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Do regimes matter? Epistemic communities and Mediterranean pollution control

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2009

Peter M. Haas
Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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International regimes have received increasing attention in the literature on international relations. However, little attention has been systematically paid to how compliance with them has been achieved. An analysis of the Mediterranean Action Plan, a coordinated effort to protect the Mediterranean Sea from pollution, shows that this regime actually served to empower a group of experts (members of an epistemic community), who were then able to redirect their governments toward the pursuit of new objectives. Acting in an effective transnational coalition, these new actors contributed to the development of convergent state policies in compliance with the regime and were also effective in promoting stronger and broader rules for pollution control. This suggests that in addition to providing a form of order in an anarchic international political system, regimes may also contribute to governmental learning and influence patterns of behavior by empowering new groups who are able to direct their governments toward new ends.

Copyright © The IO Foundation 1989

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1. See Young, Oran, “International Regimes: Toward a New Theory of Institutions,” World Politics 39 (10 1986), pp. 115–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Keohane, Robert O., “The Study of International Regimes and the Classical Tradition in International Relations,” paper presented at the 1986 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, p. 14Google Scholar; and Haggard, Stephan and Simmons, Beth A., “Theories of International Regimes,” International Organization 41 (Summer 1987), pp. 491517CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2. For a detailed analysis of the negotiation of the Med Plan, compliance with it, and a more thorough testing of alternative theoretical explanations of its success, see Haas, Peter M., Effluents and Influence: The Politics of Mediterranean Pollution Control (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming)Google Scholar. For other recent studies on environmental regimes, see Caldwell, Lynton, International Environmental Policy (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1984)Google Scholar; and Haigh, Nigel, EEC Environmental Policy and Britain (London: Environmental Data Services, 1984)Google Scholar. Although Haigh does not formally refer to regimes, he analyzes British compliance with the corpus of the European Economic Community (EEC) environmental directives that may reasonably be construed to constitute a regime. His conclusions about compliance, however, are equivocal.

3. See Hulm, Peter, “The Regional Seas Programme: What Fate for UNEP's Crown Jewels?Ambio 12 (01 1983)Google Scholar; and Smith, George P. II “The U.N. and the Environment.” in The Heritage Foundation, A World Without a U.N. (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 1984), pp. 4445Google Scholar. The Med Plan serves as the model for ten other regional arrangements for controlling marine pollution.

4. UNEP/ECE/UNIDO/FAO/UNESCO/WHO/IAEA, Pollutants from Land-Based Sources in the Mediterranean, UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies, no. 32 (Geneva: UNEP. 1984)Google Scholar.

5. NOVA. “Mediterranean Prospect,” WGBH Transcripts. Boston, Mass., 1980, p. 13Google Scholar.

6. El-Djeich (Algiers), no. 107, 04 1972, p. 28Google Scholar.

7. Times of London, 4 September 1974, p. A9.

8. See Young, “International Regimes”; and Keohane, “Study of International Regimes.” Arthur Stein has suggested that compliance can be explained in terms of common aversions; however, the intensity with which many policymakers from LDCs expressed initial opposition to negotiating with the exploitative North during the early years of the New International Economic Order (NIEO) negotiations far exceeded that of any common aversions to a polluted sea. See Stein, Arthur A., “Coordination and Collaboration: Regimes in an Anarchic World,” in Krasner, Stephen D., ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 115–40Google Scholar.

9. The eighteen participating countries are listed in Table 1.

10. Krasner, Stephen D., “Structural Causes and Regime Consequences,” in Krasner, , International Regimes, p. 2Google Scholar.

11. UNEP, Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution and Its Related Protocols, 1982, p. 8Google Scholar.

12. The state-of-the-art estimates of levels of Mediterranean pollution are presented in UNEP's “Review of the State of the Marine Environment: Mediterranean Regional Report,” GESAMP WG 26, SG 26/C/l, 19 December 1986. At present, environmental quality data are aggregated for regions of the Mediterranean Sea so as not to embarrass individual coastal states.

