Tracking 24 Years of Discussions About Transparency in International Marine Governance: Where Do We Stand?

  • March 2014
  • 33 Stan.Envtl.L.J. 167
  • Article
Jeff Ardron, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany
Nichola Clark, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University (corresponding author)
Katherine Seto, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
Cassandra Brooks, Stanford University, Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources
Duncan Currie, Globelaw, Christchurch, New Zealand
Eric Gilman, Hawaii Pacific University, College of Natural Sciences

Transparency in governance has been upheld as a principle tenet of democracy and a primary objective of governing actors for centuries. Discussions and analyses of the concept of transparency have been pervasive in the literature on international and multinational institutions. However, to what degree is transparency being discussed by those international institutions charged with the management of marine resources? To gauge the discussion, this study tracked the use of transparency terminology in annual meeting reports of 14 global and regional marine treaty bodies over 24 years, from 1990 to 2013. The context of the discussions was considered, and whether transparency was associated with mandatory, obligatory, or voluntary language. The results suggest that transparency has been discussed in highly varying ways and degrees amongst international marine bodies for at least 20 years, covering a wide breadth of topics, with some recurrent themes. Following an initial rise, transparency-related discussions levelled off and have remained relatively consistent for the last 15 years. Obligatory wording such as “should” was most often used in these discussions. While it is likely that the international political stage has influenced the way that international maritime organizations discuss transparency, within marine institutions these discussions have remained relatively static. Furthermore, institutional documents reveal little evidence of a link between discussions of transparency and global commitments.

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