Governing the Global Commons
The concept of ‘governing the commons’ is emerging as the overarching paradigm in both functional and legal approaches to international environmental cooperation. In the traditional approach to international environmental law, nation-states are considered to be the sole actors in governing trans-boundary resources such as water, the atmosphere and the ocean. In contrast, the commons approach highlights the role of collaborative governance by all users in designing, implementing and enforcing sustainability rules and norms. While nation-states remain key, a commons approach is poly-centric (international, regional, national, sub-national) and multi-actor (government, business, civil society).
This course provides a foundation in the theory and practice of global commons governance. Part One introduces the conceptual framework and empirical underpinnings of through an examination of the Elinor Ostrom’s work on common pool resources. Part II explores the history and structure of international environmental law based on governing through multilateral environmental agreements. Part Three examines trans-boundary water governance with a focus on adaptive management to climate change. Part Four focuses on global atmospheric governance and examines the promise and challenges of the evolving, polycentric climate regime.
Working in teams of three, students will write and orally present a case study of transboundary water governance. The class will wrap up with class debates on three key issues of global climate governance.