The Clinton Global Initiative. A Role Model for 21st Century Diplomacy?

Bachelor Thesis, 2013

99 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations

List of Figures and Tables


1. Introduction

2. Literature Review
2.1 What is Diplomacy?
2.2 “New Diplomacy” in a Multipolar World
2.2.1 Global Interdependence
2.2.2 Key Characteristics of “New Diplomacy”
2.2.3 Partnerships, “Philanthrocapitalism” and Elite Groups
2.3 Characteristics of Traditional Diplomacy
2.4 Climate Change Governance
2.4.1 The Global Issue of Climate Change
2.4.2 State Actors and International Organizations
2.4.3 Non-State Actors and Multi-Level Partnerships

3. Methodology
3.1 Epistemological and Ontological Position
3.2 Case Study Research
3.3 Commitment Analysis
3.3.1 Statistical Analysis
3.3.2 Qualitative Content Analysis
3.4 Qualitative in-depth Interviews
3.4.1 Interviewees
3.4.2 Themes and Questioning
3.4.3 Interview Style and Technique
3.4.4 Transcription and Analysis
3.4.5 Ethical Considerations
3.5 Comparative Analysis

4. Findings
4.1 Statistical Analysis
4.1.1 Number and Estimated Value
4.1.2 Actors
4.1.3 Regional Focus
4.1.4 Approaches towards Climate Change
4.1.5 Length
4.2 Content Analysis
4.2.1 Board
4.2.2 Players
4.2.3 Stakes
4.2.4 Moves
4.3 Qualitative Interviews
4.3.1 Board
4.3.2 Players
4.3.3 Stakes
4.3.4 Moves
4.4 The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
4.4.1 Board
4.4.2 Players
4.4.3 Stakes
4.4.4 Moves

5. Discussion
5.1 The Clinton Global Initiative a TOWS-Matrix
5.1.1 Threats
5.1.2 Opportunities
5.1.3 Weaknesses
5.1.4 Strengths
5.2 Traditional and New Diplomacy Exemplified by CGI and UNFCCC

6. Conclusion


Appendix 1 Evaluation

Appendix 2 Analytical Framework informed by Starkey, Boyer and Wilkenfeld (2010)

Appendix 3 Method-Research Question Correlation

Appendix 4 Example Commitment

Appendix 5 Category Scheme for Statistical Analysis

Appendix 6 Coding Scheme for Content and Interview Analysis

Appendix 7 Question Catalogue for Interviews

Appendix 8 Sample Transcript

Appendix 9 Interview Request: Letter and Information Portfolio

Appendix 10 Consent Form (Sample)

Appendix 11 List of Commitments for Content Analysis

Appendix 12 Commitment Tracks at CGI


Recent trends such as the communications revolution and the increasing importance of transnational non-state actors have led to increasing levels of global interdependence. At the same time, global public goods issues such as pollution, poverty, or health call for collective action at a worldwide scale. Both trends are inter-related and have led academics to recognize a development towards a “new diplomacy” that is characterized by a growing involvement of public and private actors from civil society and the business world, by flat hierarchies and inter-sectoral partnerships, by an increasing impact of individuals, and by flexible and solution-focused approaches. There is no agreed position as to whether this “new diplomacy” is to be placed in opposition to more traditional, state-centric accounts of diplomacy, or whether it rather adds to a polycentric world system.

This paper has taken the discourse on changes in global diplomacy as a foundation for an indepth case study of the Clinton Global Initiative which appeared and proved to be an excellent example for the realization of recent trends in real politics. By applying a mixedmethodology, the organizational structure and membership were investigated as to effectively be able to make statements about the initiative’s approach towards the global issue of climate change. Via a consecutive comparison to the state-centric United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, strengths and weaknesses of the Clinton Global Initiative as an international organization could be identified, and recommendations could be given as to how modern diplomacy could be designed more effectively.

