Transnational public interests: constituting public interest beyond and below the state

Research strand coordinator: Dr Antoine Duval

In the past century, national governments embodied the pursuit of the public interest on issues like environmental protection or human rights. Yet, since the turn of the century, the influence of non-state actors, such as corporations, NGOs or international organisations like the European Union on global issues such as environmental protection, human rights or digital safety has grown rapidly. Researchers in this strand examine how non-state actors are increasingly shaping and defending the transnational/European public interest on critical issues and, conversely, how this public turn affects their operations. They raise fundamental questions, such as: how do we ensure that the interests pursued are actually those of the public? And, more fundamentally, who is the public in this context?



Research themes
Research in this strand will take as a starting point the assumption (to be critically investigated) that the pursuit of the public interest is (at least partly) moving away from the institutions of the nation state towards actors and organisations beyond (or below) the state, including private actors, cities and regional/international organisations. In our research we plan to identify and understand this shift and to empirically locate some of its institutional and normative materialisations. Furthermore, assuming that such a shift is taking place, we will discuss the normative consequences that need to be drawn in order to check the power exercised by non-state actors when they identify and pursue the public interest.

This research programme will be conducted through four main projects falling under the strand’s umbrella:

  1. Private corporations, public interests: Investigating the public/private divide in the business and human rights discourse. This project building on the existing Doing Business Right (DBR) project will focus primarily on tracing and analysing the operation of the public/private divide in the context of the business and human rights debate. The 'Doing Business Right' project focuses on investigating the role of law in securing the public interest in the context of transnational economic activities. The Doing Business Right Blog offers an academic platform for scholars and practitioners interested in questions related to Doing Business Right. More information about the project can be found here.
  2. Lex Sportiva goes public: Public interests and the transnational private regulation of sports. In the coming years, the work of the Asser International Sports Law Centre (AISLC) will be centred on studying the interface between private regulation in sports and public interests.Research in the field of international sports law is of an interdisciplinary as well as comparative law character, covering many fields of law in which the Asser Institute specialises. It is embedded in the Asser International Sports Law Centre (AISLC), which provides high quality research, services and products to the sports world at large. 
  3. Global Europe: Investigating public interest in the EU’s external action. The “Global Europe” project will analyse the EU’s external policies and action with a view to establishing the EU’s capacity to exercise principled and value-based global leadership. More information about the project can be found here.
  4. Cities and the (re)constitution of (transnational) public interests. In this project, a number of the more fundamental questions raised in our research agenda are brought to the urban: How do cities understand and use public interests? Who determines what is in a city’s public interest? Whether and how do cities create a transnational public sphere? What are the publics that take part in this sphere? And, how do cities use transnational public interests in the mobilisation of anti-hegemonic force in the (re)constitution of the urban?