What is Policy Laundering?

Definition and meaning of policy laundering: Policy laundering describes a situation where a government or a group of governments create or implement policy under the guise of international consensus or as part of an agreement with other nations, thereby bypassing the usual democratic processes. This practice often occurs in contexts where the policy in question might face significant opposition or scrutiny if attempted directly in a domestic setting. It represents a serious challenge to democratic accountability and transparency.

The process of policy laundering typically involves a government introducing or advocating for a policy at an international level – often through international organizations, treaties, or agreements. Once these policies gain international acceptance or become part of an international agreement, the same government then adopts the policy domestically, citing international obligations as the rationale. This strategy can effectively 'launder' the policy through the international system, thereby avoiding the usual public debate, legislative scrutiny, and political processes that would normally accompany significant policy changes at the national level.

One common area where policy laundering occurs is in the realm of internet regulation and surveillance. Governments may advocate for certain standards or regulations at an international level, which, once adopted internationally, are then introduced domestically with the argument that they are necessary to comply with international standards. This allows governments to implement policies that might be unpopular or controversial domestically, under the pretext of adhering to international norms.

Policy laundering has significant implications for democratic governance. It undermines the principles of transparency and accountability, as policies are enacted without proper public debate or legislative scrutiny. This lack of openness can lead to policies that do not reflect the will or the best interests of the populace. It also erodes public trust in government, as citizens see decisions being made in international forums rather than through their elected representatives.


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