in diverse political settings:

Samantha Balaton-Chrimes, Kate Macdonald and Shelley Marshall from the University of Melbourne discuss how affected workers and communities use multiple political, state-based and non-judicial extra-territorial redress mechanisms, including the OECD National Contact Points. Their paper explores the public and private potentials and characteristics of these mechanisms in order to shed some light on how they are manipulated by different parties, and to highlight the importance of their public potential for communities to advance their right to free, prior and informed consent over the use of their land by transnational companies in Orissa, India.

In her contribution, Nadira Lamrad (City University of Hong Kong) deals with the different strategies of local actors as they exploit the global-local interface to mobilize and expand opportunities for labour-related action in China beyond the ACFTU. This paper highlights the complex and evolving character of the labour governance process in China that includes interactions between local labour advocacy organizations, foreign civil society, the state, and corporations as they make decisions influenced by national and global normative and institutional contexts.

Stephanie Barrientos, Peter Knorringa, John Pickles discuss the challenges for social upgrading in emerging economies resulting out of the rise of multiples (supermarkets selling a wide product range). The authors ask if the expansion of major international retail multiples inemerging economies change the practices they adopt in dealing with workplace conditions if that leads to greater convergence or divergence of social standards. They find that the proliferation of social standards is leading to moves for greater code convergence, but that there are contradictory pressures for both upgrading and down grading within supermarket chains.

Sabrina Zajak in her contribution addresses the question on how the transnational governance of labor standards affects the role domestic labor NGOs can play in market regulation in China. She finds that transnational private regulation supports the development of a market for labor support work, to which labor organizations increasingly tend to orient themselves to, which has a fundamental impact on how labor NGOs portray labor rights enforcement and labor relations. She suggests that we can observe the emergence of a system of “contained multipartism”, where labor support organizations increasingly gain importance in labor relations in Chinese supply chains, while at the same time seeing their ability to advance workers interests contained by both transnational business and the political environment (download paper).

The panel organizers (Sabrina Zajak and Samantha Balaton-Chrimes ) invite you to participate in these discussion during the SASE conference in room E51-376 at the Sloan School on Friday 29th June from 3.45pm to 5.15pm. If you are not at SASE, the panel contributors are open to expand the discussion beyond the specific session at SASE – so feel free to engage them directly or leave a comment here below.