Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 March 2022
A fil rouge runs from the system of conferences, the river commissions and the administrative unions of the nineteenth century through the UN, its ‘family’ and the Bretton Woods institutions established in the mid-twentieth century, up to the most recent forms of international and transnational cooperation. The issues for which these forms of cooperation have been established range from the containment of communicable diseases to the protection of intellectual property, from the preservation of historic sites to food safety and from banking supervision to internet regulation. This phenomenon, as a whole, was analyzed as ‘the legal organisation of the international society’,1 or even ‘of the world’2 at the end of the nineteenth century. Activities and patterns have further developed into what is now called global governance.3 The entities engaged are intergovernmental organizations, treaty bodies, supervisory and expert bodies, standing secretariats, civil society actors, transnational corporations and varieties of hybrid or ‘soft’ actors, all of which have some ‘legal life’ of their own.