CIESIN Reproduced, with permission, from: Victor, D. G. 1993. Implementation and effectiveness of international environmental commitments. A project conducted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Project summary and open letter. Laxenburg, Austria: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

                                                          (July 1993)

Implementation and Effectiveness of International
Environmental Commitments

     The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
(IIASA) will initiate a major three year effort beginning
November, 1993, to study the effectiveness of international
environmental commitments.  The research will emphasize the
relationship between domestic implementation and the inter-
national evolution of such commitments.  The effort will be
conducted in synergy with existing and future research programs
on this topic, in part by involving many of the same scholars. 
The goal is to continue development of a worldwide scholarly
research program on these topics and to couple this research to
practical policy advice.  This proposed project contributes to
that goal by engaging scholars from many disciplines and
countries.  Currently the research team includes scholars from
Europe, Russia and North America and spans several disciplines,
primarily from the social sciences.  There will be an average of
4-6 people in residence at IIASA although the project will make
use of many shorter stays, e.g., on the order of a few months,
coordinated so that a critical mass of scholars working on
similar topics can work together.

     The research program will be conducted along four concurrent
lines of inquiry, each of which assesses the factors that
contribute to effective international environmental management
from a different angle.

     A first module entails detailed and comparative studies of
domestic implementation, especially in Europe, Eastern Europe and
the former Soviet Union.  The mode of analysis will be detailed
case studies with attention to the relationship between the
process of domestic implementation and the renegotiation and
adjustment of international treaties and commitments.  One aspect
of this module's research will have a geographical focus on
western Europe, where many existing relevant case studies of
regimes can serve as a foundation for synthetic work across
cases.  Another aspect will focus on the special issues of
domestic implementation that arise in Eastern Europe and the
Former Soviet Union, where implementation of environmental
agreements and norms is taking place alongside massive economic
transformation.  The team is currently exploring how to extend
their research to include the relevant concepts from comparative
law and economics and is also considering how the IIASA research
program might contribute to the study of similar issues in
developing countries.  The lead investigators for this module are
Steinar Andresen (Fridtjof Nansen Institute) and Elena Nikitina
(Institute of World Economy & International Relations, Russian
Academy of Sciences).

     The second approach is to develop a database.  The typical
method of analysis has been intensive process tracing in case
studies of individual regimes.  This mode has been fruitful and
is building a strong knowledge base.  But that base should also
comprise a well-defined databank that would be useful far into
the future as scholars attempt to develop and test general
theories of regime effectiveness.  Earlier efforts to develop
such a databank have not been successful because many important
variables, especially those needed to construct explanations of
why an international agreement has been effective, are left
uncontrolled and unexplored.  The length and scope of this IIASA
project makes possible a serious effort to develop and dis-
seminate such a database.  And, the benefits in allowing serious
multi-case research are potentially enormous.  Initial papers
that put into operation the key variables and classes of infor-
mation have already been prepared.  The lead investigators are
Marc Levy (Princeton University), Oran Young (Dartmouth College)
and Michael Zuern (University of Tuebingen); they are working in
conjunction with larger group of experts on international
environmental politics.

     The third module focusses on international processes of
monitoring, verification and enforcement, with the goal that
environmental agreements receive the kind of scholarly attention
that arms agreements have had in the past.  This module is
organized to conduct research in four areas:
     a) comparative research on verification and enforcement
     procedures in international environmental regimes, especial-
     ly the international institutions established to serve
     formal agreements in those regimes (e.g. secretariats and
     specialized UN and regional organizations) and the functions
     those institutions perform;
     b) studies of verifiability and enforceability of different
     international agreements in particular issue-areas;
     c) comparative studies of national statistical systems,
     because essentially all international environmental
     agreements are built upon foundations of national statis-
     tical information regarding emissions, policies, behaviors,
     etc.; and,
     d) futuristic studies on the types of verification--
     including possible intrusive inspections and independent
     international monitoring--required for different types of
     prospective agreements
The lead investigators are David Victor (MIT), Owen Greene
(University of Bradford) and John Lanchbery (Verification
Technology Information Centre).

