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Title: Continuity and change in international institutions : the case of the United Nations environment regime
Author: Manulak, Michael W.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Analysts have had a long fascination with moments of significant change and discontinuity in political relations. Studies of “exogenous shocks,” “critical junctures,” “historical events,” “policy windows,” and “punctuated equilibria” have occupied a prominent place in qualitative assessments of policy and institutional change. Yet, despite analysts’ interest, these turning points remain poorly understood. Leading theoretical treatments are overwhelmingly descriptive, offering little in the way of explanatory capacity. Introducing the concept of Temporal Focal Points, my thesis provides a temporal extension to Thomas C. Schelling’s focal point hypothesis. Temporal Focal Points—definite, exceptional phases along the temporal continuum—precipitate a convergence of expectations among actors in time that heightens the likelihood of agreement. Convergent expectations are a crucial means of overcoming temporal coordination problems among actors. By facilitating a spike in analytical activity, political entrepreneurship, and bargaining intensity, actors are able realize joint gains opened up by past shifts in key parameters. Prominent temporal signposts allow actors to recognize that existing institutional arrangements are not an equilibrium. I test the plausibility of this theory through an analysis of the record of change at four distinct phases of the history of the United Nations environment regime from 1962-1992, including the 1972 Stockholm conference, the 1982 Nairobi conference, the UN General Assembly’s response to the Brundtland report, and the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Supervisor: Snidal, Duncan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: International studies ; Public policy ; global environmental governance ; international institutions ; Stockholm conference ; Rio earth summit ; Brundtland commission