New (second!) special issue published!

I edited a new special issue on “Norm Domestication and Resource Governance in the Developing World”, which has just been recently published online on Environmental Policy and Governance. In this project, I and my co-editor Kate Macdonald from Melbourne University examine the process of norm diffusion of global environmental standards into domestic policy arenas in selected developing countries. We chose the natural resources sector as a focus, in part due to the clear trade offs and politics involved in designing progressive socio-environmental reforms and promoting economic growth via resource exploitation.

To begin with, the politics surrounding the governance of natural resource sectors— encompassing mineral, oil and gas industries as well as forest and land-intensive sectors—have been highly contentious for as long as modern economic systems have depended on extraction of these resources. Unlike many other industries, natural resource sectors have deep historical linkages to practices of national ownership and ideas of sovereignty. States remain the central actor, controlling access to territories and natural resources, and often fiercely defend the principle of sovereignty over resource governance processes and outcomes.

Yet global regulatory norms also have far-reaching effects on shaping contemporary resource governance in the developing world. Powerful reforms designed to liberalize the oil, gas and mining sectors have been promoted vigorously with the active support of the World Bank and other international financial institutions. Transnational regulation has also been promoted in the form of international initiatives seeking to combat corruption, charters embedding commitments to transparency and a multitude of environmental and social regulations—some led by intergovernmental bodies, and some taking the form of voluntary codes of conduct or corporate social responsibility initiatives. Such global norms have often been framed around the aim of governing social, political and environmental risk, as efforts to manage the socio-ecological consequences of extractive industries have risen in priority amongst many state and non-state actors. While to some extent such regulatory initiatives come into direct tension with market-enabling policy frameworks, they can also function to legitimise natural resource extraction as a constitutive element of the world economy by taming social and political resistance to extractive models of economic development.

In advancing knowledge about how and why global regulatory norms are domesticated in distinctive political settings, the collection brings together articles that draw on detailed national and sub- national case studies of how global norms are adopted and contested across a range of resource-intensive settings in both Asia and Latin America. Because contemporary resource governance is characterized by an unusually stark juxtaposition of strongly state-centred and highly transnationalized governance processes, systematic study of the natural resource sectors provides a powerful empirical lens through which we can explore broader theoretical questions about the impacts of global governance norms and processes on domestic regulation and governance in the developing world.

Our findings demonstrate the importance of norm contestation at two distinct levels. First, we highlight the significance of norm contestation processes in determining the outcomes of political and ideological struggles between competing global norms—in particular, between market-enabling and socio-environmental regulatory norms. Second, we demonstrate the ways in which global norms often become drawn into pre-existing political contests between competing local actors—struggles for dominance between competing actors and coalitions at national or subnational levels then shaping the extent to which global norms are adopted, modified or rejected.

Overall, our project elucidates a highly fluid governance landscape in which norm domestication processes are fluid, permeable and subject to power contestation from both global and local actors. In making sense of the varied patterns of domestication that we observe across cases, power struggles between competing actors and coalitions at the local level are thus shown to play a central role in the re-organization of institutional and regulatory frameworks that govern resource exploitation.

Link to the special issue:

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