     The fourth program entails developing and running a
simulation exercise that explores issues of institutional design,
implementation, and compliance in international environmental
agreements. The simulation would be played by expert participants
drawn from many countries as part of summer workshops held at
IIASA for policy-makers.  Participants would represent national
authorities from a representative collection of states, concerned
both with the negotiation of international agreements, and
implementation and compliance within their own domestic context.
The game would provide a dynamic/sequential simulation of linked
negotiations and policy-making at domestic and international
levels, conducted in several stages: early, unstructured
negotiation of the design of international institutions; subse-
quent negotiation of specific obligations, allocations, emission
limits, contributions, etc.; and domestic implementation and
compliance decisions through which national authorities try to
live under the commitments and institutions they have negotiated
internationally. Each of these stages will be repeated throughout
the game, allowing realistic dynamics of iterated bargaining,
managing compliance, and learning.  The lead investigator for
this effort is Ted Parson (Harvard).

     In addition to the specific research that constitutes the
project, the intention is to make IIASA a base for a network of
the larger group of scholars working on the questions of imple-
mentation and effectiveness.  We intend to do this through
communications, conferences and creating opportunities for
interaction.  The database described above is one of these,
although for the duration of the IIASA project the database will
be under development, testing and initial operation.  We also
envision supporting the writing of critical review papers to
provide definitive and current assessments of the state of the
literature and convening major international conferences in 1995
and 1996 on these topics.  Throughout the effort the research
team will work closely with practitioners to ensure that where
possible we are asking important and timely questions and that
our results are put into practical use.

     The research plan is not complete.  Currently the lead
investigators are developing the research plans in more detail
and exploring collaborations with other projects and scholars. 
Draft research protocols for each of four lines of inquiry as
well as the project as a whole will be available by later summer,
1993.  The project is also assembling a small steering committee
that will span the relevant disciplines and geographical areas,
and which will include both scholars and practitioners.  The
committee will help shape the project, collaborate with the
researchers on projects at IIASA, and will help the team review
and redirect its effort over time.  David Victor (MIT) will serve
as Project Co-director in residence at IIASA, and Prof. Eugene B.
Skolnikoff (MIT) will serve as non-resident Co-director.  As
noted above, the project is extending its research team to ensure
that the effort is conducted in a fully interdisciplinary manner.

     Additional detail on the research plan is available in the
proposal, submitted by this team in response to IIASA's Call for
Proposals, and the works cited therein.  For copies of these,
current drafts of the research plan, and additional information
contact David Victor, Center for International Studies, E53-470,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA;
tel: 1-617-253-5904; fax: 1-617-258-8118; email:

                                   13 January 1994

Dear Colleague,

This is the first in a series of periodic open letters to
summarize and to keep you informed of progress in the research
project "Implementation and Effectiveness of International
Environmental Commitments."  We will also use these letters to
provide background for opportunities for collaboration, and to
stimulate your suggestions for collaborative ideas.

Please note the attachments on a job opportunity as project
"database manager" and information about IIASA's annual Young
Scientists' Summer program, both discussed in more detail

Please feel free to pass this letter to colleagues, and let us
know who should be added to the mailing list.  Whenever
possible we will send these letters by electronic mail--please
send us your email address if you would prefer to use that
format (and you did not receive an advance copy of this letter
by email).

Background on the project and IIASA

The project is based at the International Institute for
Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)--in Laxenburg, Austria--and
its member countries[*] and is conducted at IIASA with a network
of collaborators (information on IIASA enclosed).  We began
formally in November, 1993, and are funded for at least three
years.  Core funding supports a research team of 18 scholars
working full- and part-time at IIASA (contact list enclosed).
Because we are in the earliest stages of development, much of
our current work is directed at elaborating the research plan-
-described in more detail below.

