Critical Review of International Governance

Protecting the Environment through Sports? Public-Private Cooperation for Regulatory Resources and International Law


This article examines a common, yet insufficiently researched, phenomenon: regulatory cooperation between public and private actors at the global level. It uses a case study that starts from the cooperation between the Olympic Movement and the United Nations Environmental Programme and then examines more broadly areas of convergences between sports and environmental regulation. The article depicts why a private regulator and an international organization would cooperate and what this tells us about the relationship between ‘expertise’, ‘power’ and ‘legitimacy’ within global governance. Two arguments are put forward and developed in the article. First, regulators cooperate because, in an unsettled global space with no hierarchical framework, cooperation is necessary for them to acquire sufficient authority to secure compliance with their regulatory agenda; cooperation opens a venue for the exchange of necessary regulatory resources and, thus, ultimately helps regulators establish and strengthen their authority. Second, because of the rate of recurrence of regulatory cooperation on a global scale, the article calls for the integration of the concept of regulatory cooperation into international law scholarship to help recognize and formalize this practice. It aims to encourage a debate about the risks and benefits involved in these regulatory interactions and about a (legal) framework that could safeguard important public policy interests.