13. The New York Times, 21 October 1986, p. C3.

14. Ibid.; and Ress, Paul Evan, “Mediterranean Sea Becoming Cleaner,” Environmental Conservation 13 (Autumn 1986), pp. 267–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15. UNEP, The Siren: News from UNEP's Oceans and Coastal Areas Programme, no. 34, 09 1987, p. 25Google Scholar.

16. See El Pais (Spain), 8 11 1984Google Scholar; and Comisión Interministerial del Medio Ambiente (CIMA), Medio ambiente en España (Madrid: CIMA, 1984), p. 179Google Scholar.

17. See Secrétariat Permanent pour les Problèmes de Pollution lndustrielle de la Région de Fos-l'Etang de Berre, “Lutte contre la pollution des eaux—Etat des rejets industriels,” no date; and Presse Environnement, no. 379, 23 05 1980, p. 1Google Scholar.

18. Le Monde, 18 June 1980, p. 40.

19. Annual industrial growth from 1973 to 1984 ranged from 10.3 percent in Egypt to 1.4 percent in France, according to World Bank, World Development Report (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 182–83Google Scholar. Tourist receipts in the Mediterranean area grew every year during this period. See International Union of Official Travel Organizations, International Travel Statistics, various years; and World Tourism Organization, World Tourism Statistics, various years.

20. The term has been used in the literature on sociology of knowledge and has been adapted for use in international relations to refer to a specific community of experts sharing a belief in a common set of cause-and-effect relationships as well as common values to which policies governing these relationships will be applied. For a good survey of the sociology of knowledge usage, see Holzner, Burkart and Marx, John, Knowledge Application: The Knowledge System in Society (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1979), chaps. 4 and 5, especially pp. 107–11Google Scholar, in which the authors present a lengthy discussion of epistemic communities, including the large community of scientists who share a faith in the scientific method. The beliefs of the ecologists which I discuss here are much more specific, since in addition to sharing a belief in the scientific method as the way to verify their understanding, they also share beliefs in specific causal models. A very similar notion is that of “thought collective,” discussed by Fleck, Ludwig in Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979)Google Scholar. See Ruggie, John Gerard, “International Responses to Technology: Concepts and Trends,” International Organization 29 (Summer 1975), pp. 569–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar, in which Ruggie takes an approach similar to Foucault's use of “episteme” but associates epistemic communities with broader widespread social beliefs rather than with the more limited set of shared beliefs held by experts. See also Haas, Ernst B., “Why Collaborate? Issue Linkage and International Regimes,” World Politics 32 (04 1980), pp. 357405CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21. Hawley, Amos, Human Ecology (New York: Ronald Press, 1950), pp. 910Google Scholar.

22. World Resources Institute, World Resources 1987 (New York: Basic Books, 1987), p. 163Google Scholar. For intellectual histories of ecology, see Worster, Donald, Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977)Google Scholar; and Kormondy, Edward J. and McCormick, J. Frank, eds., Handbook of Contemporary Developments in World Ecology (Westport. Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981)Google Scholar.

23. UNEP, Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution, Article 2. Paragraph (a). For narrower definitions of pollution which arise from other disciplinary approaches, see Tomczak, M. Jr, “Defining Marine Pollution: A Comparison of Definitions Used by International Conventions,” Marine Policy 8 (10 1984), pp. 311–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

24. Schiffman, Irving, “The Environmental Impact Assessment Comes to Israel,” Environmental Impact Assessment Review 5 (06 1985), p. 184CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

25. The Environment in Europe,” Bulletin of the Institute for European Environmental Policy, no. 37, 11 1986, p. 3Google Scholar.

