Academic journal article Global Governance

Designing Effective Environmental Regimes: The Conditional Keys

Academic journal article Global Governance

Designing Effective Environmental Regimes: The Conditional Keys

Article excerpt

Are international regimes that have been established to solve environmental problems designed and operating as effectively as possible? Although the call for research addressing the design question has been increasing in intensity, [1] and a number of insightful case studies and compilations have been published, [2] few systematic, comparative projects have been carried out so far. [3] My book Designing Effective Environmental Regimes: The Key Conditions is an attempt to move in the direction of systematic, comparative research on the impact of varying regime design. [4] In this article, I briefly introduce my approach, provide a brief overview of main characteristics of the regimes and their effectiveness, present some main institutional findings, and conclude with suggest ions for effective regime design.

International regimes are in line with Marc Levy, Oran Young, and Michael Zurn, to be understood as "social institutions consisting of agreed-upon principles, norms, rules, procedures and programmes that govern the interactions of actors in specific issue-areas." By focusing on the issue of "institutional design," the ambition is clearly to move beyond the much-debated "do regimes matter question [5] and discuss more specifically to what extent and how regimes possibly matter. In other words, are we able to say anything more specific about the types of regimes--and their specific regime features--that are likely to make more impact and contribute to higher effectiveness than others? In a recent gathering of regime scholars, a tentative list of around twenty institutional issues and factors was produced. [6] For purposes such as mine, the research agenda needed to be narrowed down. However, finding "objective" criteria for selecting institutional factors for further study is difficult. [7] Six more specific i nstitutional factors were selected for further study in my book: access and participation procedures, decisionmaking rules, the role of the secretariat, structuring of the agenda, organization of the science-politics interface, and verification and compliance mechanisms. These factors certainly touch on controversial issues in international environmental politics and actual dilemmas for negotiators. For instance, should access to decision processes be inclusive or exclusive? [8] On the one hand, it has been argued that inclusive processes--for instance, in terms of the inclusion of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)--mean effective decisionmaking with varied inputs and broad-based legitimacy. However, inclusive processes mean many and often different interests to combine, and NGO and media presence easily leads to states "playing for the gallery." On the other hand, more exclusive processes offer optimal conditions for more delicate compromise building but may be troubling in terms of legitimacy.

Should national participants be bureaucrats or ministers? Bureaucrats often master the complex technological and political details best, but they tend to get bogged down in details. Ministers are definitely freer to cut bargains, and they usually draw much more media and public attention to the issues. But political takeoffs may lead to decisions far removed from technical implementation possibilities. Should decisionmaking be consensual or should it rely on majority voting? Consensual processes and compromise building generally mean legitimate decisions and good prospects for implementation, but such processes also give the laggards the upper hand. For instance, the 1989 Hague Declaration on the Environment sounded strong calls for more ambitious decisionmaking and the possible use of majority voting.

Should the secretariat be a low-lying stagehand for the parties or a driving entrepreneurial actor? Stagehand secretariats may give the parties optimal support and allow them to concentrate on the big issues but not act as the process-driving forces wished for by impatient parties. More active, entrepreneurial secretariats may provide more tangible solutions to the big issues, but reluctant parties will not welcome independent process drivers. …

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