Structuring and Exercising Authority

Global governance scholars have long recognized that, in addition to states and IGOs, transnational networks of activists and experts play an important role. The Ecuadorian cases of IWM reform show that transnational advocacy networks include an even broader selection of actors. In particular, they highlight the agency of local politicians, bureaucrats, and citizens in rural areas of less- developed countries. These grassroots actors work with international NGOs and donor agencies to create policies and practices that combine global principles with local norms and leadership. Although rural, subnational actors are under-emphasized in the international relations literature, their agency is taken for granted by development scholars and practitioners. It is almost cliche to note that international development projects must be locally owned and embedded to be successful (Brinkerhoff and Brinkerhoff 2010; Michel 1997; Morrison 2010). The contribution of this book is not to demonstrate the importance of local agency but to illuminate the interactive processes by which local actors influence norm and policy adoption among stakeholders at the local, national and international levels.

Through a process Acharya (2009) calls “constitutive localization,” local actors in the book’s case studies adapted global norms to suit their local context. But they did much more than this. They influenced the governance process more generally by participating in all stages of the policy process, from problem identification and coalition building, to agenda setting, rule making, and implementation. Local politicians, government experts, landowners, water-user groups, and civil society organizations drew on a variety of sources of power to pressure one another to either adopt or resist proposed IWM reforms. The outcome of this contest determined whether reforms succeeded or failed. Moreover, these community members pressured international NGOs, IGOs, donor agencies, national governments, and others to change their policies and their strategies for pursuing them. This produced an evolution in the conservation mechanisms advocated by these global governors, not just in Ecuador, but internationally. In this way, Ecuador’s local IWM reform processes illuminate the multidirectional influence that occurs within transnational networks comprised of actors operating at the local, national, and international levels.

The diversity of actors involved and their multidirectional influence necessitates a more complex view of transnational advocacy networks than conventionally portrayed. The relationships in Ecuador’s IWM networks crosscut the traditional categories of actor type (e.g., public or private) and scale (international, national, and subnational). These networks include members of local and national governments (e.g., municipal environmental departments and state donor agencies), intergovernmental organizations (e.g., UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Global Water Partnership), private companies (e.g., hydroelectric plants and water companies), epistemic communities (e.g., water experts within universities and development organizations), and civic organizations (e.g., irrigation councils and indigenous groups). All of these actors are potential governors capable of steering society toward new forms of watershed management.

The problem of scale is not simply that network relationships regularly crosscut conceptual levels. More important, it is often difficult to determine whether network members are “transnational,” “international,” “national,” or “local.” International NGOs (e.g., The Nature Conservancy and Nature and Culture International), donor agencies (e.g., GIZ and USAID), and even intergovernmental organizations (e.g., UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Global Water Partnership) are typically represented by local Ecuadorians. Rather than their institutional position, they often rely on their personal relationships with local stakeholders to pursue their policy objectives. The same is true for Ecuador’s Environment Ministry. To the extent the Ministry was present in the Ecuadorian cases, it was through local community members hired to manage protected areas. Forest guards regularly admitted they played down their Ministry affiliation to do their j ob, particularly when confronting violators. They relied instead on personal relationships and their status as community members to pressure violators to comply.

Focusing on organizational names leaves the impression of foreign nationals swooping down on local communities to share their wisdom and expertise. The individuals representing these organizations reveal a far more complex and blurry image of scale and direction of influence. GTZ’s representative to Tungurahua’s indigenous communities, Washington Chapalbay, is a local indigenous community organizer (see chapter 7). He does not fit the usual profile of a “rooted cosmopolitan” (Tarrow 2005), much less a “transnational actor" Yet his is the face of GTZ for many indigenous communities in Tungurahua. Paulo Bustamante similarly put a local face on Nature and Culture International in Celica (see chapter 5). Native to the communities where they work, local brokers like Bustamante and Chabalpay rely on their community relationships to pursue their agendas. Similarly, The Nature Conservancy’s role in creating Quito’s water trust fund, FONAG, was due to the fact that Juan Black, the Ecuadorian conservationist who developed the idea, constituted The Nature Conservancy’s Latin American division, based in Quito. Black’s ties to other members of Ecuador’s environmental movement, including Quito’s then-mayor Roque Sevilla, arguably contributed more to the program’s success than any support from The Nature Conservancy’s Washington, District of Columbia, office.

