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The Drama of the Commons
Whatever their ultimate results, recent calls for the creation of a World Environment Organization (WEO) owe much to the perception that the operation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now producing significant environmental impacts as unintended byproducts of the administration of the global trading system and that there is a need to create a counterpart to the WTO to level the playing field in interactions among regimes dealing with trade and the environment (Biermann, 2000). In still other cases, strategic links arise as responses to opportunities to improve efficiency by centralizing the supply of services needed to operate two or more distinct institutional arrangements. Funding mechanisms and dispute settlement procedures are obvious cases in point. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), for example, provides funding both for the climate regime and for the regime designed to preserve biological diversity (Sand, 1999). But other services may be subject to such jointness of supply in specific cases.
These distinctions make it possible to locate the central concerns of this chapter within the realm of institutional interplay. The emphasis throughout is on vertical interplay or interactions among institutions operating at different levels of social organization. The levels of interest range across the full spectrum from micro-scale or local systems to macro-scale or global systems.2 For the most part, however, I direct attention to interactions among (1) local institutions and (sub)national institutions and (2) national institutions and international institutions. In discussing the consequences of these cross-scale interactions, I start with functional interdependencies. How does the creation of a system of public property at the national level affect the operation of common-property systems at the local level? How does the character of the national political systems of member states affect the operation of global regimes dealing with issues like climate change or the loss of biological diversity? When functional interdependencies are benign, there is no need to pursue the analysis further. But when these interdependencies are malign or favor the interests of some stakeholders over those of others, as they often do, it is natural to move on to a consideration of strategic links. Are there ways to manage cross-scale interactions to minimize conflicts of interest or to maximize efficiency in the pursuit of common goals? In this connection, the chapter seeks to draw lessons from a consideration of functional interdependencies that may prove helpful to those concerned with the politics of design and management.
Whereas earlier chapters in this book seek to evaluate existing work, this chapter breaks new ground in the study of institutions governing human/environment relations. Interest in institutional interplay is rising rapidly today. But there is no significant body of literature about such matters to review or sizable collection of data sets to evaluate in addressing this subject. As a result, the account I present in this chapter is necessarily more preliminary and tentative than the analyses of earlier chapters. Thus, I proceed by articulating some initial hypotheses about probable consequences of cross-scale interactions and illustrating them with a series of empirical examples. For the most part, these hypotheses rest on utili-