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International Harmonization of Nanotechnology Governance through “Soft Law” Approaches
Volume 9, Issue 4

Gary E. Marchant and Kenneth W. Abbott

The governance of nanotechnology has two distinct aspects. First, because every developed nation is simultaneously developing the technology and regulatory oversight for nanotechnology, there is an unprecedented interest and effort in international harmonization of governance. Second, given the many challenges with traditional regulatory approaches to nanotechnology, “soft law” approaches that rely on non-binding requirements have been particularly prevalent for nanotechnology. This article reviews a number of international soft law initiatives for nanotechnology, created by and involving a variety of different stakeholders including government, industry, non-governmental organizations and other third party entities. Although the implementation and impacts of these programs have been inconsistent and limited to date, the experience with nanotechnology is providing useful lessons and precedent for the role of soft law mechanisms in the international governance of emerging technologies.

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