In addition to IIASA's core support, we envision raising
external funding for specific research projects.  For example,
we are planning a parallel project using concepts and methods
similar to those in the IIASA project but conducted within
developing countries.  In the next six months, we will take
the lead in conceiving (and initially funding) the developing
countries project.  Presently we are working to identify
scholars and institutions from these countries who could
perform the bulk of the research.

The spirit of the project is to conduct the majority of our
research on policy-relevant and timely topics.  We have
assembled an advisory committee consisting of Abram Chayes
(Professor, Harvard Law School, U.S.), Jose Goldemberg
(Professor, University of Sao Paulo, and former Minister of
Science and Technology, Brazil; presently at Center for Energy
and Environmental Studies, Princeton University, U.S.), Peter
Sand (Legal Adviser for Environmental Affairs, The World
Bank), and Arild Underdal (Professor, Department of Political
Science, University of Oslo, Norway).  That committee helps
steer the project's research program so that it contributes to
multiple academic disciplines and especially that our
intention to contribute to policy debates at domestic and
international levels is fulfilled.  Several more will join the
committee in the coming year.

Our research program

The project is conducting research in four broad areas.  Below
we summarize the main themes and our current work.  Endnotes
provide additional detail on work in progress.

1. Implementation of international agreements at the domestic
level, and domestic-international linkages.   A first module
entails detailed and comparative studies of the processes by
which international agreements are implemented at the domestic
level.  We are especially interested in two aspects of
domestic implementation:  the effectiveness of different
styles of implementation in different countries and cultural
settings; and, the relationship between the process of
implementation at the domestic level and the evolution and
effectiveness of the international agreement over time.  We
are looking not only at models of implementation where the
state plays the central role, but also at the variety of non-
state pathways by which international and domestic politics
evolve together, for example the roles of industry and
environmental nongovernmental organizations.  This research
will also include attention to the special conditions of rapid
economic transition in the former eastern bloc, and will
include research into the role (if any) of international
agreements and domestic implementation in the context of such
rapid transition.

The work is led by Steinar Andresen (Fridtjof Nansen
Institute, FNI, Norway) and Elena Nikitina (Institute of World
Economy and International Relations, IMEMO, Russia) who were
at IIASA in December to organize and start the research.  They
and their colleagues--Jon Birger Skjfrseth, Olav Schram
Stokke, and J rgen Wettestad (all at FNI); Alexei Roginko (at
IMEMO); and Vladimir Kotov (at School of Business Management,
Academy of Transport, Russia)--will all be at IIASA to
complete the first phase of the work.[1]

2. Construction of a database on effectiveness of
international environmental agreements   Research on the
effectiveness of international environmental agreements has
traditionally been conducted as individual studies of small
numbers of cases that trace cause and effect in detail.  This
mode of research has produced careful case studies on dozens
of environmental regimes.  But, drawing systematic conclusions
from individual case studies that apply across a wide range of
cases and conditions has been difficult because each case is
complex and unique; each case study focusses on different
variables with different concepts.  What is needed is a well-
defined databank that can be used to test and develop general
theories.  Prior efforts to develop such a database have left
crucial variables uncontrolled and unexplored.  Indeed, key
variables are difficult to code, requiring carefully designed
and tested data protocols and assistance from field
researchers in coding their cases.  This challenge means that
building a database is not merely a job of compiling data but
also a research program--one that involves thoughtful
development and testing of data protocols and, eventually, use
of the database as part of a larger research program to test
and develop theory.  The three year duration of the IIASA
project makes careful development, initial use, and
dissemination of such a database possible.

