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The politics of international regime formation: managing natural resources and the environment

  • Oran R. Young (a1)

Why do actors in international society succeed in forming institutional arrangements or regimes to cope with some transboundary problems but fail to do so in connection with other, seemingly similar, problems? This article employs a threefold strategy to make progress toward answering this question. The first section prepares the ground by identifying and critiquing the principal models embedded in the existing literature on regime formation, and the second section articulates an alternative model, called institutional bargaining. The third section employs this alternative model to derive some hypotheses about the determinants of success in institutional bargaining and uses these hypotheses, in a preliminary way, to illuminate the process of regime formation in international society. To lend empirical content to the argument, the article focuses throughout on problems relating to natural resources and the environment.

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1. Regimes for natural resources and the environment presumably do not differ from other international regimes in any fundamental way, so their use as evidence entails no loss of generality in the analysis that follows.

2. For descriptive accounts of a number of these institutional arrangements, see, for example, Brown Seyom et al. , Regimes for the Ocean, Outer Space, and Weather (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1977); Caldwell Lynton Keith, International Environmental Policy (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1984); Lyster Simon, International Wildlife Law (Cambridge: Grotius Publications, 1985); Soroos Marvin S., Beyond Sovereignty: The Challenge of Global Policy (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986); and World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).

3. For a sophisticated exposition of the concept of a contract zone or zone of agreement, see Raiffa Howard, The Art and Science of Negotiation (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982).

4. For a survey of the principal models, see Young Oran R., ed., Bargaining: Formal Theories of Negotiation (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975).

5. For a forceful expression of this point of view, see Tullock Gordon, Private Wants, Public Means: An Economic Analysis of the Desirable Scope of Government (New York: Basic Books, 1970), chap. 3.

6. See Strange Susan, “Cave! hic dragones: A Critique of Regime Analysis,” in Krasner Stephen D., ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 337–54; Krasner Stephen D., Structural Conflict: The Third World Against Global Liberalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); and Gilpin Robert, The Political Economy of International Relations (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987).

7. See Keohane Robert O., “The Theory of Hegemonic Stability and Changes in International Economic Systems, 1967–1977,” ACIS working paper no. 22, Center for International and Strategic Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles, 1980.

8. For a standard exposition of the importance of competition in systems of social exchange, see Haveman Robert H. and Knopf Kenyon A., The Market System, 3d ed. (Santa Barbara, Calif.: John Wiley, 1979).

9. For an account stressing the role of transaction costs in connection with international institutions, see Sandler Todd and Cauley Jon, “The Design of Supranational Structures: An Economic Perspective,” International Studies Quarterly 21 (06 1977), pp. 251–76.

10. Although he may have come to regret it, it seems clear that Kindleberger's analysis of international economic relations in the 1930s played an important part in the development of this set of intellectual concerns. See Kindleberger Charles P., The World in Depression, 1929–1939 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).

11. For an account that has received much popular acclaim, see Kennedy Paul, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Random House, 1987).

12. See Keohane Robert O., After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984). For a forceful presentation of the view that the dominance of the United States in international affairs persists, see Strange Susan, “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony,” International Organization 41 (Autumn 1987), pp. 551–74.

13. See Lyster, International Wildlife Law, chap. 3; and Young Oran R., Natural Resources and the State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), chap. 3.

14. Triggs Gillian D., ed., The Antarctic Treaty Regime: Law, Environment and Resources (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

15. Haas Peter M., “Do Regimes Matter? A Study of Evolving Pollution Control Policies for the Mediterranean Sea,” paper presented at the annual convention of the International Studies Association, 04 1987.

16. See Lyster, International Wildlife Law, chap. 12; and Kosloff Laura H. and Trexler Mark C., “The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species: No Carrot, But Where's the Stick?Environmental Law Reporter 17 (07 1987), pp. 10222–36.

17. Shabecoff Philip, “Ozone Agreement Is Hailed as a First Step in Cooperation,” The New York Times, 5 05 1987, pp. Cl and C7.

18. See also Snidal Duncan, “The Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory,” International Organization 39 (Autumn 1985), pp. 579614.

19. Hart Jeffrey, “Three Approaches to the Measurement of Power in International Relations,” International Organization 30 (Spring 1976), pp. 299305.

20. Maoz Zeev and Felsenthal Dan S., “Self-Binding Commitments, the Inducement of Trust, Social Choice, and the Theory of International Cooperation,” International Studies Quarterly 31 (06 1987), pp. 177200.

21. The growth of international interdependencies in the modern era reinforces the argument of this paragraph, since this growth drives up the opportunity costs associated with all efforts to exercise power. See Young Oran R., “Interdependencies in World Politics,” International Journal 24 (Autumn 1969), pp. 726–50.

