Incubator project: Accountability and knowledge

This incubator project is intended to boost collaborative research across the four chair groups of the WCSG on learning-based accountability mechanisms in global sustainability governance, and the role of (contested) knowledge herein.

What we refer to here as ‘learning-based’ accountability mechanisms, together with protocols to improve transparency, are increasingly central within multilevel sustainability governance arrangements. These are evident, to varying degrees, in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

In these governance arrangements, there is often no (direct) legal framework to hold actors formally accountable for their agreed-upon aspirational goals and policy measures. Learning-based accountability and transparency is premised on a dominant assumption that information and knowledge, together with procedural agreements, will make it possible for governance actors in a network to ‘correct’ each other and encourage mutual learning for more effective goal achievement.

This presumed role of knowledge and information in fostering accountability poses various challenges to furthering sustainability objectives, given the contested political contexts within which knowledge for sustainability is produced, disclosed and used. This suggests an important research agenda on accountability, transparency and contested knowledge.

Pilot study

This incubator project seeks to extend conceptual and methodological innovation on this topic, through undertaking a pilot study on state-to-state accountability and transparency mechanisms/processes being negotiated and operationalized during the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-23) in Bonn (November 6-18, 2017).

Aim of the pilot study

The aim of the pilot is to generate common questions, and design and test appropriate methodologies, by which to analyse development and deployment of learning-based accountability mechanisms in this governance context.

Expected outputs

  • Development of pilot methodology on analysing learning-based accountability mechanisms in the climate realm that can subsequently (in future follow-up research) be applied to other global sustainability governance arenas with aspirational goals (e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity with its Strategic plans and targets, and the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development)
  • Enhanced academic (and practitioner) networks in preparation for funding proposals
  • A co-authored "research agenda-setting" article on learning-based accountability mechanisms and processes in multilevel sustainability governance.

This project is an incubator project of Wageningen Centre of Sustainability Governance