A blog about governance for urban sustainability and resilience
Recently I presented a new paper at the annual Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics conference in Chicago (US). The paper seeks to better understand the widespread involvement of non-governmental organisation in the regulation and governance of the built environment. This paper sits in a larger research project organised by Professor David Levi-Faur on regulatory intermediaries. Regulatory intermediaries are
regulatory actors with the capacity to affect, sometimes control, and sometimes monitor relations between rule-makers and rule-takers via their interpretations of standards and their role in the increasingly institutionalized processes of monitoring, verification, testing, auditing, and certification. … Regulatory intermediaries include individuals and organizations positioned to play a more consistent and systematic role in the regulatory regime, unlike ad hoc regulators that are ad hoc alarmist. These actors are increasingly entrusted with ongoing regulation because of their intimate familiarity, often as expert professionals, with the processes of rule-making, rule-intermediaries, and rule-enforcement (Levi-Faur and Starobin, 2014, pp. 21-22)
Strikingly, the regulation and governance of the built environment is crowded by such regulatory intermediaries. In the paper I discussed a sample of 50 of such intermediaries that I selected from the various studies I have been involved in over the last years. In itself this sample of 50 regulatory intermediaries in the regulation and governance of the built environment stresses Levi-Faur and Sharobin’s point: no longer is government the sole or final authority in this field.
To give some examples, a number of regulatory intermediaries that I have come across over the last years are:
Yet, my studies have uncovered additional types of regulatory intermediaries in the regulation and governance of the built environment. I typify these as ‘rule bridges’ and ‘rule pushers’. Rule bridges are regulatory intermediaries that bring together rule makers (say, government) and rule takers (say, architects, engineers, developers, etc), and to close the gap between these two.
A typical example of a rule bridge is is the Peer Experience and Reflective Learning Network (PEARL); India’s first national network of cities. It was introduced to support cities (as rule takers) in implementing India’s progressive city modernisation scheme the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), and to support them in complying with requirements set by the Government of India (as rule maker) for obtaining funding for implementing the JNNURM. PEARL builds on city to city collaboration and cities to national government collaboration, and is supported by international organisations such as the World Bank and Cities Alliances. PEARL fosters peer learning amongst cities, promotes replication of best practices, and seeks to identify and address knowledge gaps and regulatory barriers by initiating dialogues between the cities (as rule takers) and the national government of India (as rule maker).
As rule pusher intermediaries may seek regulatory change, without actually proposing or developing regulation themselves. This role is closely related to traditional lobbying for regulatory change by industry and interest groups. Yet, it differs from it in that this rule pushing is done in a highly transparent and publicly visible way, often by bringing together a number of rule makers and rule takers to study a regulatory problem and propose a solution to it. Typical examples from my studies are ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), the Mexico City Pact, the World Mayors Council on Climate Change (WMCCC), and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.
These are global networks of cities that seek to address environmental and resource sustainability of cities. Through such networks cities share information and knowledge on their regulatory approaches to urban sustainability, and experiment with alternative regulatory approaches. Whilst not setting standards themselves these networks (as regulatory intermediaries) support cities (as rule makers) to learn from each other what regulatory approach may work best, where and why. Yet, it is particularly on an international level that these networks have a strong impact on pushing ahead regulation for urban sustainability. Because of the participation of a large number of cities (over a 1,000 in ICLEI alone), including the world’s major cities, these networks have significant political voice. This becomes evident, for instance, in these networks’ participation in United Nations’ international climate negotiations where they (as rule takers) push nation states (as rule makers) to implement stronger regulatory requirements for urban sustainability and resilience.
Now, why is a focus on these regulatory intermediaries and their roles important? The answer to that question is not all too complicated: they have a very strong impact on the regulation and governance of the built environment. This impact may be positive and negative. Some positive impacts that I have uncovered in my research are:
Yet, not only positive outcomes may result from the involvement of regulatory intermediaries. In my studies I have come across some considerable constraints as well. Some of these are:
In conclusion, regulatory intermediaries fulfill key roles in ensuring a safe, healthy and sustainable built environment, and a well-functioning construction sector. Yet, may paper also shows that too much reliance on regulatory intermediaries may be harmful.
Are you interested in reading this paper? Please send me an email and I will send you a copy.