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Complex global governance and domestic policies: four pathways of influence



    1. Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of the Master of Global Affairs program at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.
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    1. Professor of Environmental Governance and Political Science at Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
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    • With those listed below, in their capacity as lead and contributing authors to the following expert panel review, from which we draw liberally for empirical examples: Steven Bernstein and Benjamin Cashore (coordinating lead authors), ‘Examination of the influences of global forest governance arrangements at the domestic level’, in Jeremy Rayner, Alexander Buck and Pia Katila, eds, Embracing complexity: meeting the challenges of international forest governance. A global assessment report prepared by the Global Forest Expert Panel on the International Forest Regime (Vienna: International Union of Forest Research Organizations, 2011), pp. 111–35. Richard Eba'a Atyi, Ahmad Maryudi and Kathleen McGinley (lead authors); and Tim Cadman, Lars Gulbrandsen, Daniela Goehler, Karl Hogl, David Humphreys, Shashi Kant, Robert Kozak, Kelly Levin, Constance McDermott, Mark Purdon, Irene Scher, Michael W. Stone, Luca Tacconi and Yurdi Yasmilead. We also thank Hamish van der Ven for valuable research assistance, and the guest editors of this issue, an anonymous reviewer and Alexander Ovodenko and John Volger for helpful comments.


Standard works on international environmental governance assume single-issue regimes with binding obligations designed to govern the behaviour of states. Yet many of the most pressing global environmental problems, including climate change, forest degradation and biodiversity loss, are governed by an array of mechanisms—legal, non-legal, governmental and non-governmental—in complex arrangements. Examining the combined effects of these international and transnational efforts on domestic or firm policies and practices—the usual targets of such efforts—requires expanding a focus on regime ‘compliance’ and ‘effectiveness’ to ‘influence’ factors from beyond state borders. To facilitate such a move, the authors develop a framework that distinguishes four distinct pathways through which actors and institutions influence domestic policies: international rules; international norms and discourse; creation of, or interventions in, markets; and direct access to domestic policy processes. Propositions are then developed on the conditions under which, and processes through which, actors and institutions affect domestic and firm policies and practices along each pathway. The framework is applied to the case of forest governance, a prototypical example of complex global environmental governance.