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.

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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.

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Assessing the Effectiveness of International Organizations

States and multilateral organizations are increasingly assessing the effectiveness of multilateral development organizations (MOs). Assessments vary widely in their definition of effectiveness and their overall purpose. These assessments may encourage organization accountability, foster learning, and inform donor strategies and/or financing. In parallel a large body of international relations (IR) scholarship also examines multilateral effectiveness. Scholars have noted the importance of: commanding stakeholder support, effective delegation and legitimate governance, internal management of the bureaucracy and delivering results on the ground. However, this IR scholarship has not contributed to, nor been cited, in the on-going policy debates. This working paper seeks to bridge the gap between the IR and policy literature on multilateral effectiveness. It draws on a review of the primary and secondary literature, and discussions with expert practitioners and academics on the topic. The paper makes a significant contribution to the field by identifying: how policy and scholars have assessed effectiveness; the challenges of assessing effectiveness; and outlining future research
avenues for scholars to pursue.

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How to Select the Next UN Secretary-General

When the United Nations elects a new secretary-general next year, the world will face a crucial choice. With crises erupting in every region of the world, the need for strong, decisive leadership is self-evident. And yet the selection process for filling important international posts has often been characterized more by political horse-trading than a meritocratic search for the best candidate.

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Money or Mandate? Why International Organizations Engage with the Climate Change Regime

The Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in 2009 was the largest-ever negotiation on climate change, and possibly the largest gathering of heads of state in modern history. A wide diversity of non-state actors attended, from trade unions to women’s groups, and each sought to influence the proceedings. Inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also participated. These organizations lobbied states to reach an agreement on climate change and encouraged negotiators to take their particular interest (e.g., health, refugees, migration) into account in the final agreement.

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