What Factors are Associated with Multilateral Environmental Agreement Noncompliance, and can Agreement Provisions be Designed to Mitigate them?
Seymour, Sezaneh Momeni
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This research contributes to gaps in the international relations and international law literature on compliance by engaging practitioners with multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) expertise to answer two questions: 1) what factors are associated with MEA noncompliance; and 2) is there a relationship between the design of MEA provisions and compliance with those provisions. Practitioners overwhelmingly associate MEA noncompliance with insufficient domestic interagency consultation early in the lifecycle of a multilateral environmental agreement, particularly during its negotiation. The interagency consultative process is the mechanism by which a state identifies the nature of its relevant domestic environmental challenges and the availability of its institutional, financial, and technical resources to address them. Absent a robust process, state delegated representatives engage in negotiating obligations on behalf of their states without a full understanding of the domestic context. Consequently, they may inadvertently negotiate obligations that are impractical or otherwise inconsistent with domestic realities. Under these circumstances, a state may subsequently set itself on a trajectory of noncompliance when ratifying the agreement. Three noncompliance cases under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal are consistent with this finding. The design of treaty provisions might serve to mitigate some factors associated with MEA noncompliance. Practitioners observe a relationship between the design of treaty provisions and compliance with those provisions. When presented with two different legal design options, practitioners overwhelmingly expressed a preference for obligations of outcome over obligations of action. Preserving state flexibility to determine how to implement obligations may mitigate noncompliance associated with insufficient domestic consultation early in the lifecycle of an MEA, but more research is necessary to draw the conclusion that one legal design produces better compliance results over another.
General Audience Abstract
States actively negotiate multilateral environmental agreements (MEA) to address transboundary environmental challenges. When states fail to comply with their obligations under these agreements, the international community's collective environmental goals are compromised. This research contributes to the literature on compliance by exploring two questions: 1) what factors are associated with MEA noncompliance; and 2) is there a relationship between the design of MEA provisions and compliance with those provisions. MEA noncompliance is overwhelmingly associated with states' poor preparation to engage in the negotiation and implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. Poor preparation is the result of insufficient domestic interagency consultation, which is the process by which a state identifies the nature of its relevant domestic environmental challenges and its ability to address them. The design of MEA provisions might serve to mitigate some factors associated with noncompliance, particularly if that design gives states the flexibility to later determine how or which domestic measures to take in order to meet the relevant outcome contained in their MEA obligations. However, more research is needed to draw the conclusion that one legal design is better than another.
- Doctoral Dissertations