Global Public Goods

“Goods” that are in the public domain; goods that are there for all to consume. Goods may be in the public domain because:

  • They cannot be made excludable (that is, their benefits cannot be withheld from the public), because doing so would be too expensive or technically impossible (e.g., the warming rays of the sun).
  • They have been made public by design (e.g., a country’s justice system, street signs, and basic education for all).
  • They are public by default, due to policy neglect (e.g., air pollution, crime and violence, and communicable diseases) or due to lack of relevant information (e.g., food items or gases that one day science may recognize as being harmful to human health).

For more information, refer to Providing Global Public Goods, published by Oxford University Press in 2002, or contact: Office of Development Studies; United Nations Development Programme; 1 United Nations Plaza (DC-1 Building), 21st Floor, New York, NY 10017 USA; Tel: 1 (212) 906-6064; Web:, or the Global Policy Forum at

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