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I would like to use our blog to draw our readers’ attention to a mini-conference that I organize together with Tim Bartley, Nicole Helmerich and Chikako Oka titled “Regulating Labor and Environment: Beyond the Public-Private Divide”. The mini-conference will take place in the framework of the 2012 Annual Conference of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) at MIT (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) on June 28-30, 2012.

The central question that we would like to address during the mini-conference is what the implications of global shifts and transnational standards for domestic regulatory projects in labor and environmental fields are. On the one hand, we invite papers that seek to explain how local contexts shape implementation and effectiveness of labor and environmental regulation in a globalizing world. On the other hand, our focus is the intersection between public and private forms of environmental and labor governance. To sum up, we seek to examine transnational-domestic and private-public links in transnational labor and environmental governance. Read the rest of this entry »

In late May, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies published my paper on the implementation of transnational voluntary forestry standards in Russia in its discussion paper series (From Transnational Voluntary Standards to Local Practices: A Case Study of Forest Certification in Russia. MPIfG Discussion Paper 11/7). In the paper, I attempt to deconstruct the process of implementation and suggest that the current literature has paid little attention to two social processes that accompany – or even constitute – the implementation of transnational voluntary standards: collective learning and stakeholder interest negotiation. Basically, I argue that previous research examines carefully various factors that explain why certain companies in certain countries commit to voluntary environmental standards, but has so far mainly assumed that once standards are adopted, the improvements in practices will occur (if there is a gap between standards and practice, which is most often the case, as some research shows). Instead, I suggest that implementation should not be taken for granted and propose a framework for understanding how companies and activists translate transnational voluntary standards into on-the-ground practices, particularly in a difficult context of non-advanced industrial countries. Empirically, I apply this framework to the analysis of the implementation of the Forest Stewardship Council’s forestry standards in Russian forest enterprises. Read the rest of this entry »

About 10 months ago, I posted an entry on the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, in which I outlined three scenarios that I thought were likely to occur after the Deepwater Horizon crisis. They can be labeled as no regulatory consequences, stronger public regulation and new private regulation of safety in the oil drilling industry. Today, exactly one year after the explosion of the BP’s oil drilling rag in the Gulf of Mexico killing eleven people, I have to admit that the Deepwater Horizon did not become the beginning of the new regulatory era for the oil industry. Read the rest of this entry »

Environmental groups and the public worldwide are seriously concerned about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion of the BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling rig. The disaster has turned into a catastrophe and is likely to affect the environmental, social and economic condition of the Gulf of Mexico’s shore in years and decades to come. Neither the BP nor the U.S. Government really knows what to do to stop the oil leak. The U.S. Government blames the oil multinational. The BP seems to be unable to deal with the situation. Moreover, other oil companies do not seem to possess any adequate means to deal with similar situations. The BP’s stock price has gown down dramatically. It postponed dividend payments to its shareholders. Thousands of people, e.g. fishermen, have lost the source of income. What are people going to learn from this story? What are the probable scenarios of further developments and what are the likely consequences for the oil industry? Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

The last several weeks have been extremely frustrating for many activists, international organizations and general public. Several international summits have shown that the global governance system was significantly damaged by the global financial crisis. The crisis created uncertainty about the future and made governments of the world’s leading economies careful about their commitments. After the meeting of parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on 2-4 November 2009 in Barcelona it became clear that the conference of parties to be held in Copenhagen in December was not likely to result in any legally binding arrangement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. The World Summit on Food Security held on 16-18 November also did not result in any significant binding commitments. Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN reports that due to the global economic recession, the number of hungry people in the world will exceed one billion in 2009. In 2008, it was 850 million people. Only the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009 can be seen as a success of international regulatory efforts, at least to some extent. G-8 was transformed into G-20. The general principles of the new global economic architecture were approved. One of such principles is tough regulation of financial markets. Read the rest of this entry »

In this entry, I will report not on governance but on a book on governance from a neighbouring discipline that sociologists, organizational scholars and political scientists often ignore – social anthropology:

Sally Engle Merry, 2006. Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

I found this book interesting and important for a number of reasons. First, I found many parallels to my own work. Second and more important, the book motivates reflecting on the concept of culture and its place in the transnational governance dynamics.

