GLOB - Métamorphose des sociétés. Globalisation et gouvernance.

Circulations of Norms and Actor Networks in Global Environmental Governance – CIRCULEX

Circulations of Norms and Actor Networks in Global Environmental Governance

As the finding of a fragmentation is now well known and established, it seems important to look carefully at processes of circulations of norms and actors by analyzing networks of norms and actors. <br />We aim to highlight and measure the «permeability« of the elements of regime complexes. We propose to identify more precisely how the components of these complexes circulate to assess, ultimately, the effects induced in terms of international governance.

Better understand the international environmental governance to enhance its effectiveness

Over the past forty years, the legal tool is used to protect the environment, and especially international law as the issues have of a strong transnational dimension. International regimes have grown remarkably in terms of quantity and resulted, in qualitative terms, with many innovations. But they also illustrate the difficulty to regulate at the global scale, to politically and legally translate both ecologically and economically interdependence. There remains a real gap between a de facto solidarity and the institutional and legal structure of the international society. However, the international society is undergoing profound changes, such as the emergence of a multipolar world with new emerging countries or the rise of private actors, who breack a mold that has finally not changed radically in one hundred recent years. This society is also marked by intensification, fragmentation and complexity of international regimes. Beyond the finding of a normative and institutional clustering, our team presupposes that multiple networks standards and actors at work in complex systems are not unrelated. It proposes to highlight the relationships between networks of norms and actors, the interrelationships between these networks, and tomeasure their permeability. These phenomena are still unknown, although they raise both theoretical and practical very important issues. The study of complex systems is both a scientific necessity and political urgency.

We will use the theory of social networks, which seemed to be a promising method of transdisciplinary analysis [Barrat and al. 2008], used in economics as well as in sociology, [Bramoullé et al., 2007, 2010; Hanaki 2007] and Political Sciences [Hafner-Burton et al., 2009]. It provides a powerful tool to analyze interactions between the actors and the structure of a social system conceived as a complex system. First, it will allow us to analyze the topological characteristics of an empirical representation of the system based on our data. Then, it will offer the possibility to build models based on simple patterns of interaction at the micro level and to focus on the emergence of social behavior at the macro level. The objective will be to combine this approach with other methodological and empirical tools, in order to bring out circulation phenomena and permeabilities, which are central to our project.


In line with the requirement of interdisciplinarity, CIRCULEX brings together researchers from various social science disciplines (law, political science, sociology, economics), to combine their approaches both in terms of concepts and ground surveys. This collaboration will help to better understand the functioning of these complex systems. Devoted itself to the study of permeability between the norms and networks that are involved in practice, and based on a diversified methodology, our project opt for an original and innovative analysis of complex systems. From this point of view, it is completely original. In addition, the use of a methodological mix will be an additional guarantee of success.
Thus, the project members involved will achieve a decisive step in their research, allowing:
- a renewal of field investigation and empirical works, methods, approaches, objects and theories;
- the development of new issues, the opening of new research areas and the building of common tools of analysis and innovative methods to improve the understanding of international regimes.

- Creation and maintenance of a project website
- Creation of a series of papers (working papers)
- Establishment of an information collection for the dissemination of program results (4-pages, Policy Brief English / French) to the public, policy makers, experts, cooperation agencies
- Production of a collective book from a selection of works and a closing conference (in English and French)

Tools and institutions of international cooperation built up after the 2nd World War seemed to be underperforming when facing global threats on the environment, the importance of which is underlined by many recent scientific reports. International Law must go beyond its traditional purpose of supporting inter-state cooperation since it must now define rules and standards likely to be incorporated into the national legislation to help coordinate, if not harmonise, national environmental legal and policy frameworks. Beyond this remarkable expansion of international Law (some say treaty congestion) these institutions and instruments have been significantly transformed to cope with the above-mentioned threats with some new kinds of expert advice, the development of multilateral treaty making, some new types of norms, the growing role of private actors, and the development of new forms of international control --both public and private. However the global environmental governance remains fragmented. Without a world executive and legislative power, there is a proliferation on the international scene of norm producers and disseminators. The creation of a World Environmental Organisation is still in limbo and it is also disputable whether such an organisation would suffice to integrate the “multiple sites of governance” [Snyder, 2010]. The latter are loosely articulated, among themselves and with the other regulation mechanisms in domains such as trade, investment or human rights and so on, although some research points at the burgeoning architecture mixing or alternating synergy, cooperation and conflict relations between different regimes [Biermann, 2009].
The international governance of the environment was first understood through international regime analysis, where regimes are defined as sets of principles, norms, rules, and procedures, which shape the behaviour of actors in a specific area. In practice this corresponds to international conventions and subordinate treaties. More recently though, it was suggested that these regimes are embedded in some more elaborated settings labelled “regime complexes”. These are made of three or more international regimes addressing some different issues within a common domain, which not only co-exist by also interact on substance or at operational level, without being formally coordinated, and by working alongside with other governance mechanisms involving private corporations and NGOs.
On the basis of this conceptualisation that saddles International Law, International Relations, Political Science, Political Economy and Sociology, this research project aims to analyse the enabling conditions, the forms and the impacts of norm circulation within actor networks by focusing on two important regime complexes, biodiversity and climate change. The fragmentation diagnosis being well established, it seems important to analyse these process through actor network analysis and focus on circulation of norms and actors. The core concept here is the “permeability” of the various elements of the regime complex, how circulation takes place and what are the impacts on the complex itself, and beyond on international governance as a whole.

Project coordinator

Madame Sandrine MALJEAN-DUBOIS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Délégation Provence et Corse _ Droit public comparé, droit international et droit européen) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CNRS DR 12 _ DPCDIDE Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Délégation Provence et Corse _ Droit public comparé, droit international et droit européen
CERAP Centre d’études et de recherches administratives et politiques
ART-Dev UMR Acteurs Ressources territoires dans le développement
Centre E-Durkheim Centre Emile Durkheim – science politique et sociologie comparatives

Help of the ANR 236,721 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2012 - 36 Months

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