26. International Environment Reporter, 11 February 1987, p. 56.

27. The coastal population in Algeria became alarmed by localized fish kills, discoloration of the water, and tar balls on beaches. Zinc killed shellfish at Ghazouet in 1975, and pollutants from pulp and paper production killed fish at Mostaghanem in 1976. Fish were also killed by pollutants from phosphate fertilizers at Annaba and from petrochemical products at Arzew and Skikda. See Bakalem, Ali, “Pollution et sources de pollution marine d'origine industrielle sur la côte ouest algérienne: Etude préliminaire,” in ICSEM/IOC/UNEP, Fifth Workshop on Marine Pollution of the Mediterranean (Cagliari, Italy: ICSEM, 1980), pp. 195200Google Scholar; Bakalem, A., “Aménagement du littoral ouest: Problèmes de pollution marine—Etude préliminaire de la zone Arzew-Mers-el-Hadjadj,” Cahiers géographiques de l'ouest, no. 5–6, 1980, pp. 115–49Google Scholar; Bakalem, A., “Les sources de pollution sur la côte ouest algérienne: Note préliminaire,” Bulletin de la Société d'Histoire Naturelle de l'Afrique du Nord, vol. 69, part 3–4, 1981, pp. 131–37Google Scholar; and Bakalem, A. and Romano, J.-C., “Pollution et peuplements benthiques dans la région algéroise,” in ICSEM/IOC/UNEP, Sixth Workshop on Marine Pollution of the Mediterranean (Cannes, France: ICSEM, 1982)Google Scholar.

28. All data are drawn from interviews conducted by the author with USAID officials in Alexandria, Egypt, in January 1983.

29. See Le Monde. 24 February 1982, p. 30; and 8 October 1986, pp. 35–36.

30. Ministère de l'Environnement, Direction de la Prévention des Pollutions, Données économiques de l'environnement (Paris: Documentation Française, 1982), p. 15Google Scholar.

31. Calculated from data provided in Delorme, Robert and André, Christine, L'Etat et l'économie: Un essai d'explication de l'évolution des dépenses publiques en France (1870–1980), suppl. 5 (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1983)Google Scholar.

32. See International Environment Reporter, 2 November 1981, p. 643; and Ministère de l'Environnement et du Cadre de Vie, L'Etat de l'environnement (Paris: Ministère de l'Environnement, 1982), p. 41Google Scholar.

33. Ministère de l'Environnement, Données économiques, p. 16Google Scholar.

34. See Actualité environnement, no. 18, 9 06 1982, p. 1Google Scholar; and OECD, The State and the Environment, 1985 (Paris: OECD, 1985), p. 54Google Scholar.

35. Secrétariat d'Etat auprès du Premier Ministre, Commissariat Général du Plan, Rapport du groupe de travail “Environnement,” 01 1983, p. 30Google Scholar.

36. Ibid..

37. For a description of single- and double-loop learning, see Argyris, Chris and Schon, Donald, Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective (Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley, 1978)Google Scholar. Single-loop learning relates to the pursuit of new instrumental policies while the ends remain constant or unquestioned. Double-loop learning entails the recognition of new ends and the adoption of new means to accomplish them. Joseph Nye calls these “simple” and “complex” learning. See Nye, Joseph S. Jr, “Nuclear Learning,” International Organization 41 (Summer 1987), p. 380Google Scholar.

38. UNEP/ECE/UNIDO/FAO/UNESCO/WHO/IAEA, Pollutants from Land-Based Sources in the Mediterranean.

39. FAO internal memo, “Report on Travel to Algeria and Tunisia to Advise Algerian Authorities on Marine Pollution Problems and to Visit the UNDP/SF Fishery Survey and Development Project TUN 33,” FAO FIRM/TRAM/672, 05 1972, pp. 34Google Scholar; and FAO, “Fisheries Travel Report and Aide Memoire,” no. 672, 05 1972, p. 4Google Scholar. A UNDP consultant observed that “harbors are evil smelling places, in some places with gas and oil bubbling to the surface.”

