Conceptualizing transnational democratic networks: a case study of world wide views on biodiversity

Transnational Actors and Networks

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Transnational Actors and Networks

Observations of transnational interactions have propelled further intrigue into transnational actors and their collectivity via transnational networks within International Relations literature (Betsill 2006; Bexell et al. 2010). Broadly speaking, transnational actors are often accounted for as non-state affiliated actors (Ruggie 2003, 104-105). The account of WWVB considers the roles of state-affiliated actors as vital to the project, though not acting particularly as representative or on behalf of a national government (Risse-Kappen 1995). Albeit, the influence of state-affiliated actors may manifest in state-identity form within the network. The WWVB project will be explained throughout this study as a transnational network based upon results of observation and testimony and in reflection to theoretical description.

Transnational networks create identities but may not necessarily have state affiliation, adding to the complexity for researchers to understand the dynamics of a network and conduct empirical studies (Betsill 2006, 177). Because the WWViews alliance is not an NGO nor MNC, the fluidity of actors involved in organizing better resemble networks. For example, in the study of Cities for Climate Protection (CCP), Betsill and Bulkeley identify the significance of CCP through its recognition as a transnational network and its ability to remain simultaneously state and non-state, operating at levels of governance from local to global (Betsill and Bulkeley 2006). The authors frame the network within a scale of multileveled governance to fully encapsulating the dynamics and conditions of the network (Betsill and Bulkeley 2006).

Furthermore, studies of transnational networks have identified three frequent forms of organization: epistemic communities (Haas 1989), transnational advocacy networks (Keck and Sikkink 1999), and social movements (O’Brien 2000; Betsill 2006, 176). As International Relations literature adapts to new ways of understanding global governance so does the ability to empirically describe and explain network organization and capacity of influence. While the study of WWVB will not seek to explicitly expose the capacity of the network (important studies of sort are concurrently being conducted throughout the network), rather, I will observe the network from a macro, theoretical lens, scaling the observation of the network from within a framework of global democratic organizing. Nonetheless, I will suggest World Wide Views operates similarly to a transnational advocacy network (Keck and Sikkink 1999) encompassing affiliates of epistemic communities and social movements.

Transnational advocacy networks may be understood as the entity scholars use to describe affiliates of actors operating under shared interests in norms or policy influence. Keck and Sikkink (1999, 90) see value in the role of transnational advocacy networks as communicative structures. While the networks may seek to influence policy changes, there is intrinsic value in the ability to enter into larger policy communities and open up dialogue while simultaneously initiating a political space for debates about change amongst varying stakeholders and perspectives (Keck and Sikkink 1999, 90). In other words, advocacy networks have discursive intrigue as methods towards organization. The WWViews Alliance seeks to broaden the scope of advocacy by opening dialogue and influence of international policy agreements through activating citizen voice. Although the focus of WWVB may be studied as a transnational advocacy network framed around concerns for international biodiversity policy, it may also be understood, as it is in this study, as an advocate of transnational democracy. While one may assess the network in its capacity as an entity seeking to influence international biodiversity agreements (through studies of citizen opinion; organization/stakeholder interests; or in continuation of dialogue surrounding biodiversity policy), the rotation of topics by the WWViews Alliance to coordinate with UN COPs suggests a grander concept of organizing for democratic purposes.

To more accurately describe the transnational actions of WWVB, I suggest linguistically moving away from the word advocacy and suggest highlighting the distinct action of the democratic processes in practice by the network. With two World Wide Views events completed and a third being discussed, consistency of the network is found in its ideological principle of scaling up democratic accountability through recognition (and consideration) of citizen opinion in international agreements. Furthermore, I present the study of WWVB as a transnational democratic network. In its nuance, the network’s organizing is viewed as an experiment in transnational democracy and not only a political space to discuss possibilities of hypothetical design. To highlight the democratic action of the network, three subfields of literature – Transnational Networks, Global Ecological Governance, and Democratic Theory – overlap to provide insight to theories of transnational democratic networks.

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