No environmental problem is an island : Aligning networks of transboundary collaboration to complex policy issue interdependencies

Sammanfattning: In recent times, societal and environmental problems have been exhibiting a growing interconnectedness and interdependency. Based on the idea of institutional fit, interdependency on a problem level should be preferably matched with governance arrangements for effective problem-solving. Still, we know little about the governance of consequential interdependencies across societal and environmental problems. Moreover, knowledge on how the governance of such interdependencies can be effective is even more limited. In governance contexts, actors break down societal and environmental problems into specific policy issues. When actors engage in policy issues that exhibit interdependency with other policy issues, such as resource extraction and environmental protection, they must seek governance arrangements that go beyond framings of single policy issues as detached from others. Transboundary, collaborative forms of governance are often undertaken by actors as a response to interdependencies between policy issues. This combination of interdependencies and transboundary dimensions consolidates high complexity. Despite extensive literature on collaboration as a governance form and a growing body of research on interdependency between policy issues, few studies integrate these to inform research on the effectiveness of such complex governance systems, where both perspectives are combined. Nor do such studies provide empirical evidence of why the effects of transboundary arrangements for governing interdependencies matter. Without such knowledge, transboundary collaboration can therefore occur without acknowledging which policy issues are interdependent, and in what way. This poses a risk of hampering its effectiveness to solve given policy issues, pertaining to a societal or environmental problem. On that account, this PhD thesis will investigate policy issue interdependencies in the transboundary collaborative governance of the Norrström water basin, situated in the Mideast of Sweden with its outlet in Stockholm. This is a novel approach to understand a key feature of environmental problems that makes them difficult to effectively address, and to further investigate the potential of collaborative governance as way to succeed in such endeavour. This licentiate thesis addresses this current research gap with the two following papers. Paper I introduces a methodological procedure for identifying and measuring interdependencies between policy issues based on their common, causal relationships. It thereby contributes to advancing the description of policy issues as an indicator of actors’ decision-making and governance effectiveness. Paper II places the policy issue interdependency networks developed in Paper I in relation to governance networks using a multilevel network approach. It analyzes the impact of policy issue interdependencies as exogenous drivers of collaborative governance, providing insights about the evolution of complex governance systems. With these papers, this thesis aims at a concretization and application of interdependent structures at the policy issue level and actor level respectively. It thereby meets an objective highlighted by previous research by integrating interdependent policy issues and collaborative governance, contributing to the study of complex governance systems through its formation, development and effectiveness.

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