40. See footnote 27.

41. See Stein, Arthur A., “The Hegemon's Dilemma: Great Britain, the United States, and the International Economic Order,” International Organization 38 (Spring 1984), pp. 355–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

42. See Keohane, Robert O., After Hegemony (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984)Google Scholar; and Kindleberger, Charles, The World in Depression, 1929–1939 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973)Google Scholar.

43. See Gilpin, Robert, War and Change in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982)Google Scholar; and Krasner, Stephen D., Structural Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985)Google Scholar.

44. UNEP, Directory of Mediterranean Research Centres (Geneva: UNEP, 1977)Google Scholar.

45. International Monetary Fund, Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook, 1978 and 1985Google Scholar. Reliance on trade with France fell from 32 to 23 percent of Algerian imports and from 22 to 13.4 percent of Algerian exports during the same period. Algeria accounted for under 1 percent of France's trade.

46. See Inglehart, Ronald, The Silent Revolution (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977)Google Scholar; and Milbrath, Lester, Environmentalists: Vanguard for a New Society (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1984)Google Scholar.

47. French Periodicals Index, 1973–1974, 1975 (Westwood, Mass.: F. W. Faxon, 1976)Google Scholar.

48. Journes, Claude, “Les idées politiques du mouvement écologique,” Revue française de science politique 29 (04 1979), pp. 230–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

49. Panayote Dimitras, Survey of Athenian Surveys, mimeographed, Athens, Eurodim, 1982.

50. Yishai, Y., “Environment and Development: The Case of Israel,” International Journal of Environmental Studies 14 (11 1979), p. 208CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Only four small environmental groups existed in the country.

51. See Keohane, After Hegemony, chap. 6; and Keohane, Robert O. and Axelrod, Robert, “Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy: Strategies and Institutions,” in Oye, Kenneth A., ed., Cooperation Under Anarchy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 226–51Google Scholar. Robert Jervis uses this approach to explain the persistence of the Concert of Europe as well. See Jervis, Robert, “Security Regimes,” in Krasner, , International Regimes, pp. 173–94Google Scholar.

52. Note that this proposition skirts an epistemological dispute regarding the relativity and accessibility of the natural world. Does the intermediation of different cognitive frameworks and cultures preclude the possibility of achieving a single acceptable image of the natural world? Does such incommensurability imply the lack of existence of a single accessible objective reality? For a good review of the various competing philosophical perspectives on these issues, see Hollis, Martin and Lukes, Steven, ed., Rationality and Relativism (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1982)Google Scholar.

53. In this case, the epistemic community had to actively defend itself from groups within the U.S. administration who opposed stringent controls on chlorofluorocarbons. The epistemic community only prevailed four months before the final adoption of the treaty, after four months of internal policy review by the domestic policy council. See Doniger, David. “Politics of the Ozone Layer,” Issues in Science and Technology 4 (Spring 1988), pp. 8692Google Scholar; and Peter M. Haas, “Ozone Alone, No Chlorofluorocarbons: Epistemic Communities and the Protection of Stratospheric Ozone,” paper presented at the 1988 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. The most recent measures introducing the Montreal ozone protocol into U.S. policy are discussed in Federal Register 53 (12 08 1988), pp. 30566–619Google Scholar.

54. See Sand, Peter H., “Air Pollution in Europe,” Environment 29 (12 1987), pp. 1629Google Scholar; Rosencranz, Armin, “The Acid Rain Controversy in Europe and North America: A Political Analysis,” Ambio 15 (01 1986), pp. 4751Google Scholar; and Economic Commission for Europe, National Strategies and Policies for Air Pollution Abatement (New York: United Nations, 1987)Google Scholar.

55. Ecologists lack access to decision-making channels in the U.S. government. Proposals for a bilateral treaty by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Ruckelshaus in 1983 were ignored by the White House. See Rosenbaum, Walter A., Environmental Politics and Policy (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1985), pp. 307–8Google Scholar.

56. See Roberts, Walter Orr and Friedman, Edward J., Living with the Changed World Climate (New York: Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, 1982)Google Scholar.

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