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Eckley, Noelle. 1999. "Drawing Lessons About Science-Policy Institutions: Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) under the LRTAP Convention." Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) Discussion Paper E-99-11. Cambridge, MA: Environment and Natural Resources Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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As transborder environmental issues become more complex, international negotiations to address them increasingly rely on scientific and expert information to provide information to policymakers.  In designing the processes by which expert advice will be taken into account in negotiations, policymakers often look to similar types of processes informing other environmental issues, in search of lessons for application to the issue at hand.  Though it is generally accepted among those involved in such processes that some agreements have incorporated expert advice more effectively than others, there is little systematic evaluation by policymakers or academic analysts of the factors that lead to effectiveness across different issues.  It is difficult to determine what, if any, lessons might best be drawn from these previous experiences, and there is disagreement even about what constitutes effectiveness.  This paper sets out to explore which processes of incorporating scientific advice into international decisionmaking might be transferable over very different issue areas.  In order to identify such processes and properties, it will examine in detail the ways in which expert information was taken into account in negotiating three protocols to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP): the 1985 and 1994 protocols on sulfur emissions, and the 1998 protocol on persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

I will argue that the LRTAP POPs assessment process and the assessment processes that informed the 1985 and 1994 sulfur protocols exhibited common dimensions of effectiveness, and that these dimensions of effectiveness were influenced by a common set of variables. Effectiveness in these three LRTAP protocols will be examined by analyzing the incidences in the negotiations where scientific information facilitated agreement on issues, or served to stall the process of the negotiations. This paper examines the common elements which participants found helpful in POPs assessment processes with those found helpful in previous LRTAP protocols, in order to determine whether there are common principles that emerge to explain the effectiveness common in both cases. This comparison identifies a few key elements that might serve to explain the above, including the adaptability of the assessment process and the iterative nature of communication between scientists and policymakers.  For example, where scientists and policymakers were able to communicate repeatedly about assessment procedures and outcomes, and where adaptability allowed policymakers to make science-based decisions on actions with confidence that they would be later revisited, scientific assessment processes were more effective across the different issues of sulfur and POPs.  This paper concludes by examining the questions that these findings might raise for other international environmental agreements seeking to design effective ways for science to influence negotiations, and proposes hypotheses for policymakers and analysts that might guide application of these results to other environmental issues.

Subsequent History

· Revised version published in the Global Environmental Change journal (Abstract)
New Citation: Eckley, Noelle. 2002. "Dependable Dynamism: Lessons for Designing Scientific Assessment Processes in Consensus Negotiations." Global Environmental Change 12(1): 15-23.


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