Research Articles

Exploring the Relationship between Administrative Norms and Competence in Transnational Governance: ISO, ISEAL and Sustainability Standards



I argue that competence is needed to join the burgeoning activity of developing and applying the administrative norms that are designed to keep contemporary transnational governance institutions in check, but that such competence is not conferred only by states. Using the example of the asymmetric relationships among the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the ISEAL Alliance (ISEAL) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the field of sustainability standards, I argue that competence is the contingent product of an ongoing process of interaction among rule-makers and a variety of relevant audiences. General administrative norms play a central but complicated role in the quest for competence. To illustrate this complexity, I investigate two apparent paradoxes: that competence is sometimes withheld from rule-makers despite their apparent conformity with transnational administrative norms, and that competence is sometimes conferred on rule-makers despite their apparent nonconformity with those norms.


transnational governancesustainabilitystandardizationadministrative normscompetence<small>ISO</small><small>ISEAL</small> AllianceWorld Trade Organization
  • Year: 2016
  • Volume: 21 Issue: 2
  • Page/Article: 193-229
  • DOI: 10.1163/22112596-02102006
  • Published on 12 Oct 2016
  • Peer Reviewed