IILJ Working Paper 2005/17 (Global Administrative Law Series)

Decentralized Administrative Law in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

James Salzman

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The OECD provides a wonderful example for the study of global administrative law for the simple reason that it is a hybrid organization. Through its many diverse activities, the OECD shares characteristics with primarily lawmaking international bodies, such as the European Union, primarily standardsetting bodies, such as the World Health Organization, and primarily data gathering and research organizations, such as the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no uniform administrative law in the OECD. In managing this constellation of activities, the OECD has chosen largely to decentralize its administrative law down to subject-specific directorates who develop administrative procedures on an ad hoc basis. Thus, in studying administrative law at the OECD, one is effectively studying multiple administrative law systems under one roof.

This article commences with a description of the OECD. Since the organization does not garner much attention from scholars or the public, Section II describes the organization’s origins and operations, and offers examples of its activities. Section III then provides four case studies that examine the OECD’s multiple roles and how these bear on the development of the organization’s administrative law. The cases range from traditional treaty-making, to consensus development of standards, to quasi-judicial review of the actions of multinational enterprises. Each of these examples relies on different types of administrative mechanisms to address the core concerns of transparency, responsiveness, and accountability. The concluding section builds off of these case studies, exploring whether administrative law safeguards should apply to OECD activities that, while not lawmaking themselves, exert important influence on domestic lawmaking and underscores why the OECD has adopted decentralized model of administrative law.