Tropical timber, e-waste and diamonds: How transparency makes MEAs work


This issue brief summarizes research on how transparency mechanisms contribute to the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). By comparing how these mechanisms operate in three MEAs, the project aims to help policymakers identify opportunities for improving accountability in international agreements.

Why does transparency matter?
When someone promises to do something, we want to encourage them to keep those promises, and we want to be confident that they will do so. In international agreements, accountability depends on transparency. But what does transparency mean? And how can it be used to promote accountability?

This issue brief summarizes findings from a research project seeking to answer these questions with respect to multilateral obligations to implement export restrictions on trade in raw materials designed to protect the environment, human health, and social stability. Using a lens that was originally developed to analyse transparency in the WTO, the project assessed transparency mechanisms in three trade-related MEAs: CITES, the Basel Convention, and the Kimberley Process.2

All three of these agreements regulate trade, as a policy tool to achieve objectives related to the environment and human well-being. They also all have implications for significant trade streams. For each agreement, the study looked at the MEA's implications for one specific significant traded product: tropical timber (CITES); e-waste3 (the Basel Convention); and diamonds (KP). Given the commercial value of these commodities, the economic incentive to contravene the agreements is enormous, matched by an equally-significant global public interest in accountability mechanisms that ensure that the agreements are implemented.

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Wolfe, Robert
All authors:
Robert Wolfe, Shane Baddeley
Publication type:
Issue Brief
Publication year:
Updated: 2013-03-14