Evaluating Citizen Petition Procedures: Lessons from an Analysis of the NAFTA Environmental Commission
36 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2011 Last revised: 27 Apr 2012
Date Written: December 21, 2011
The NAFTA Environmental Commission’s citizen petitions process is an important experiment in “new governance” because of its emphasis on citizen participation, accountability, and transparency as strategies to enhance government legitimacy and improve government performance. Its focus on promoting compliance and enforcement adds to its importance for those interested in those central aspects of the regulatory process. The procedure has had a rocky start in many respects, although there are signs that in some cases it has had a positive impact.
This article sets forth what we perceive to be the promise of the process, the pitfalls that have undermined its effectiveness to date, and adjustments that would equip it to make a meaningful contribution to North American environmental governance. More generally, the article provides a framework for evaluating such citizen petition processes and explains how lessons from an analysis of the North American procedure may contribute to assessments of the design and implementation of similar mechanisms in other international and domestic legal regimes.
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