22. For an extensive analysis of blocking as well as winning coalitions, see Riker William H., A Theory of Political Coalitions (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1962).

23. Titus James G., ed., Effects of Changes in Stratospheric Ozone and Global Climate, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.N. Environmental Programme, 1986).

24. Kindleberger Charles P., “Hierarchy Versus Inertial Cooperation,” International Organization 40 (Autumn 1986), pp. 845–46.

25. On privileged groups, see Olson Mancur Jr, The Logic of Collective Action (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965), chap. 1.

26. For a discussion of political leadership as a form of entrepreneurship, see Frohlich Norman, Oppenheimer Joe A., and Young Oran R., Political Leadership and Collective Goods (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971).

27. See Hardin Russell, Collective Action (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982); and Oye Kenneth A., ed., Cooperation Under Anarchy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986).

28. For a seminal example, see Buchanan James M. and Tullock Gordon, The Calculus of Consent (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962). For a variety of perspectives on the use of public choice theory to examine institutional arrangements, see Russell Clifford S., ed., Collective Decision Making: Applications from Public Choice Theory (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979).

29. Schelling Thomas C., The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960).

30. Malone James L., “Who Needs the Sea Treaty?Foreign Policy 54 (Spring 1984), pp. 2743.

31. Putnam Robert D., “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games,” International Organization 42 (Summer 1988), pp. 427–60.

32. For a more general account, see Sebenius James K., “Negotiation Arithmetic: Adding and Subtracting Issues and Parties,” International Organization 37 (Spring 1983), pp. 281316.

33. For a straightforward introduction to the components of the NIEO, see Soroos, Beyond Sovereignty, chap. 6.

34. For an analysis of this issue, treated as the problem of cheating, see Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict.

35. On the illegal trade in endangered species, see Kosloff and Trexler, “The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.”

36. For a broader analysis of compliance problems, see Fisher Roger, Improving Compliance with International Law (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981).

37. See Young, Bargaining. Part I of this book deals with game-theoretic models of bargaining based on the concept of the negotiation set. Part II turns to economic models of bargaining stemming from the Edgeworth box construct.

38. Young, Bargaining, pp. 391408.

39. See Luce R. Duncan and Raiffa Howard, Games and Decisions (New York: John Wiley, 1957); and Cross John G., The Economics of Bargaining (New York: Basic Books, 1969). The quotation is from Cross, p. 8.

40. See Snidal Duncan, “Coordination Versus Prisoner's Dilemma: Implications for International Cooperation and Regimes,” American Political Science Review 79 (12 1985), pp. 923–42; and Oye Kenneth A., “Explaining Cooperation Under Anarchy,” in Oye, Cooperation Under Anarchy, pp. 124.

41. Rapoport Anatol, Two-Person Game Theory: The Essential Ideas (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966), chap. 12.

42. For a general discussion of this point, see Brennan Geoffrey and Buchanan James M., The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), chap. 2.

43. In principle, we can think of an Edgeworth box in n-space. But such a construct would not be analytically tractable.

44. For a classic account of the principal constructs of n-person game theory, see Luce and Raiffa, Games and Decisions.

45. Of course, this does not rule out an array of devices, threats, promises, or side payments that are aimed at inducing parties to accept particular institutional arrangements. For an account that emphasizes the attractions of the unanimity rule, see Buchanan and Tullock, The Calculus of Consent.

46. On the case of Antarctica, see Kimball Lee, “Antarctica: Testing the Great Experiment,” Environment 27 (09 1985), pp. 1417 and 26–30.

47. The term “productive bargaining” is from Cross, The Economics of Bargaining. The term “positional bargaining” is from Fisher Roger and Ury William, Gelling to Yes (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1981).

48. Walton Richard and McKersie Robert B., A Behavioral Theory of Negotiations (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965), chaps. 2–5.

49. For a classic account of such tactics, see Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict.

50. The result is a kind of collective analog to Simon's notion of “satisficing” with regard to individual decision making. See March James G. and Simon Herbert A., Organizations (New York: John Wiley, 1958), especially chap. 3.3.

51. Rawls John, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), especially pp. 136–42.

52. Brennan and Buchanan, The Reason of Rules, pp. 2930.

53. Ibid., p. 30.

54. For a straightforward descriptive account, see Soroos, Beyond Sovereignty, chap. 8.

55. Lyster, International Wildlife Law, chap. 9.

56. For helpful background on this case, see Miller Allan S. and Mintzer Irving M., “The Sky Is the Limit: Strategies for Protecting the Ozone Layer,” Research Report, no. 3 (Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 1986).

57. For a helpful account rooted in an analysis of the law of the sea negotiations, see Robert L. Friedheim, Negotiating the Ocean Regime, work in progress.

