Global Public Goods


Traditional public goods are well-known: national defense, street lighting, fireworks, etc. The traditional view is that these goods are unable to be provided by the market, and therefore had to be provided by an external agent, typically the state. Globalization, however, has deeply transformed the debate on the provision of public goods. Externalities are no longer confined to the national boundaries, and states are no longer in the position to provide goods such as environmental protection, security or free trade. These goods qualify as global public goods, whose effects concern different countries and generations. In order to provide these goods, mechanisms of international cooperation are needed.

The concept of global public goods is now an important instrument of international policy-making, yet it remains little understood. The goal of this course is to describe and assess these new mechanisms of international cooperation, which shape the debate on global governance.

The course should appeal to students wishing to pursue a career in international organizations, and/or with an interest in international economics and politics. No prerequisite is needed, and neither is economic training.

General remarks and organisation

Selected bibliography

  • Barrett, S. 2007. Why Cooperate? The Incentive to Supply Global Public Goods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cornes, R., and T. Sandler. 1996. The theory of externalities, publics goods, and club goods. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kaul, I., I. Grunberg, and M. Stern, eds. 1999. Global Public Goods: International Cooperation in the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Nordhaus, W. D. 1999. « Biens publics globaux et changement climatique » Revue française d’économie 14 (3):11-32.
  • Olson, M. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press
  • Samuleson, P. A. 1954. « The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure » The Review of Economics and Statistics 36 (4):387-389.


Part I: What are global public goods?

Session 1 – Market failures and externalities

Session 2 – Managing the global commons

Part II: Global public goods in a globalized world

Session 3:        Climate change, or how to tackle a ‘global public bad’

Session 4:        Environmental protection: how do environmental agreements work?

Session 5:        Health: epidemiological surveillance and medical breakthroughs

Session 6:        Cultural heritage

Session 7:        Peace and security: are international organizations useful?

Session 8:        Communications, knowledge and cyberspace

Session 9:      Education and research

Part III: Providing global goods

Session 10:      Different mechanisms of international cooperation


Session 11:      The problem of compliance and the role of international organisations


Session 12:      Conclusion




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