International Organizations and Environmental Policy

By Robert V. Bartlett; Priya A. Kurian et al. | Go to book overview
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International Environmental Policy: Redesigning the Agenda for Theory and Practice?

Priya A. Kurian, Robert V. Bartlett, and Madhu Malik

Any piecemeal introduction of innovative forms of social choice into a world of ecologically irrational mechanisms is perilous. . . . Systems have a remarkable capacity to frustrate structural change. . . . [They] therefore compound their ecological irrationality by securing their own perpetuation. ( Dryzek, 1987: 245)

International environmental policy and politics have in the last two decades increasingly centered on making possible the twin goals of economic development and environmental protection. The tantalizing idea of "sustainable development," carrying with it the promise of delivering both goals, has held policymakers, scholars, activists, and parts of the general public in thrall especially since 1987 when the Brundtland Commission gave it wide currency. And, despite sustainable development meaning different things to different people, or perhaps because of this attractive ambiguity that allows it to mean all things to all people, the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro found governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continuing to pay homage to this term. But the rhetoric of sustainable development cannot be an adequate substitute for meaningful policy. To grapple successfully with environmental policy issues, new and creative ways of dealing with policy and administration are needed. New knowledge, new theories, and a fundamental shift in values are required if international environmental policy is ever to deal satisfactorily with the environmental dilemmas facing the world today. More than anything else, politics and institutions must adapt to new situations created by the global environmental problematique 1; they must be ecologically rational.

In the domestic context of only one country's environmental problems, there is some evidence that policy processes can be ecologically rational (see Bartlett, 1986a, 1990; Dryzek, 1987). To what extent is it possible to frame or even

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