Thus, what this research suggests is that global diplomacy needs to open up more for individual and group actors from the public and private spheres at all points of policy development; that it should reorganize accountability mechanisms as to include more and less formal types; and that it should lay more emphasis on solving global issues instead of merely talking about them.

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

List of Figures and Tables


Fig. 1 The Regime Complex for Climate Change (Keohane and Victor 2010, p5)

Fig. 2 The Transnational Climate Change Triangle (Abbott 2012, p5)

Fig. 3 Structure of Overall Methodology

Fig. 4 Interview Participants and Triangulation of Results

Fig. 5 Process of Finding and Conducting Interviews

Fig. 6 Overall Number and Estimated Value of Commitments (2005-2012)

Fig. 7 Commitments with at least one actor of a certain kind

Fig. 8 Relative share of actors participating in a commitment

Fig. 9 Initiators and Partners in Commitments from NGOs, Business and State Actors

Fig. 10 Percentage of Estimated Overal Value with at least one type of an actor

Fig. 11 Share of Domestic Commitments for Europe and North America (with at least one count)

Fig. 12 Relative Share of Approaches towards Climate Change

Fig. 13 Average Length of Commitment per Actor

Fig. 14 Negotiation Venues at CGI’s Annual Meeting

Fig. 15 Membership Structure of CGI

Fig. 16 TOWS-Matrix of the Clinton Global Initiative

Fig. 17 Advantages of the Clinton Global Initiative


Table 1 Number and Percentage of Commitments with at least one partner from a region

Table 2 Focus Regions (Number and Percentage of Commitments with at least one count)

Table 3 Domestic Focus of Commitments

Table 4 Number and Percentage of Approaches (with at least one count)


This thesis is devoted to my brother who has always been a great pool of experience and who has given me excellent advice when fortune was turning its back at me. It is not by accident that he had given me the book which finally led to the topic idea of this paper. The thesis is also devoted to those who have provided me with a place to sleep, especially in the last days of my stay in Brussels and The Hague. Recent events have shown me that you can never take such help for granted, which is why I want to express my gratitude to Mareike, Trevor, Uli, Marnix and Arina.

A special thank you does also go to those people who have spent their time correcting my excerpts or have contributed to the development of this research by giving feedback or other guidance; among them are first and foremost my supervisors Sean Demack and Paul Nixon, but also Sven, Marcel, Andreas, and my dear friend Trevor.

One final note of appreciation goes to Linda who has been so kind as to take over some of my tasks in my last internship week, released me from writing on half a netbook screen, and was even so thoughtful as to bring me tea. It is these little gestures of friendliness that should define the spirit of how humans live together.

1. Introduction

“Diplomacy is more complex today than it has ever been,” write the renowned scholars Pauline Kerr and Geoffrey Wiseman (2012, p343) in their latest review of world politics Diplomacy in a Globalizing World, and suggest that now is the best time to study this manifold area. As they point out, a couple of contemporary trends such as shifting international power relations and the revolution of information technology have initiated wide-ranging changes in how diplomacy is practiced. According to the authors, two worldviews compete to grasp the essence of what diplomacy means in the 21st century: “new diplomacy” and “traditional diplomacy”. Here, while the latter concept is based on a more state-centric approach, Kerr and Wiseman (2012, p342) describe “new diplomacy” as follows:

Analytically, the sovereign state is losing its grip on international relations in the face of globalizing forces that are irreversible; normatively, new non-state actors are justly demanding a greater role in international policy making; and, methodologically, the focus must be not only on macro foreign policy decisions but equally on micro, everyday diplomatic practices. … Accordingly, diplomacy is a more universal social phenomenon than a territorial, state-based one.

Similarly, Parag Khanna (2011) points out that once a year in September New York is unknowingly witness to a diplomatic duel on how to run the world. The reason for that is the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) that accompanies the UN General Assembly since 2005. CGI is an organisation that gathers politicians, managers, philanthropists and leaders of civil society dedicated to address global issues such as poverty, clean energy or global health; or, as Freedlander (2012, 2) puts it, “to no less a goal than saving the world.”

