Overall Effectiveness of the International Environmental Treaty System: Accounting for Problem-shifting

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


International environmental regimes are intended to ameliorate the problem that led to their creation. Conventional formulations used to measure regime effectiveness, such as the Oslo-Potsdam solution, measure effectiveness on a scale across the spectrum - absence of the given regime and an optimum solution being presented to solve the problem. In doing so, they do not take into account the factum that problem-shifting as both an internal and external force of the regime either aids to or impedes the outcome of the formulation. Environmental problem-shifting, as treaties shifting their problems to different regimes in a bid to achieve their goals, questions their overall effectiveness in addressing the objectives that led to their creation and is thus an inalienable factor in this assessment. In this paper, we incorporate problem-shifting and its interrelationship across different treaties as a systemic factor into the formulation of regime effectiveness and examine the overall effectiveness of the international environmental treaty system; where overall effectiveness is defined as an overlap between the outcomes of individual treaties and incidences of problem-shifting. We use expert survey, social network analysis, environmental data from repositories including EDG and KNB, and statistical analysis to quantify the overall effectiveness of the system. We show that environmental problem-shifting reduces the overall effectiveness of the system despite the presence of some effective regimes. Further, we argue that the same systemic interlinkages that allow problem-shifting could in turn be mobilised to facilitate synergy, and effective problem-solving and improve the overall effectiveness. The work, as a quantitative study of problem-shifting’s (in)effective contributions to the international environmental treaty system provides the basis for subsequent assessments of systemic effects of problem-shifting and provides a bird’s eye view of the effectiveness of the whole system .
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
Event2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance: Governing accelerated transitions: justice, creativity, and power in a transforming world - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 20 Oct 202224 Oct 2022


Conference2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance


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