Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On the Road Again

To Tempe tomorrow for a conference entitled, "Think Locally, Act Globally?" sponsored by the Center for for Law and Global Affairs at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law. It's a small gathering of about a dozen scholars to explore the prospects and problems of applying Vincent Ostroms' conception, and Lin's Ostrom's application, of polycentric governance to issues of international environmental policy, including climate change.

Background information on the conference can be found here. Among the questions to be addressed:
  • What types of interactions and relationships currently exist among institutions at different scales, and among public and private schemes? 
  • How do international institutions such as UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank interact with small-scale and private initiatives?
  • Can international institutions promote effective collective action at smaller scales, or is such action too dependent on specific local context?
  • Can international institutions learn from small-scale collective action, scaling up local solutions, or is the international environment too different?
  • Can international-local interactions disseminate global norms downward within society, for better implementation? Can they transmit local voices upward, for more participatory and better-informed global policy?
  • How do polycentric governance systems manage their complexity? Can international institutions improve system management?
  • What impacts do different forms of polycentric and multi-scalar governance have on outcomes? Can we identify successful models of interaction and management?
These questions are challenging (to say the least); most of them cannot possibly be answered by a small group of scholars gathered around a conference table in two days of conversation. I'm not sure what other participants expect, but my hope is that the assembled legal scholars and social scientists will find some common ground on terminological and conceptual issues, refine some of the initial questions, and raise new ones. If we manage to do at least two of those three things, I will consider the conference a success, regardless of answers.

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