International Organizations and Environmental Policy

By Robert V. Bartlett; Priya A. Kurian et al. | Go to book overview
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( Waltz, 1979; Grieco, 1988), states attempt to create institutions. They do so because such institutions provide goods that are often absent in international anarchy: coordinated policy; stable expectations; official avenues for reciprocity; and established procedures to facilitate decentralized rulemaking and to reduce asymmetries of information, transaction costs, and opportunities for market failure.

As predicted by this approach, the ozone regime assists states to create common ODS regulations. It serves important organizational and information functions, facilitates the making of new agreements, and provides side payments for regime participants and punishments for nonparticipants. Yet, predicting goals does not equal explaining the process. Contrary to this approach, goals were very controversial, control of information was suspect, states often focused on obtaining positional advantages, and UNEP, in addition to state actors, played several very important roles. Indeed, during the regime's creation, UNEP performed and, in some cases still performs, many of the functions that the approach argues the ozone regime would be created to provide. Many of the insights this approach provides concerning the creation and impact of international regimes are equally important for understanding the roles that existing international organizations can play in creating new cooperative arrangements ( Haas, Keohane, and Levy, 1993).

Theories focusing on epistemic communities argue that regimes form in issue areas where transnational alliances of like-minded experts and policymakers can influence interstate negotiations. As noted above, an environmental epistemic community was important to the development of the ozone regime ( P. Haas, 1992a). Moreover, studying epistemic communities is important because it supplements neorealist analysis by examining knowledge, learning, transnational groups, and domestic politics.

Yet, epistemic communities alone are not a sufficient explanation. What, for example, was the impact of an opposing transnational, industry interest group? What were the conditions that allowed different groups to prevail at different times? And how should we explain UNEP's independent contribution to international ozone protection? It was UNEP taking full advantage of its constitutional mandate and organizational capacity, rather than a new epistemic community, that initiated and sustained scientific and political discussions, facilitated agreement, managed negotiations toward establishing strong rules, and helped administer the regime toward expansion.


Contradicting existing regime explanations, the history of the ozone regime argues that an independent international organization can have a significant impact on the development of international environmental regimes. This does


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