In her book, Sally Engle Merry explores how different actors – both state and nonstate, local and global – translate global norms associated with human rights and gender violence into practices in societies and communities where human rights are nonexistent as a concept and where gender violence is not defined in human rights terms, is considered a part of a national culture and protected as such. Read the rest of this entry »

Sounds ridiculous? Yet, it is becoming possible. The Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) announced last week that the Italian brewery Gino Perisutti now offers two types of beer that carry a PEFC logo. PEFC offers certification services to forest operations practicing responsible forest management in accordance with the PEFC principles and criteria of good forest management, as well as to producers using certified material in their final products. Its logo enables buyers and consumers to identify products coming from well-managed forests.

The two types of beer are brewed on the ingredients coming from PEFC-certified forests: spruce bark, mountain pine buds and Scotch pine needles from PEFC-certified forests in north-eastern Italy. In addition to the PEFC-certified ingredients and classical beer components, Gino Perisutti’s beer also contains fair-trade species.

Although it may sound funny, such events may be interpreted as evidence of the increasing scope of forest certification as a form of governance and of the growing market visibility of products that have been certified as meeting the standards of responsible management of natural resources. In turn, the growing visibility helps consumers identify and recognize more responsibly produced products and purchase them and thereby support systems of governance aiming at promoting the sustainable use of nature. No doubt, as consumers, stakeholders and researchers we should also be aware of what is behind the logo but even the very fact that such logos are becoming increasingly important in the market can become one of the crucial drops in the ocean of local and global politics of nature.

(olga)

On May 22, 2008 the U.S. Congress passed amendments to the Lacey Act of 1900 that make it unlawful to import, export, sell, purchase or transport in interstate or international commerce any plants or products made of plants harvested or traded in violation of domestic and international laws, including timber and timber products. These amendments may open a new era in the development of global forest governance.

For one thing, this is a U.S. law that not only bans domestic trade in goods that were produced in violation of domestic laws of the United States, U.S. States and foreign countries but also attempts to indirectly regulate the production in foreign countries. At the same time, the Lacey Act itself does not violate international free trade regulations. The Lacey Act therefore brings public forms of forest governance back in the transnational space. Another interesting thing about it is that public and private actors reactivate an old piece of legislation to address a current issue. The case of the amended Lacey Act demonstrates that actors can effectively export dormant or taken-for-granted rules from one issue domain to another to achieve their goals. Finally, the Lacey Act opens up new opportunities for a public-private cooperation: if public authorities recognize certificates issued by nonstate certification programs similar to the Forest Stewardship Council forest certification as a sufficient proof of legality of timber, this may become an incentive for producers to certify their forest management. Nonstate actors can therefore use the Lacey Act as a leverage to promote better standards of forest management among or to reward well-performing producers. Read the rest of this entry »

German daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung reported last week (Frauen sollen Krise lösen by Beate Willms, April 2 2009) the results of the seven-year study of the effects of the voluntary agreement of German companies to support employed women. Seeking to avoid governmental regulation, companies concluded the agreement in 2001. On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth Affairs (das Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend), the researchers of the German Institute for Economic Research (Deutsches Institut für Wirtscharsforschung, DIW) monitored the share of women in leading positions in the private sector between 2001 and 2007. The results are not particularly surprising. The share of women in leading positions did not change significantly: It increased from 26 to 31% between 2001 and 2006 but went down to 27% in 2007. 98% of positions in management board of 200 largest companies were still occupied by men in 2007. The share of women occupying positions in supervisory boards equaled 10% but the researchers explain it by the pressure form work councils and trade unions.

Although these findings are not directly relevant to the questions of cross-border governance, they made me think about several parallels to transnational private regulation. The findings raise the question of the effectiveness of business self-regulation, which has been one of the core issues in scholarly and policy debates on transnational private regulation. How effective are voluntary agreements and programs and how to improve their effectiveness? These are essentially empirical questions and there are no straight-forward answers. 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.
May 2017
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