The Role of International Organizations in a Rule-Based International System

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) led by Secretary-General Angel Gurría, recently published a brochure titled, “The Contribution of International Organisations to a Rule-Based International System: Key results from the partnership of international organisations for effective international rulemaking”. This brochure highlights key features of the international rulemaking and standard-setting landscape, describes how international rulemaking functions, and explains the benefits of an IO Partnership.


There is a wide variety of International Organizations (IOs) that are involved in setting standards and making rules globally, which includes the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). IOs are organized in diverse ways as inter-governmental, trans-governmental or private organizations, and take different forms: international, regional, groups of similar-minded countries or institutions sharing common issues and priorities. As part of their efforts, IOs promote International Regulatory Cooperation (IRC). For effective collaboration and concerted approaches, IOs work together within a framework of international rulemaking.


The brochure explains that “International rulemaking is understood broadly as encompassing the entire rulemaking cycle, from the design and development of international instruments to their implementation and enforcement.”


The OECD has conducted surveys of IOs to learn about the composition of the global rulemaking landscape which is complex and dynamic, with multiple actors and numerous international normative instruments. The different types of IOs, despite having different mandates and focus also share common features, rulemaking practices, and operational modalities. 


A wide variety of international instruments are adopted by IOs, which can include legally binding or voluntary tools, policy and technical standards, and normative and guidance documents. The brochure states that “a number of IOs adopt and host mutual recognition agreements among their members to enable the mutual recognition of norms and standards (and proofs of compliance) issued by national bodies abiding by the agreement.” As we know, confidence in the global accreditation system is based on the mutual recognition of the IAF/ILAC MLA/MRAs obtained by accreditation bodies, after undergoing peer evaluations, to prove compliance with the applicable requirements and standards. 


The OECD surveys provide useful data on the different types of mechanisms used by the IOs to facilitate the implementation of their instruments.  The surveys provide information that help to analyze the impacts of IO normative instruments and suggests ways to improve them.


In 2014, the OECD launched the IO Partnership which brings together 50 Secretariats of international organizations “to promote and discuss the conditions for greater quality, effectiveness and impact of international rules, regardless of their substantive scope.”


IAF and ILAC attend the IO Partnership meetings and are active participants in the IOs collective effort of information exchange on rulemaking activities.


To read more, you may download the brochure at