While it may be true that the United Nations (UN) would describe the latter goal just as much as theirs, there is an essential difference between both organizations: their approach to take action. In other words, while the UN are oft-times referred to as a “talking shop”, “President Clinton has always described CGI as being in the “how” business: turning ideas into action” (Korngold 2012, 3).

Take for example the unrewarding negotiations on a post-Kyoto agreement on emissions reduction at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At least since the Bali Road Map “a set of decisions that represented the various tracks that were seen as key to reaching a global climate deal” (UNFCCC 2012) was adopted in 2007, thousands of representatives of over 190 countries, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and the media regularly meet, discuss and then, simply spoken, agree to disagree. To illustrate this point, Bond (2010) brands the coming-into-existence of 2009’s Copenhagen Accord with the slogan, “I’ll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.”

It is worth noting that the international order, indeed, faces crises. Literature (Wright 2012, Badie 2012) suggests that the current international system fails to address transnational threats and encounters issues of legitimacy and effectiveness. In a more interdependent, globalizing world, however, global issues need to be met by effective global action. Returning to the opening statement of Kerr and Wiseman (2012), it is clear that now is certainly the best time to study diplomacy, as diplomatic theory so far has failed to provide practitioners with a framework to solve the aforementioned problems (Sharp 2012).

In that sense, the Clinton Global Initiative by gathering new actors in world politics and promoting new approaches offers an appealing research subject as it seems to represent a role model for the practice of diplomacy in the 21st century. To investigate this latter claim, this research sets out to answer the following questions:

1) How does the Clinton Global Initiative address contemporary global issues, specifically climate change?
2) What lessons can other international organizations such as the UN learn from the Clinton Global Initiative for the practice of diplomacy?

To answer these questions a multi-method case study including a statistical and a content analysis of CGI’s most important outcomes the so-called commitments to action and five interviews were conducted. Information was collected under the guidance of an analytical framework for international negotiations from Starkey, Boyer and Wilkenfeld (2010) and interpreted with the help of a TOWS-Matrix as suggested by Schulze Zumkley (2011). In addition to that, a final step embraced a comparative analysis of CGI and the UNFCCC. This was made possible not only through the application of the aforementioned analytical framework; it was also facilitated by concentrating the investigation on the subject of anticlimate-change actions.

The research is presented in five more chapters. Firstly, a thorough literature review sheds light on academic debates around the fields of global diplomacy, specifically on the controversial theories of “traditional diplomacy” and “new diplomacy”. It also applies these theoretical concepts on the management of climate change negotiations in the global sphere and concludes with an assessment of more empirical studies in this field. Secondly, the methodology chapter outlines the case study and multi-method rationale behind this study. The findings chapter, thirdly, presents the results from the primary research and compares those to the academic positions on the performance of the UNFCCC. Fourthly, the previous sections are combined in a critical discussion of strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of, and threats to CGI, and advantages and disadvantages when compared to the UNFCCC are debated. Finally, in the conclusion, the research questions above are answered and recommendations for the practice of modern diplomacy are given.

2. Literature Review

Studying international systems and world politics is an enormous undertaking as it may happen with an analytical focus on a wide range of different conceptual units and may include several topics of more or less urgency. For this research, it was therefore decided to lay the analytical lens on one topic area, namely the environment, and more specifically, climate change. While this allowed the investigation to concentrate on the particularities of a single issue (see Methodology), it also provided for a comparison to an organization representing essential elements of what was referred to in the introduction as “traditional diplomacy” the UNFCCC.

This literature review gives an overview of how CGI and the UNFCCC system fit into the wider academic positions on international diplomacy. It starts by developing a working definition for the concept of diplomacy before identifying characteristics of the two counterparts “new diplomacy” and “traditional diplomacy”. The final part proceeds to the issue of climate change and how central governance and diplomatic processes in this area are described in academic literature. As academic works about CGI are practically non-existent, it seemed more rewarding to include a few scholarly magazine and newspaper articles directly in the case study analysis (see Methodology).