These individuals—Chapalbay, Bustamante, and Black—illustrate why the boundary between local and international is blurry. They are local actors, born and raised in the communities where they work. But they are also transnational, not because they are cosmopolitans who frequently travel abroad to conferences, but because their organizational affiliations link them to transnational networks pursuing a global policy agenda. They show that “transnational actors” are not necessarily foreign to the localities where they work.

It would be equally erroneous to assume that all representatives of local, grassroots NGOs are local community members. The German forestry expert Martin Schroeder was a founder and president of Pastaza’s local environmental NGO CODEAMA. Another German, Steven Gatter, worked for the local NGO Servicio Forestal Amazonico (SFA). CODEAMA and SFA were founding members of Pastaza’s local IWM coalition. U.S. environmental activist Curtis Hofmann was a leader of the local NGO Colinas Verdes, which was a founding member of the Podocarpus Program in Zamora. These foreign members did not undermine these NGOs’ status or credibility as local organizations since most of the NGOs’ members were local Ecuadorians. But they did provide important ties to transnational governance networks. These examples show that, through the diversity of their individual representatives, organizations in transnational networks can simultaneously carry local and international identities, and therefore represent multiple scales. This makes them influential nodes in global governance networks.

Just as organizations have members representing different scales, individuals in transnational networks may wear multiple hats and represent organizations traditionally understood to exist at different scales. For example, Pablo Lloret is a municipal water expert by profession (i.e., a local government bureaucrat) and was the first technical secretary of Quito’s water trust fund, FONAG (a local, public-private hybrid). However, he is also a university professor, a leading member of CAMAREN (the national consortium of Ecuadorian organizations dedicated to improving natural resource management), and a representative of the Global Water Partnership (a global organization founded by the World Bank, UN Development Programme, and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). For a time, Lloret was the president of the Global Water Partnership’s South American division.

Is Lloret a local, national, or international actor? In truth, he is all three. Many of the Ecuadorian protagonists in my case studies were at one time or another representatives of local community organizations, local NGOs, local government departments, and either international NGOs, donor agencies and/ or inter-governmental organizations. They often held more than one of these affiliations simultaneously. They also moved regularly between public and private entities. These individuals were leading protagonists precisely because their multiple affiliations made them key brokers connecting different stakeholder groups.

These brokers illustrate the danger of creating artificial conceptual divisions between international, transnational, and local actors when thinking about the subnational effects of global governance processes. One danger is the tendency to characterize the process as a contest between transnational actors (assumed to be foreign nationals) and local actors. By contrast, Ecuador’s coalitions of IWM advocates included both locals and foreigners; this is precisely what made these coalitions transnational. The reform processes consisted of attempts by coalition members—both local and foreign— to pressure non-coalition members to adopt policies that, while originating at the global level, were shaped by local actors drawing on local knowledge and values. When local actors joined with national and international allies to implement the global policy agenda known as IWM, they became part of the global governance process.

Since scale and actor type do not ensure discreet categories of network members, nodal governance theory becomes a useful framework for analyzing how authority is exercised in global governance. Nodal governance theory views organizations as nodes in a network. Nodes are not distinguished by their organizational type (e.g., state or nonstate) or scale (e.g., global, national, or local), but rather their network ties and ability to influence other nodes. Each node’s influence is determined by the resources at its disposal, its methods for exerting influence, and the way it thinks about the issue it seeks to govern. Organizations may directly govern the people who are subject to their influence, or they may govern indirectly by influencing other nodes that are accessible to them through networks and which in turn have the power to influence others.

One implication is that organizations often exercise authority indirectly. They expand the scope of their influence through network activation—pressuring and/or persuading other individuals and organizations to support a new policy. They, in turn, use the resources and methods at their disposal to promote the new policy among their network contacts. In this way, the initial governing nodes expand the reach of their influence. For example, external members of Ecuador’s local IWM coalitions recruited supportive members of the three targeted stakeholder groups (landowners, water users, and local government) to join their coalition and relied on them to pressure resistant stakeholders. Of course, influence in nodal governance does not always flow from the global to the local level. Individuals and organizations that operate at the local level can similarly exercise indirect authority globally. As I show here and in chapter 8, they do so by activating networks of organizations operating nationally and internationally to promote policies and practices developed locally.

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