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Integrating ecological impacts into evaluations of the effectiveness of environmental regimes: the example of CITES

Jackson, Wendy L.
Fields of Research
The proliferation of multilateral environmental agreements has resulted in an increased interest, from academics and others, in questions regarding the effectiveness of such agreements. Much if not all attention has focused on the institutional aspects of regime functioning, specifically behaviour change. Relatively less attention has been given to the actual ecological or biophysical aspects of regime effectiveness. The focus on institutional effectiveness is for sound reasons, such as challenges associated with incorporating ecological factors into any evaluation, measuring effectiveness, and establishing causality. However, these challenges do not diminish the importance of assessing ecological effectiveness and its relationships with institutional functioning. Does political, legal or behaviour change consistently lead to improvement in environmental quality? Can it be assumed that “institutional effectiveness” is an accurate and appropriate proxy for “ecological effectiveness”? Are the challenges associated with using ecological data insurmountable? This thesis aims to advance understanding of the linkages between institutional and ecological effectiveness and to explore how an integrated assessment of both can be undertaken. Putting forward a model for an integrated assessment of institutional and ecological effectiveness, and using a mixed methods approach, this study analyses a compliance mechanism under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as a case study to evaluate both the institutional and the ecological effectiveness of this regime, and how these are linked with variables that may be intervening in the relationship. The results suggest that, although CITES is widely considered to be institutionally effective, its ecological effectiveness is questionable. The discrepancy can, to a large extent, be explained by two main categories of intervening variables: the complexity and nature of the problem, and domestic or national-level factors. The integrated assessment uses ecological and quantitative data to help increase our understanding of the nature and extent of institutional and ecological effectiveness, and illuminates any gaps between them. The analysis demonstrates that extending evaluations to include environmental impacts can provide a more accurate picture of overall effectiveness of regimes, and offers researchers and practitioners a basis for developing ideas and actions aimed at improving regime functioning.