restricted access 1 Introduction: Secretariats as Overlap Managers
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There are lots of smart people here—and some not so smart—we are not using our brain power enough as it is. … The Secretariat is a neutral party; it represents the WTO, not governments. Why can’t I have ideas? What a loss of capacity! —WTO Secretariat staff member (interview with author, 2006) From the outside of an organization, office secretaries are nearly invisible . Simply doing the bidding of their bosses, they take instructions, write up memos, and make appointments for a controlling principal. They have no obvious source of power and are on the receiving end of authority. They appear to play, in other words, a derivative or secondary role. To understand how decision making unfolds within a professional office, many would simply bypass the secretary and go straight to the source of command. Viewed from the inside, however, this is nonsense. Anyone who has ever worked in a professional office knows that a good secretary does much more than is captured within the four corners of his job description. More than anyone else in the office, a good secretary often has the ear and trust of his boss. He likely filters information, controls who talks with whom, and acts as a repository for institutional memory. These things impact office outcomes and have a substantive effect on the success of the organization. A good secretary is a far cry from the coffeemaking , nail-filing stereotype of the 1950s. Secretariats—the administrative arms of international treaties—suffer from similar analytical neglect. On paper, secretariats, like office secretaries , simply do the bidding of states. Their leaders are appointed by the member states to international treaties; they take instruction from these member states and depend on them for financing. This derivative status of secretariats is the reason international relations (IR) scholarship gives them such short shrift.1 Indeed, most treatment of secretariats in the IR literature has been from the outside and merely reflects what secretariats 1 Introduction: Secretariats as Overlap Managers 2 Chapter 1 do on paper, as articulated in their mandates. When secretariats are noticed at all, this scholarship credits them with collecting information, communicating with state actors, tracking scientific information, and coordinating ongoing diplomatic activity. However, most IR scholarship discounts the meaning of these activities and therefore misses the important role secretariats play in political decision making. This book helps to remedy this oversight by showing, from the inside, how secretariats impact international affairs. It does so through the lens of secretariats’ participation in the management of overlapping treaty regimes. Secretariats can have significant governance influence by changing power relations between states, which in turn impacts politics. For example, when secretariats influence how states understand problems, they can affect the way states allocate resources to solve those problems. As this book demonstrates, this influence can have substantial impact on the cooperation between states and the linkages between regimes. Secretariats can also affect interstate relationships and equity issues in international politics. These factors can shape decision making about, for example, what is included in regime goals and who benefits from regime outcomes. Secretariat influence, even when modest, can have important impacts on structural or issue-framing decisions that shape the operation of regimes for long periods of time. Scholarly neglect of what could be called “secretariat diplomacy” has been endemic in a field that has for so long taken the primacy of states as its bedrock assumption. Realists see states as the main units of analysis and look upon all other actors as politically irrelevant. These scholars generally explain international organization (IO) creation as an attempt to further state interests. For realists, IOs are epiphenomenal. They are created and maintained by the most powerful states, and thus they are not autonomous, nor do they have any impact on political outcomes (Mearsheimer 1994; Strange 1983; Waltz 1979). Neoliberalism provides a more sympathetic reading. Although neoliberals tend to analytically conflate secretariats with the IOs they are part of, they acknowledge secretariats as part of the bureaucratic apparatus of international regimes and appreciate their roles in gathering information , monitoring compliance, and organizing meetings. The neoliberal ontology similarly adopts a state-centered view of international politics. Neoliberals assert that states create IOs to alleviate problems associated with incomplete information, transaction costs, and efficiency barriers (Abbott and Snidal 1998; Axelrod and Keohane 1985; Martin and Simmons 1998). Introduction: Secretariats as Overlap Managers 3 Notwithstanding such acknowledgment, neoliberalism still offers a limited view of secretariats as appendages to states. Neoliberals proffer a representative model, in...


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Subject Headings

  • Environmental policy -- International cooperation -- Case studies.
  • Environmental management -- International cooperation -- Case studies.
  • Secretariats -- Case studies.
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (Organization).
  • World Trade Organization.
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973).
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