2.1 What is Diplomacy?

The Oxford English Dictionary (as cited in Kerr and Wiseman 2012, p1) defines diplomacy as “the management of international relations by negotiation; the methods by which these relations are adjusted and managed by ambassadors and envoys.” This definition entails two elements which are ascribed to the practice of diplomacy by academics, namely the inclusion of negotiations by “a special group of individuals, or accredited representatives” (Kerr and Wiseman 2012, p13), and the focus on the institutions of sovereign political units today: of sovereign nation-states (Berridge 2010; Sharp 2009; Starkey, Boyer and Wilkenfeld 2010).

Within these assumptions, Berridge (2010) states that diplomats and diplomacy as employed by consulates and embassies fulfil the following functions: representation and friendly relations, negotiating and lobbying, clarifying intentions, political reporting, commercial diplomacy and trade relations, providing services to nationals and information gathering. However, noting Morgan’s (1981, p240) remark whether we can “really study international politics with a model of the international system that just lists nations as members and leaves … others out,” it becomes questionable if such a detailed list of diplomatic functions and such a narrow focus on nation-state diplomats is a fruitful approach for this research.

In fact, according to Kerr and Wiseman (2012), many academics believe in a changing diplomacy that embraces more than formal inter-state relations and involves a multitude of non-state actors. From an analytical point of view, it is therefore more beneficial to apply a broader definition of diplomacy such as Sharp’s (2009, p96), who writes that diplomacy’s primary concern “is with the conduct of relations between people who, whatever the underlying trends in these terms, at the given moment do not believe or feel themselves to be bound to one another by conventional familial, community, or societal links and yet who want to, or believe that they have to, have relations with each other.”

In other words, diplomacy means holding up relationships between groups that are or feel essentially different. Its core function in this process is not a long list of ambassadorial activities, but simply representation of one’s own group and communication with and to another one (Kerr and Wiseman 2012; Pigman 2012). Although this may sound oversimplifying, taking into account Starkey, Boyer and Wilkenfeld’s (2010) argument about the increasing importance of new sources of identity next to the nation-state (e.g. culture, ethnicity, religion, gender and status), it is much easier to come to the conclusion that quite in contrast to the first assumption a mere focus on nation-states would be oversimplifying.

At the same time, as Sharp (2009, p310) has noted, “in plural worlds where co-existence is a shared problem, even where it is a shared value, an end to conflict in general is unlikely to be achieved.” Consequently, diplomacy has become all the more important as it is the only option to produce advantageous outcomes of cooperation and avoid violent conflict (Berridge 2010). We should therefore now explore how scholars frame diplomacy in a more complex and interconnected, and a more traditional fashion, respectively.

2.2 “New Diplomacy” in a Multipolar World

2.2.1 Global Interdependence

There is broad academic consensus that the process of globalization in the last three decades led to an evident global interconnectedness in every sphere from the economic to the cultural and a relative increase of the importance of non-state actors (McGrew 2011; Hocking 2004). Duit and Galaz (2006, p18) provide a useful insight in what this implies for world politics, as a fundamental shift is on the way in how we govern ourselves. There is a move away from command-and-control management performed by Weberian bureaucrats within centralized national bureaucracies toward a plethora of different schemes of self-government, publicprivate partnerships, collaborative efforts, policy entrepreneurs, and participatory initiatives usually gathered under the umbrella term of ‘governance’.

Despite Kleiner’s (2008, p328) argument that in such an interdependent world the “difference between “we” and “them” is melting away” and “governments often no longer refer to the prohibition of interference in their internal affairs”, it has already been established above that conflicts are still likely to occur. As a result, a more complex, poly-centric and multidimensional diplomacy is necessary to overcome an international system which according to Morgan (1981) is badly equipped to deal with worldwide problems such as peace, poverty or pollution and therefore falls short of creating global justice.

