The U.S. Congress and the World
Bank: Impact of News Media on
International Environmental Policy
Priya A. Kurian
In a world marked by intractable ecological problems and an anarchical international system that has no governing authority, international organizations play an increasingly important role in shaping global environmental policy. Scholarly research on international organizations (IOs) and the environment has generally been directed at examining the ways that specific organizations have dealt with particular environmental problems, whether IOs are independent actors or merely pawns of powerful nation-states, and, to a lesser extent, developing theoretical understanding of their functioning and their ability to adapt and change ( Caldwell, 1990b; Le Prestre, 1989; P. Haas, 1990; E. Haas, 1990; Boardman, 1981). One area largely unexplored by scholars is the nebulous process of agenda setting and problem definition by IOs.
The literature on sources and processes of influence on international organizations, and especially on environmental policy making by IOs, remains sketchy. The stabs that have been taken in hazarding possible sources of influence are, with a few exceptions, rarely empirically or theoretically grounded. The policy process within IOs is seen as primarily influenced by member-states, who view international organizations as a forum wherein national interests play themselves out in policy formulation ( Feld and Jordan, 1988; P. Haas , 1990). The environmentally conscious public, represented by nongovernmental organizations ( NGOs); other international organizations that form part of the external environment of an 10 ( Mikesell and Williams, 1992); and especially, the policy ideas put forward by relevant epistemic communities ( P. Haas, 1990) all play critical roles in influencing the agenda of IOs. Yet there is as yet no systematic discussion of the agenda-setting processes at work in IOs. What makes IOs focus on one set of issues and not others? How do they define problems? This chapter seeks to address a small part of this gap in the literature by empirical investigation of one possible source of influence on agenda setting by IOs: the news media.