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Displacement, Development, and Climate Change: International organizations moving beyond their mandates

In 1951 in Geneva, at the heart of Europe recovering from a devastating war, states negotiated the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a landmark agreement which offered protection to those forced to flee across borders due to persecution. States tasked the newly created United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with overseeing and supervising this convention. A small office was established in Geneva for international refugee lawyers to advise states and ensure refugee law was adhered to. In that same year, states established another new international organization: the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (PICMME). Its purpose was to organize the relocation of thousands of labor migrants from post-war Europe to the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. To perform these tasks PICMME had a fleet of ships and officers with experience in the mass movement of
migrants across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. These two organizations were just the tip of the iceberg of a growing population of inter-governmental organizations, created in the aftermath of World War II.

Download the first chapter of the book here.

Global Adaptation Governance: Why isn’t it legally binding?

In the last decade, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has moved from a strong focus on mitigation to increasingly address adaptation. Climate change is no longer simply about reducing emissions, but also about enabling countries to deal with its impacts. Yet, most studies of the climate regime have focused on the evolution of mitigation governance and overlooked the increasing number of adaptation-related decisions and initiatives. In this article, we identify the body of rules and commitments on adaptation and suggest that there are more attempts to govern adaptation than many mitigation-focused accounts of the international climate regime would suggest. We then ask: to what degree are adaptation rules and commitments legalized in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change?

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The Governance Report 2017

Chapter 10: Innovations in Activism in the Digital Era Campaigning for Refugee Rights in 2015-16 

New digital technologies offer citizens, interest groups, and political parties innovative ways to communicate, mobilise, and organise. The internet has heralded many innovations in collective action, from online petitions to viral memes and Twitterstorms. Digital organising and campaigning can have far-reaching effects in a world with over 10 billion devices connected to the internet and where 1 billion people own smartphones (Kissinger 2014). However, commentators are divided over the significance and impact of digital communications on democracy. It is not clear whether the internet has enabled greater and more informed political awareness and participation or whether it degrades political culture by encouraging so-called slacktivism and clicktivism. These are particularly important questions given the loss in confidence in established political parties and the growing strength of populist parties and far-right movements in many western democracies, as Anheier’s introduction to this Report highlights.

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What is Adaptation to Climate Change? Epistemic Ambiguity in the Climate Finance System’, Special Issue on Climate Finance

Over the past decade developed states have committed significant public financing for climate change adaptation. Much of this public financing flows through international development organizations. States have delegated the implementation and monitoring of adaptation to existing international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Scholars have noted that states delegate discretion to specialized organizations to perform a task on their behalf, but have not explored how uncertainties about the nature of the task affect delegation. This article addresses this gap by distinguishing the concept of epistemic ambiguity (when states are uncertain about the exact nature of a task) from strategic ambiguity (when states do not reach consensus over a task due to political differences) in order to address the question: how have states and international organizations defined and implemented adaptation activities?

Read the full article here.

Environment, Climate Change and International Relations

Chapter 4: The Institutionalization of Climate Change in Global Politics 

Today it is commonplace to state that climate change is an urgent global priority. States, and scientists, have highlighted its destructive effects. In fact, scientific studies abound illustrating how climate change will lead to an increased frequency of extreme weather events, triggering more intense storms, melting polar icecaps and glaciers and raising sea levels (IPCC, 2014). It will have major effects on everything from agriculture to the spread of diseases. Yet anthropogenic climate change was once dismissed by many scientists, ignored by heads of state and seen as irrelevant by our multilateral institutions. So how has climate change become a top global priority? And how do we know that it will continue to be so?

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A Catalyst for Cooperation: The Inter- Agency Standing Committee and the Humanitarian Response to Climate Change

Climate change is predicted to lead to an increasing frequency of natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies, yet scholars have not examined how the humanitarian community is responding to this issue. This article examines its initial engagement with the climate change regime and finds it was remarkably coordinated. Humanitarian agencies coauthored submissions to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the leaders of major humanitarian organizations spoke on co-organized panels on the humanitarian perils of climate change. In fact, the overarching trend was cooperation, not competition, among humanitarian agencies. This is an intriguing finding as it runs counter to the dominant account of a humanitarian marketplace in which actors are constantly competing for resources. Instead, this article suggests that the Inter-Agency Standing Committee played a significant role in mobilizing and coordinating humanitarian organizations’ initial efforts. It highlights how and to what extent institutionalized cooperation between international organizations enables further cooperation in new issue areas and regimes. Scholars of international organizations, global environmental politics, and humanitarianism will be interested in how cooperation emerged in the humanitarian regime and shaped subsequent interaction with the climate change regime.

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What is adaptation to climate change? Epistemic ambiguity in the climate finance system

Over the past decade developed states have committed significant public financing for climate change adaptation. Much of this public financing flows through international development organizations. States have delegated the implementation and monitoring of adaptation to existing international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Scholars have noted that states delegate discretion to specialized organizations to perform a task on their behalf, but have not explored how uncertainties about the nature of the task affect delegation. This article addresses this gap by distinguishing the concept of epistemic ambiguity (when states are uncertain about the exact nature of a task) from strategic ambiguity (when states do not reach consensus over a task due to political differences) in order to address the question: how have states and international organizations defined and implemented adaptation activities? The question is answered through case studies of: (l) adaptation projects administered by the United Nations Development Programme and the International Organization for Migration in Kenya; and (2) states’ and international organizations’ attempts to develop methodologies for reporting adaptation financing. The case studies are based on: primary documents published by states and international organizations, secondary literature on climate finance, and interviews with adaptation experts. This article argues that states have not precisely defined adaptation, and that this is substantially due to epistemic ambiguity. It then identifies two consequences of epistemic ambiguity: a proliferation of activities labelled as adaptation, and difficulties tracking and monitoring adaptation assistance.

Download the full article here.