Environmental Governance through Partnerships

Environmental Governance through Partnerships

A Discourse Theoretical Study

New Horizons in Environmental Politics series

Ayşem Mert

Transnational partnerships have become mainstream across levels and issues of environmental governance, following their endorsement by the UN in 2002. Despite apparent success, their desirability as a way of governing human interactions with the planet’s ecosystems has not yet been properly investigated. In this revelatory book Ayşem Mert combines post-structuralist discourse theory and ecocriticism to analyse three discourses that have been rooted into the logic of partnerships: privatisation of governance, sustainable development and democratic participation. Ultimately, Mert argues that these discourses help understand both the potential and structural limitations of sustainability partnerships.

Chapter 5: Partnerships and the discourse of privatization

Ayşem Mert

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, public policy


Since 2006 Dow Chemical sponsors the Blue Planet Run to ‘bring safe drinking water to 1.2 billion people’ (UNOP 2010). Coca Cola Foundation and Procter & Gamble promote the provision of a water disinfectant and ‘behavior change techniques directed towards improved hygiene’ in water-deprived poor countries (UNCSD Partnerships Database 2004). Royal Dutch Shell is involved in the Clean Air Initiative to enhance air quality and reduce emissions (CAI-Asia 2010). Monsanto contributes to the mitigation of ‘the threat posed by invasive species’ (UNCSD Partnerships Database 2008). These are only a few examples of corporate involvement in partnership initiatives launched to tackle environmental and socio-economic problems relevant to (if not caused by) their core business activities. All these initiatives are registered with the UN as means to achieve the MDGs. Globalization and the increasing power of transnational corporations comprise a critical background for analysing partnerships. This chapter focuses on the relation between partnership and narratives underlying globalization. To do this, the business context, out of which the business meaning of partnerships emerged, is linked with the later developments in global capital markets and the perceptions of modern corporation. These perceptions and narratives are intrinsically linked with the way the concept is employed in governance of environment and development today. My aim is to re-construct debates and symbolic contexts that are related to ‘partnerships as private governance mechanisms’.

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