Governing International Rivers
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Governing International Rivers

Polycentric Politics in the Mekong and the Rhine

Tun Myint

This important book employs the theory of polycentricity, a system with several centers as an analytical concept to explain the multilayered international environmental governance of river basins. It introduces a new methodological framework to deconstruct and investigate the dynamics of citizens, states and non-state actors in world politics via the context of river basin governance.
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Chapter 2: Polycentricity of World Politics

Tun Myint


The international system, in which nation-states are the key players, is going through a period of transformation imposed by social, economic, ecological and political changes and challenges. These global changes and challenges are shaping nation-states’ futures as well as the future of the international system. What are the forces behind transforming the institutional order of a once statecentric world order is an intriguing empirical and theoretical question. What theoretical foundations explain the phenomena of world politics that include actors beyond states? These questions are a source of the puzzle in investigating the origins of the power of non-state actors and institutional transformation in transnational environmental governance of the Mekong and Rhine river basins. To confront these questions, we must treat the reality of politics as a polycentric entity revolving around a multitude of actors rather than a monocentric entity centered on states. The dominant international relations theories that explain a Westphalian statecentric, monocentric world order provide insightful theoretical references to world politics as long as the states are the only actors in shaping the world order (Linklater, 2000). It has long been recognized, at least in historical evidence, that states alone are not the only forces that shape the world order (E. Haas, 1964; Risse-Kappen, 1995; Charnovitz, 1997; Florini, 2000). Charnovitz (1997) reports at least two centuries of participation of NGOs in international governance. The presence and influence of non-state actors in world politics are more prevalent in today’s globalized world and perhaps most prevalent in global environmental governance issues...

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