A Theory of Ecological Justice

By Brian Baxter | Go to book overview

12

Institutional arrangements at the global level

As many analysts of international environmental institutions emphasize (for example, Haas et al. 1993:4; Hurrell and Kingsbury 1992:6-8), the political structure of the world for the foreseeable future will be conditioned by the continued existence of states and their commitment, albeit nowadays somewhat nuanced and circumscribed, to the ideal of state sovereignty. This means that proponents of ecological justice will need to pursue their aims within a system of developing world governance involving cooperation between state-based executives, rather than government involving a single global executive. The development of international environmental institutions (IEIs) oriented towards ecological justice concerns can, therefore, come about only as the result of actions undertaken by, and agreements made between, state governments.

The traditions of diplomacy and the perennial attractions of realist ideologies of state actions at the international level may seem to make such a development a remote prospect. However, it is important to see (as Haas et al. 1993 reveal) that, once IEIs and other international governance institutions have come into existence, then this itself makes a significant difference to the conduct of international politics. For the personnel of such institutions can themselves play a key facilitating and agenda-setting role in their own further development and in the creation of new forms of international institution.

For them to do so, as Haas et al. argue, various factors need to be in place. It is important for the IEIs to be small enough for their own administration not to be a time-consuming distraction. They need to be alive to the need to create networks of interest with other IEIs, other international institutions, state government actors and bureaucrats, and personnel of NGOs within states. It is very helpful if the terms of reference of IEIs are drawn sufficiently wide to allow growth of activity and regulative competence in previously unforeseen areas. Even the fact that an IEI may initially be established on the basis of only a vague commitment to some general set of principles can be a strength rather than a weakness, as it may allow the acceptance of IEIs by states which would otherwise be hostile, and give the IEI in question breathing space to move towards a more precise and useful set of regulatory actions. However, it should be noted that Haas et al. discovered that IEIs tend not to enforce rules, but rather put pressure on states to alter their behaviour by monitoring their performance in a given area of environmental

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