Environmental Governance through Partnerships
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Environmental Governance through Partnerships

A Discourse Theoretical Study

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.
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Chapter 4: Partnerships as sedimented discourses: the emergence of Type-II outcomes

Ayşem Mert


The list above consists of various elements that ‘could have’ comprised the framework for the UN partnerships regime. In fact, all of the items listed above were proposed and discussed in the last PrepCom Meeting before the WSSD. These suggestions were ultimately turned down and sustainability partnerships were defined as ‘voluntary multi-stakeholder initiatives which contribute to the implementation of inter-governmental commitments in Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation’. Without a set of screening, monitoring or reporting criteria, or a central body overseeing the overlaps and deficiencies in their work, partnerships have become an official part of United Nation’s environmental governance at the WSSD, despite opposition from several civil society groups and some country delegations. Nevertheless, the conglomeration of various official and unofficial requests presented in Box 4.1 is as important for our understanding of the partnerships regime as the official definition of partnerships, for several reasons. For instance, when cited on its own, the official definition appears to be an obvious defeat of the environmentalist NGOs and a victory for business lobbies. But various national delegations and civil society groups were involved in the negotiations of partnerships, because they could have influenced the end result. The list in Box 4.1 reveals the reasons of various groups to discuss the concept, and why they found it potentially useful for sustainability governance. Secondly, Box 4.1 shows which options were eliminated during the negotiations.

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