Centre of Expertise Global Governance

Research group Multilevel Regulation

A newly established research group at THUAS, the Multilevel Regulation research group investigates complex regulatory processes at regional, national, and global levels. The group’s primary concern is that private actors—such as businesses, civil society, and individuals—have begun to assume new regulatory roles in the context of recent crises in global governance and the accompanying criticisms of traditional public regulation. These private actors have not only gained more powers to shape key public policy questions. They’re also able to question, change, subvert and shift the way standards, rules, and laws are made, complied with, and practiced

Research groups (pdf)
About the research group

From DIY regulation to experimental regulation

We tend to accept that rules made by public officials are legitimate and should be followed—or, if the rules are questionable, they should be challenged through formal procedures. When we get a parking ticket, we either pay the fine or file an official complaint. When we board a plane, we show our ID when asked. If we have a sufficiently serious dispute with a neighbor, we call the police, or file a civil lawsuit. In almost all aspects of our lives, public rulemaking is the dominant form of regulation and dispute resolution. And no matter how dissatisfied we become with public officials, public regulation gives us security and structure, a reliable—and predictable—safe space for citizens.

But things are changing. Many institutions—from regional to international organizations such as the UN, WTO, and the EU—are increasingly seen as undemocratic and illegitimate, even untrustworthy, unrepresentative, and inefficient. Contemporary political leaders around the world are questioning the core values and principles underlying traditional regulation. While the edifice of public law still stands, its foundation of trust, reliability, community and accountability is being weakened.

How does this affect the public? What do we do, when the traditional institutions regulating our lives become unstable? Is public regulation the only way to address public policy and societal problems? If not, what are the alternatives?

In this research group, we try to answer those questions by investigating the role of private actors in multilevel regulation. Commonly, their role is assumed as only affecting—and potentially endangering—public systems. But while there is some evidence for this position, it’s limited, predictable, and not particularly helpful. Instead, our research group starts with a simple hypothesis: private actors are equipped with the tools necessary to improve traditional public regulation. Why? Because some private actors use informal yet effective solutions and procedures that trace back to the core of communitarian values and reputational mechanisms. The roots of most private justice regimes, including mediation and arbitration, are informed by communitarian values such as collaboration, participation, and personal trust. Instead of having an unknown (and sometimes unspecialized) judge deciding a dispute, private actors opt for a member of their own community to collaboratively find a solution tailored to their own needs. This is what we call “do-it-yourself”, or DIY, regulation. Why shouldn’t we, the citizens, learn from these private solutions and find ways to self-regulate the public institutions regulating much of our lives?

This research group is a forum for bringing together lecturers, students, practitioners, and public officials to work out alternative ways of improving contemporary regulation in a collaborative, experimental manner. The main goal is fostering a dialogue between practitioners and academy members to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of DIY private regulation, and translate them into the language of the public domain. As such, the research group bridges theory, teaching, experimentation, and practice, offering innovative and hybrid solutions to contemporary regulatory problems.  

The lectoraat Multilevel Regulation works also with students. Read more about student projects.

About the professor

dr. Barbara Warwas

Dr. Barbara Warwas is a professor at The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS). Barbara is also a lecturer in arbitration and coordinator of the minor in dispute resolution at the LAW Programme at THUAS. Prior to her position as professor she was a coordinator of the Comparative Law Line and Commercial Law Specialization at the LAW Programme. Barbara is the author of The Liability of Arbitral Institutions: Legitimacy Challenges and Functional Responses published by Springer, 2016. In 2014 she worked as a drafter, researcher, and administrator for the ground-breaking study on the Legal Instruments and Practices of Arbitration in the EU and Switzerland, commissioned by the European Parliament. Barbara has a Ph.D. in Law from the European University Institute (Florence, Italy). Prior to The Hague University, Barbara worked as visiting counsel in the litigation department at GE Oil & Gas in Florence and in the Italian law firm Studio Legale Calabresi Guadalupi.

Contemporary regulation requires experimentation and innovative solutions.