Governance for Sustainable Development
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Governance for Sustainable Development

The Challenge of Adapting Form to Function

Edited by William M. Lafferty

This book is an original study of the challenge of implementing sustainable development in Western democracies. It highlights the obstacles which sustainable development presents for strategic governance and critically examines how these problems can best be overcome in a variety of different political contexts.
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Chapter 9: Governance by Diffusion: Implementing Global Norms through Cross-National Imitation and Learning

Helge Jörgens


Helge Jörgens* INTRODUCTION Implementing international norms is a core aspect of global governance. It raises the central question of whether, and through which mechanisms, developments at the international level can influence domestic policymaking. Scholars of global governance have placed much emphasis on processes of multilateral negotiating within international regimes and unilateral coercion by individual states or international organizations to explain how international agendas reach the domestic level. Drawing from an empirical case study on the national implementation of sustainable development, this chapter argues that cross-national diffusion constitutes a third and distinct mode of global governance that has not received due attention so far. The first section of this chapter analyses the distinctive characteristics of the concept of sustainable development and what this means for its implementation. The second part introduces the concept of policy diffusion as one of three analytically distinct mechanisms of global governance. It draws on theories of the domestic effects of international norms and institutions developed within the field of international relations as well as theories of policy diffusion and policy transfer developed within public policy. Section 3 briefly links the typology of governance mechanisms proposed in this chapter to the findings of other related theoretical debates. Through an empirical case study on the international spread of national environmental policy plans and strategies for sustainable development, the fourth section demonstrates how cross-national imitation and learning matters as a mechanism for implementing the global norm of sustainable development and how these processes of policy diffusion interact with...

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