This effort is led by Marc Levy (Princeton and Harvard
Universities), Oran Young (Dartmouth College) and Michael Zuern
(University of Bremen), in collaboration with a network of a
dozen other scholars.  They have prepared drafts for the data
collection protocols; revised versions of these drafts will be
available this spring.  The data to be collected--and thus the
data protocols--depends heavily on our assessment of the most
important variables and theories to be tested.  Thus the
ongoing effort to develop the data protocols is closely
coupled with several ongoing research programs on the
effectiveness of international environmental agreements,
including this one at IIASA, one led by Levy and Young based
at Dartmouth College, and work at the Fridtjof Nansen

Please note that the project is hiring a full-time database
manager, to be resident at IIASA.  The Manager will organize
development of the database, help coordinate and initiate the
collection of data, and especially help with eventual
dissemination of the data to the wider community.  A copy of
the job description is included with this letter--please pass
on to interested colleagues and/or post.  If unable to submit
a full application by the deadline of 31 January 1994,
potential applicants should at least send a letter (or email)
of intent to me as soon as possible.

3. Implementation at the international level.   A third module
of research focusses on implementation of international
environmental agreements at the international level.  We are
giving special attention to how information is gathered and
shared, compliance is verified, and problems of incomplete
compliance and poor performance are managed under
international agreements.  In the past scholars have given
much attention to these issues within economic and especially
arms control agreements, but comparatively little to these
issues for environmental agreements.  In some respects, the
procedures and concepts are generic, but an open question in
our research is what features of environmental agreements make
them different from other issue-areas, and what that implies
for how such agreements might be implemented more effectively.

The research in this area is conducted by Owen Greene
(University of Bradford, U.K.), John Lanchbery (Verification
Technology Information Centre, VERTIC, U.K.), Juan Carlos di
Primio (Forschungszentrum Julich, Germany), and David Victor
(IIASA, Austria).  The research team was at IIASA for November
and December, 1993, and will return in a few days to complete
the first phase of the work.[2]  Drafts of the first studies
will be available later this spring.

4. Game simulation of implementation.   The fourth program
entails developing and running a simulation exercise that
explores issues of institutional design, implementation, and
compliance in international environmental agreements.  The
simulation would be conducted as part of summer workshops for
policy-makers, to be held at IIASA.   Participants would
represent national authorities from a representative
collection of states, concerned both with the negotiation of
international agreements, and implementation and compliance
within their own domestic context.

The game would provide a dynamic/sequential simulation of
linked negotiations and policy-making at domestic and
international levels, conducted in several stages: early,
unstructured negotiation of the design of international
institutions; subsequent negotiation of specific obligations,
allocations, emission limits, contributions, etc.; and
domestic implementation and compliance decisions through which
national authorities try to live under the commitments and
institutions they have negotiated internationally.
Negotiation and implementation will be repeated throughout the
game, allowing realistic dynamics of iterated bargaining,
managing compliance, and learning.  In part, this is a
research program because there is much to be learned by
developing and observing the playing of a well designed game.
In part this contributes to the policy-oriented spirit of the
project as a whole--by playing the game, policy-makers can
learn about and experiment with implementation problems and
issues, addressing them more effectively when they occur in

This effort is led by Ted Parson (Harvard University, U.S.),
who has built games to study the process of negotiating new
agreements.  He has written an essay on the major concepts
relevant to the difficult task of building a game for
simulating the implementation of policies.  This spring he
will work at IIASA, and through workshops with experts in the
field of game simulation, elaborate the details and,
especially, choose a case.  Elements of the game will be
tested this summer, and in the summer of '95 the full game
will be tested and played.

Communicating with others working in the field

We will need to learn the most efficient means to communicate
with the larger group of scholars and practitioners such as
yourselves.  Periodic open letters will help keep interested
members of the community aware of our progress.  In 1995 and
1996 we are tentatively planning major international
conferences.  And, as particular activities develop, we will
of course circulate draft papers to colleagues.  In the course
of our research we will assemble a library of relevant
literature, including documents that are difficult to locate
elsewhere; we may put relevant references and notes into an
organized (computerized) format and make this information
available, e.g. to scholars working on related research topics
who may find it useful to visit IIASA's collection as part of
their field research.  Eventually papers and data files will
be accessible instantly via the electronic internet.  And,
periodic updates to database files may be provided to those
actively working in the issue area--either by diskette or via
the internet.   These modes of organization and communication
are in their infancy, and I will write later with more
details.  Your help in this will be essential.


