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Today is World Water Day; this year operating under the heading “Clean Water for a Healthy World”. Every year since 1995, March 22 has been dedicated to “focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources“.

The 2010 events campaign focuses specifically on raising awareness of the importance of water quality for health and human well-being, and the importance of sound water management for preventing pollution.

While that means that this year the World Water Day has no specific focus on the developing world, a global view onto water problems always naturally draws attention to the specific the problems of the developing world, where not only most of the people lacking access to safe drinking water live, where desertification and pollution are worst, and where water-borne diseases are most prevalent – just to give a few examples – but also the technical and financial means for dealing with the causes and consequences of the “water crisis” /1/ are slimmest.

In 2003, the United Nations Economic and Social Council codified a Human Right to Water in its General Comment No. 15, based on the interpretation of the pre-existing International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which stated:

The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, to reduce the risk of water-related disease and to provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements.

Yet, this right remains unclaimable in many poor countries, both as a result of the failure of the international community to support the necessary steps financially, and because of a competing paradigm of “full cost recovery”. This is reason enough to have a cursory look today at the transnational governance and provision systems of water and sanitation for the poor.

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No discussion of regulatory struggles, transnational mobilization, or institutional entrepreneurship lacks references to the importance of actors’ framing strategies (for an overview see Benford and Snow 2000). More often than not oppositional attempts for establishing discursive hegemony lead to changes in wording and/or a constant drift in meaning and connotation of important terms. One of the most interesting questions in the context of such framing battles is whether actors try to establish their own, new wording or rather attempt to change the meaning/connotation of existing frames.

Discussing the election success of European pirate parties (see “Pirate Parties: Transnational Mobilization and German Elections“), Sigrid Quack and I had already emphasized their success in redefining a derogatory designation and compared it to other examples of successful re-framing such as in the case of the term “queer” (see Jagose).

In the meantime, major representatives of the copyright industries seem to have recognized that the continued fight against “pirates” could be a strategic mistake – at least when it comes to wording. As Nate Anderson at ars technica reports, the head of the International Actors’ Federation, Agnete Haaland, said “We should change the word piracy.” at a press conference:

“To me, piracy is something adventurous, it makes you think about Johnny Depp. We all want to be a bit like Johnny Depp. But we’re talking about a criminal act. We’re talking about making it impossible to make a living from what you do.”

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In a speech given at the Italian parliament earlier this month titled “Internet is Freedom”, Lawrence Lessig prominently addressed issues recently discussed in this blog: as argued in “Reflections on Abolitionism: Copyright and Beyond“, he painted the picture of fighting extremists – abolitionists on the one, copyright zealots on the other hand -, thereby presenting himself as the sensible moderate seeking a middle course. So far, so business as usual.

What struck me was the particular compromise Lessig suggested: referencing the book “Promises to Keep” (2004) from his Harvard Berkman Center colleague William Fisher III and the German Green Party, he advocated for introducing a “Cultural Flat-rate” (see “Extending Private Copying Levies: Approaching a Culture Flat-rate?“).

While the short clip above delivers those 6 minutes of Lessig’s half an hour long speech that deal with abolitionism, copyright zealots and the Cultural flat-rate, I can only recommend watching the whole speech at


In his recent paper, Tim Bartley (unpublished working paper, see references) argues that implementation of transnational standards, particularly in developing countries, often remains a black box. He starts by showing that some scholars imply that local conditions do not matter, while some others suggest that the effects can be read off programs’ principles and design. Using a case study of certification of forests and labor conditions in Indonesia, Bartley convincingly shows that neither is the case. Motivated by his contribution, I would like to reflect on why it is important to open up the black box of implementation. I focus on four aspects here: mechanisms, politics, implementation gap, and local actors. In part, I use forest certification as an example to illustrate how the study of the implementation of certification standards can enrich our knowledge of transnational governance. Read the rest of this entry »

In its recent „Special Report“ on copyright protection and enforcement (498 pages, PDF) to the US Trade Representative, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recommeded keeping Indonesia on the „watch list“. One of the major reasons given for this recommendation (PDF) was the following:

„Worse yet, instead of focusing attention on piracy and solutions to the problem, the government retained onerous market access barriers […] and added new restrictions. For example, in March 2009, the Ministry of Administrative Reform (MenPAN) issued Circular Letter No. 1 of 2009 to all central and provincial government offices including State-owned enterprises, endorsing the use and adoption of open source software within government organizations. While the government issued this circular in part with the stated goal to “reduc[e] software copyright violation[s],” in fact, by denying technology choice, the measure will create additional trade barriers and deny fair and equitable market access to software companies.“

In what follows, the paper argues that endorsing the adoption of open source software „fails to build respect for intellectual property rights“. While this opposition towards open source software can be explained by the fact that the Business Software Alliance, which is dominated by proprietary software vendors such as Microsoft, is among the most influential IIPA member organizations, others share the basic concern. The Austrian researcher Stefan Weber, for example, similarly decries a declining respect for intellectual property and a rise of plagiarism – something he refers to as the „Google-Copy-Paste-Syndrome“; he also links alternative licensing such as Creative Commons with an allegedly dropping respect for authors’ copyrights (see pp. 34-35 in Maurer et al. 2007, PDF). Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
March 2010

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