58. For additional comments on the role of negotiating texts, see Raiffa, The Art and Science of Negotiation.

59. Putnam, “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics.”

60. Haas, “Do Regimes Matter?”

61. This has resulted, among other things, in the development of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, a nongovernmental organization that has been able to exercise considerable influence on negotiations relating to Antarctica.

62. Kosloff and Trexler, “The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.”

63. Board Polar Research, Antarctic Treaty System: An Assessment (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1986).

64. The recent work of Peter Haas and his colleagues on the role of epistemic communities in regime formation is suggestive in this context.

65. See also Ikle Fred Charles, How Nations Negotiate (New York: Harper & Row, 1964).

66. For an accessible account of a number of these problems as well as techniques for coping with them, see Zartman I. William and Berman Maureen R., The Practical Negotiator (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1982).

67. Sebenius, “Negotiation Arithmetic.”

68. For a variety of perspectives on global climate change, see the essays in Titus, Effects of Changes in Stratospheric Ozone and Global Climate; and Mintzer Irving M., “A Matter of Degrees: The Potential for Controlling the Greenhouse Effect,” Research Report, no. 5 (Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 1987).

69. The fact that some countries, such as the Federal Republic of Germany, are both major producers of acid precipitation and important victims of this form of pollution makes the problem of devising a regime to control acid precipitation more tractable in Europe than it is in North America.

70. Young Oran R., International Cooperation: Building Regimes for Natural Resources and the Environment (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989), chap. 6.

71. See also the projections in Miller and Mintzer, “The Sky Is the Limit.”

72. For some interesting projections regarding this point, see Roots E. F., “The Cost of Inaction: An Example from Climate Change Studies,” unpublished paper, 1988.

73. For a helpful introduction to the principal approaches to the concept of efficiency, see Dorfman Robert and Dorfman Nancy S., eds., The Economics of the Environment, 2d ed. (New York: Norton, 1977), pp. 137. For an explicit assertion regarding the appropriateness of emphasizing efficiency in this context, see Eckert Ross D., “Exploitation of Deep Ocean Minerals: Regulatory Mechanisms and United States Policy,” Journal of Law and Economics 17 (04 1974), pp. 143–77.

74. See Dudek Daniel J., “Chlorofluorocarbon Policy: Choice and Consequences,” a paper distributed by the Environmental Defense Fund, 04 1987; and Staple Gregory C., “The New World Satellite Order: A Report from Geneva,” American Journal of International Law 80 (07 1986), pp. 699720.

75. On the distinctions among these policy instruments, see Dudek, “Chlorofluorocarbon Policy.”

76. For a seminal account of the role of salience in facilitating the convergence of expectations in such settings, see Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict.

77. For an excellent account of the prior legal developments leading to these conventions, see Sands Phillippe J., “The Chernobyl Accident and Public International Law,” paper prepared for a conference on global disasters and international communications flows, Washington, D.C., 10 1986.

78. For a discussion of some of these devices in connection with the problem of ozone depletion, see Dudek, “Chlorofluorocarbon Policy.”

79. See also Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict; and Axelrod Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1984).

80. von Moltke Konrad, “Memorandum on International Chlorofluorocarbon Controls and Free Trade,” a paper distributed by the Institute for European Environmental Policy, 1987.

81. For a more general discussion of compliance in decentralized social settings, see Young Oran R., Compliance and Public Authority, A Theory with International Applications (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979).

82. Kosloff and Trexler, “The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.”

83. Young, Natural Resources and the State, chap. 3.

84. On the case of the blue whale, see Small George L., The Blue Whale (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971).

85. Diamond Stuart, “Chernobyl Causing Big Revisions in Global Nuclear Power Policies,” The New York Times, 27 10 1986, pp. Al and A10.

86. Shabecoff, “Ozone Agreement Is Hailed as a First Step in Cooperation.”

87. In November 1988, for example, a broad coalition of American environmental groups designated the global warming trend as the most serious environmental threat of the foreseeable future.

88. Note that the effects of exogenous shocks or crises on the maintenance of existing regimes may differ from those on the formation of regimes. It is widely believed, for example, that the refusal of the United States to ratify a 1984 protocol extending the life of the fur seal regime was the result of a sharp decline in the northern fur seal population during the 1980s and the belief of many American advocates of animal rights that the regime was inadequate to cope with this problem.

89. Frohlich, Oppenheimer, and Young, Political Leadership and Collective Goods.

90. For a somewhat similar account, see Downs Anthony, An Economy Theory of Democracy (New York: Harper & Row, 1957), chap. 15.

91. Similar comments are probably in order regarding the role of Hans Blix, the executive director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in promoting the 1986 conventions relating to nuclear accidents.

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