The Innovative North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation
22 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2003
The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (the NACEC or CEC) is an innovative international environmental institution in three important ways. It is the first international organization created to address the environmental aspects of economic integration. It is a regional environmental institution with powerful tools and almost unlimited jurisdiction. And it provides unprecedented opportunities for participation by civil society at the international level.
In each of these respects, the Commission addresses critical international concerns. The effort to reconcile environmental protection and economic integration has become one of the flashpoints of international discourse; although rarely raised before 1990, since then environmental objections to trade and investment agreements have nearly prevented ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement, contributed to the abandonment of talks aimed at a Multilateral Agreement on Investment, and helped lead to the 1999 Seattle riots that accompanied the failed effort to begin a new round of World Trade Organization negotiations. At the same time, the international community has become more aware of the interdependence of ecological systems and the need for international institutions to protect the environment. Despite the proliferation of environment policies effectively and the handful of regional environmental organizations are relatively powerless. With respect to economic integration and environmental protection, as well as many other areas of international cooperation, nations are struggling to respond to the demands of their citizens to participate in the development and implementation of international policies that affect them.
The Commission is important because it provides creative answers to each of these issues. Its answers may or may not prove satisfactory but, either way, the lessons to be drawn from its experience should be of great value to all those trying to reconcile environmental protection and economic integration, to promote stronger regional and global environmental organizations, and to find ways for civil society to participate in international policy. The agreement creating the CEC has already been used as a model for bilateral agreements between Canada and Chile and between the United States and Jordan. Surprisingly, however, the Commission has received relatively little scholarly attention. Although political scientists and lawyers have described its relationship to NAFTA and have analyzed its submissions procedure, there are few comprehensive analyses of how it is fulfilling, or failing to fulfill, its mandates. This book is intended to fill that gap.
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