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Assessing the reflexive capacity of international organisations: Can inclusivity translate into progressive policy change?

Hayley Stevenson, University of Sheffield

Tue 22 July 2014

11:00am - 12:00pm

Fishbowl, Building 24, University of Canberra


Recent research confirms a trend of inclusion in global governance: international organizations are ‘opening up’ to civil society. This trend may be cautiously welcomed by scholars and activists concerned with the ‘democratic deficit’ of global governance, as well as ‘epistemic democrats’ influenced by the Aristotelian principle that ‘many heads are better than one’. Yet, we still have a limited understanding of the potential for diverse participation to contribute to policy change in IOs. The nature and scope of ‘reflexive capacity’ at multiple levels of IO agency is largely unclear. Understanding the ways in which heterogeneous perspectives and diverse normative critiques are received, interpreted, and processed is essential to ensure that inclusion is not reduced to the shallow accommodation of civil society. This paper presents a study into the potential for transforming inclusivity into progressive institutional change. Focusing on emerging innovation in environmental policy, the project aims to (a) identify the different discourses that currently exist about the environment-economy nexus; (b) determine how IOs deal with discursive heterogeneity in the process of developing new sustainability strategies; and (c) determine how the means of presenting diverse ideas and delivering critique affects how it is received, interpreted, and processed by IOs.

About the speaker

Hayley Stevenson is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Sheffield (UK), and an ESRC Future Research Leader (2013-2016). Her principal research interests include: global environmental politics and climate change, constructivist theory of International Relations, global civil society, legitimacy in international relations, and deliberative global governance. She is the author of Institutionalizing Unsustainability: The Paradox of Global Climate Governance (University of California Press, 2013); and Democratizing Global Climate Governance (with John S. Dryzek, Cambridge University Press 2014).

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