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Short Description

A mandate a right or duty that one party (the mandator) has granted to another party or employee (the mandatee) for executing a specific (set of) actions in the name of, and under responsibility/accountability of, this (first) party. Because of that, such actions must be executed according to the policies of the mandator, and this is what distinguishes it from a delegate.

Note that actors are never mandatees; they can only be that in their capacity of being employed by a specific party, which may be the mandator itself, but also some other party. The reason for that is that this ensures the actor is onboarded by that party, which makes that party accountable in cases where the actor misbehaves by misusing, or exceeding the rights and duties that are granted by the mandate.

Mandates come in various flavors, ranging from very informal to very formal, with little or much details, implict or explicit, and in a human and/or machine readable form.

Informal mandates typically do not come with assurances and are usually not registered. An example of this is a car owner granting permission to someone else to use the car for some period of time. When

Particularly in governmental, policing and judicial settings, mandates will be formal because the ability to establish their existence is necessary as part of chains of evidence. Such mandates may also (need to) be registered so that third parties can check their existence, the extent of rights and/or duties that the mandatee has been granted (i.e. what it can and cannot do under the mandate), and obtain assurances to its rightful issuance (the issuer of the mandate must have the same right or duty as is mandated, as well as the right to mandate that right or duty.

Mandates can also be very specific and explicit. For example [OAuth access tokens](, or other kinds of permissions are mandates for designated IT components (that act on behalf of some party) to access particular resources that are owned by the mandator, and/or have such resources processed.

A particular kind of mandate is called 'consent'. Basically, this means that an employee (of an arbitrary party) can request that a party grants a pecific set of rights/duties to that employee; if the party consents, then that is equivalent as if it had granted the employee these rights/duties as a mandate.

Rights and duties are assigned to parties - not actors. However, executing actions that exercise such rights can only be done by actors - not parties (see the party, actor, and actions pattern). In its simplest form, a mandate can be seen as a (set of) task(s) that a party assigns to one or more of its employees. In a more complex form a mandate can be seen as the permission (right) or tasking (duty) that is assigned to (and agreed upon with the employer(s) of) employee(s) of other parties.

A mandate is only valid if the mandated right or duty is one that the mandator actually has. If, for example, a party is the holder of a bank account, it has the right to transfer funds out of that account. If the bank supports mandates, the holder can mandate this right to other people, or even services in the bank (e.g. for making automatic payments). A party that has no right to transfer funds out of a bank account should not be enabled to create valid mandates so that other actors could start depleting it.

A special kind of mandate is that where the right to mandate certain rights or duties (or: the execution of certain actions) is mandated. Particularly if a party is a mandatee for a certain right or duty (or: task), it may not have a mandate that would enable it to create mandates for other so do that task.

Mandates are subject to the legal system of a jurisdiction, which has the rules and constraints that specify what can(not) be done with them. Thus, mandates are enforced using the means that its jurisdiction applies for that. The same goes in case of conflicts that concern mandates. Also, jurisdictions may themselves specify mandates, or templates for mandates that e.g. only require the mandator and mandatee(s) to be filled in.

As explained (see the duties and rights pattern), rights and duties are relations between legal entities: parties have rights/duties towards others. For example, a party that is holder of a bank account has a right (that it can exercise) towards the bank to transfer money out of the account, which implies that the bank has a corresponding duty to enable that party to exercise that right. This makes that it is not trivial to operationalize mandates: simply creating a mandate by the mandator does not mean that the party that has the corresponding duties and/or rights can recognize them as being authentic, or can handle them. This is particularly an issue when verifying the authenticity and subsequent handling are to be done electronically.


The purpose of (formal and/or explicit) mandates is that it enables parties to establish whether or not actors that execute (a) specific action(s) are entitled to do so.


A mandate is (data, that expresses) a volition of a party (in the role of mandator) that pertains to:

  • a set of rights and/or duties that the mandator disposes of, and that are the subject of the mandate;
  • at least one other party and/or agent (in the role of mandatee);
  • at least one (kind of) action (activity, task), the execution of actions (of such kinds) exercise one or more of the specific rights and/or duties;
  • a (possibly empty) policy that specifies the rules, working-instructions, preferences and other guidance for mandatees as they execute such actions;
  • a commitment of the mandator that expresses its intention to have the mandatee(s) execute such (kinds of) action(s) in its name and under its responsibility/accountability;


  • In the law of a nation, it may say that the Mayor of a municipality has the duty to register every person that takes residence in that municipality. The Mayor may mandate a selected set of civil servants that the municipality employs to do the actual registration.
  • The police (as an organization) has the right to fine drivers for driving through a red (traffic)light. The job description of traffic officers states that they can do the actual work - take the streets, look at traffic, and fine trespassers. However, (appropriately certified) photographic equipment may also be mandated to do this (electronically).
  • A person or organization that is the holder of a bank account may mandate other people to (also) transfer funds out of that bank account.


In regular language, the word 'mandate' has multiple meanings, that differ e.g. in whether or not accountability is transferred, whether or not the mandatee has the liberty to choose the way in which (s)he exercises the rights, or whether or not the mandate must be accepted by the mandatee - implicitly or explicitly by the mandatee, or because of a rule or ruling within the context of the jurisdiction that governs the mandate.

A Dutch explanation of the differences between 'mandate' and 'delegate' can be found here.