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Heterogeneity and Harmonization in Layered Institutional Approaches to Global Commons Issues: The Case of Pesticide Use in the South

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Karlsson, Sylvia
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2082
Sector: Global Commons
Region: Africa
Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
global commons
pest control
local knowledge
decision making
institutional analysis
Abstract: "There are an increasing number of environmental issues which demonstrate local-global linkages in both their driving forces and effects, and where policy responses are initiated in institutions at both local, national and global level. This creates opportunities to test the study of such issues from the theoretical mindset of CPR management. The paper argues that the level of multilayered complexity and interdependence that emerging environmental issues exhibit along the three dimensions of culpability, suffering and responsibility make it valid to study them as 'global commons issues' across levels, from the local to the global. This is attempting one additional step to the last year's transfer of theoretical models from local CPRs to global ones, and from classical natural resource CPRs to new types. The study employed the case of pesticide use in the South as a probe into problem structuring and policy making at local, national and global levels and highlights the knowledge, institutions and values that influence decision-making. "On the issue of knowledge the analysis revolves around the globally harmonised vs. locally adapted or produced knowledge. Regarding institutions, the concerns are: where in the complex net of hierarchically nested institutions decisions are made, and which response strategies are available to actors at each level? And regarding values, my focus is on: who or what institution at which levels is assigned culpability for the problem, and who is assigned the responsibility for mitigating action? "Semi-structured qualitative interviews with representatives of stakeholder groups at each level with Kenya and Costa Rica as cases for the national and local level was used as the primary methodological approach, complemented by studying policy relevant documents of each institution. Pesticides were framed as a problem along four basic dimensions; economic/trade, technical, health and environment, with much variation across levels and stakeholder groups. The common denominator across levels was the primacy of economic and trade concerns around pest management on export crops and the virtual absence of concern for the environment, especially the environment in developing countries. In response strategies there were conflicting approaches of stressing local heterogeneity or striving for global harmonisation in knowledge production and policy strategies. "Based on the results I argue that there is a value in harmonisation of knowledge in certain aspects but even more in the level specific adaptation and local knowledge production to make decision-makers able to adjust their response strategies. I argue that there is a need for more unified objectives of policies across levels, with a parallel need for institutional diversity in addressing the risks with pesticide use. And, finally, I argue that there is a need for a more unified understanding of who is suffering, who is behind the driving forces and who in the institutional complex at various levels has the power, capacity and responsibility, to initiate risk reduction. This last point, as well as the whole theoretical approach, has as its underlying assumption that the issue is framed as a global one, ethically and practically."

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