David Victor                           Eugene Skolnikoff
Project co-Leader                      Project co-Leader
(in residence at IIASA)

enclosures:    Information about IIASA and its members
               Contact list for project members
               Database manager job posting
               (potential applicants should contact us
               Excerpt on IIASA's Young Scientists' Summer
               (potential applicants should contact us

(for electronic copies, enclosures available by writing to

Notes and additional information on research in progress

*    IIASA members currently consist of: Austria, Bulgaria,
     Canada, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic (interim joint
     membership), Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan,
     Netherlands, Poland, Russian Federation, Sweden, Ukraine,
     United States of America.

1.   As the detailed case work of module 1 on domestic
     implementation begins, we are conducting intensive reviews
     of relevant literatures to ensure that the project is taking
     advantage of existing research and using the appropriate
     methodologies.  This process of review and reformulation of
     questions will continue throughout the project.  In the
     interim, a first document summarizing what we have found and
     charting the research program will be available in late

2.   We are simultaneously engaged in four research tasks in
     module 3:
      -   We are carrying out an intensive overview of existing
          studies in other fields to examine the role of
          verifiability in international environmental
          commitments.  To what degree, and under what
          conditions, does the ability to verify whether a party
          will comply with commitments matter?  How heavily
          should negotiators weigh concerns of verifiability when
          forming and adjusting international agreements,
          especially when verifiability conflicts with concerns
          such as political acceptability and flexibility?  For
          different types of agreements, what are the links
          between gathering and exchange of data and
          verifiability?  How do underlying domestic statistical
          systems--which are the basis of national reporting of
          data on the performance--affect verifiabiltiy for
          different types of agreements and substances?
      -   A second overview examines the use and performance of
          implementation and review mechanisms that have been
          (and might be) put into place to review the performance
          of parties to international agreements.  These
          organizations and procedures are intended to help
          improve the effectiveness of agreements by increasing
          scrutiny of performance--i.e., who is implementing an
          agreement, and why--and by helping parties (and the
          agreement itself) work through and adjust to
          implementation problems.  The review is intended to
          survey the many types of implementation and review
          mechanisms and provide a first assessment of which
          mechanisms are most effective and why.
      -   We are also engaged in two heavily empirical studies.
          The first is a study of the experience to date under
          all international environmental agreements with Formal
          Implementation and Review Mechanisms (FIRMs)--these are
          the mechanisms established formally by treaties,
          resolutions and other legal documents.  What types of
          procedures exist?  When have they been used?  How do
          they relate to other procedures and obligations
          associated with the international agreement?  Using all
          existing cases we are conducting a broad survey; this
          survey will be valuable in itself and will be used to
          select key cases and comparisons for more detailed
          research into the conditions under which different
          FIRMs are effective.
      -   The second empirical study will examine systematically
          the funding arrangements for secretariats charged with
          collecting national self-reporting of data related to
          international environmental commitments.  The typical
          mode gathering information in international agreements
          is self-reporting of data; a recent study by the US
          General Accounting Office (GAO) has pointed out that
          the self-reports vary widely in quality, and many
          countries have not even bothered to submit them.
          Little systematic attention has been paid to the extent
          to which secretariats are adequately funded to perform
          their work, e.g. of collecting and disseminating
          reports, preparing key background papers, and
          organizing meetings.  Some secretariat activities rely
          on voluntary funds, and those funding mechanisms are
          mixed in their utility.  In the next few months we plan
          to launch a study to examine systematically the funding
          arrangements, participation and timeliness of different
          countries' voluntary and mandatory contributions, and
          funding links between international organizations for
          selected international agreements and secretariats.
          Our examination would be a complement to the GAO study
          on self-reporting and would help fill a gap in current
          knowledge about the funding situation.

Drafts of the overviews and the initial FIRMs study will be ready
this spring; the study on secretariat financing will be ready
later in the year.