Global Governance of Local-Cumulative Problems

Efforts to make these changes globally must contend with the political, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions shaping behaviors in each watershed. This is why global efforts to solve local-cumulative problems like watershed degradation are so challenging; ultimately, they must be addressed in the local contexts in which they occur. This makes them difficult to address through formal treaty arrangements—the main mechanism of global governance (Conca 2006).

The failure of states to negotiate formal agreements capable of addressing many of the world’s most pressing local-cumulative problems is leading scholars and policymakers alike to search for alternatives (e.g., Biermann et al. 2010; Hoffmann 2011; Okereke et al. 2009). Unwilling to wait further, many NGOs and governmental organizations (international, national, and subnational) are working across borders to experiment with new, collective efforts to address such problems in the local contexts where they originate. In these circumstances, global governance often involves efforts by transnational networks of IGOs, state agencies, NGOs, and experts to change local governance arrangements around the world to conform with principles and “best practices” developed at the global level. Hereafter, I refer to these networks as transnational governance networks, and I call these collections of principles and practices global ideas. IWM is one such global idea, but there are many more. Transnational governance networks promote various global ideas to address a host of global problems, including poverty (sustainable development), poor governance

(participatory budgeting), climate change (climate smart agriculture), and insecurity (community policing).

We know relatively little about how these new structures for organizing and exercising global authority operate. As Weiss and Wilkinson (2014, 207) observe, we do not fully understand how national and local systems intersect with these structures of global authority and push back against them; how power is exercised; how interests are articulated and pursued; what ideas and discourses give substance to power and interests and perpetuate the system; and what drives change in the system. The theoretical framework presented in chapter 2, and which is applied to the case of global watershed governance in subsequent chapters, begins to fill this gap. It illuminates the relationship between global, national, and local governance by explaining how, why, and when global principles and policies are implemented at the local level—or not—and how the interaction between local and outside actors determines policy responses to global challenges, not only locally, but also globally.

 
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