This “new diplomacy” will serve as an overarching paradigm for this research. Academics (Ataman 2003, Lake 2008, McGrew 2011, Khanna 2011, and Willets 2011) have widely investigated what it implies and next to the brief account of its characteristics given in the introduction, it is worthwhile to have a closer look on its main features.

2.2.2 Key Characteristics of “New Diplomacy”

First, new diplomacy is closely correlated to the concept of “governance”. Here, while governance has become somewhat of an academic buzz word without consensus on a satisfying, overarching definition or measurement indicators (Kaufmann and Kraay 2008), little attention has been paid to its interplay with diplomatic activities. One of the marked exceptions is Cooper, Hocking and Maley’s (2008) collection Global Governance and Diplomacy: Worlds Apart? which sets the two concepts in a wider framework of complex and multi-dimensional world politics. In this book, Thakur (2008, p289) defines governance “as the sum of laws, norms, policies and institutions that define, constitute and mediate relations between citizens, society, market and the state.” Building on this definition, Jönsson (2008) explains that with negotiations and networks key processes and structures in governance and diplomacy are the same.

That governance therefore serves as a profitable point of reference for this analysis is also shown by the fact that both concepts face the challenge of including new types of actors. As Jönsson (2008, p38) writes: “Will the institution of diplomacy continue to legitimise states and delegitimise other actors, or will it find ways of recognising and legitimising other actors in global governance?”

Indeed, diverse agency is the second characteristic and one of the most important concepts that relates to “new diplomacy”. Rana (2011) has observed that “new diplomacy” is “multiowner diplomacy”, that is, state ministries have to accept that in the contemporary world many players share a country’s foreign policy and diplomacy. Accordingly, Neumann (2008) argues that if the state system is nowadays only one political system, then negotiation as a key function of diplomacy will increasingly involve other polities such as business, activist networks, regions, cities, or the like.

Among the new actors most frequently identified in literature (Saner and Yiu 2008, Hocking 2004) are private corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Together with the traditional state diplomats they build an “actor triangle” that is also one of the key units in this research. However, a look at the development field one of the main concerns of CGI participants widens the perspective on new actors to such a degree as to include “megaphilantropists”, celebrities, and the global public (Brainard and LaFleur 2008).

While it is controversial that access to international institutions has also made these new actors part of a broader decision-making structure (Bexell, Tallberg and Uhlin 2010), according to Thakur (2008, p292), the “core task of diplomacy is to engage in issue-specific “network diplomacy.” The latter has more players than club diplomacy, is flat rather than hierarchical, engages in multiple forms of communication beyond merely the written, is more transparent than confidential, and its ‘consummation’ takes the form of increased bilateral flows instead of formal signing ceremonies.” As a result, a highly complex system, including a “diplomacy of the public sphere” and a “network state” (Castells 2008), and a polycentric societal regulation on various local, national, regional and global jurisdictions evolves (Scholte 2008).

Such a system hints at the third point which has to be included in a detailed account of “new diplomacy:” questions of actor legitimacy and power relations. Gilboa (2008) has defined power as the capability of an actor to have others do what you want and has identified two elements to achieve that outcome: hard power (i.e. coercion and payments) and attraction (soft power). According to Ordeix-Rigo and Duarte (2009, p558), Schuman has characterized legitimacy as “a generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions.” Both concepts can be combined in the construct of accountability, and both are important in the multi-faceted “new diplomacy” structure because they give insights into the potential influence of certain actors.

However, as Bexell, Tallberg and Uhlin (2010) argue, accountability is made more complicated through multi-actor structures as formal checks-and-balances mechanisms are usually not established. Instead, the authors (Ibid, p91) recognize a “pluralistic system of accountability … where mechanisms of professional/peer accountability, public reputational accountability, market accountability, financial accountability, and to a minor extent legal accountability come to the fore.” A similar approach was suggested by Zadek (2008) who writes that new collaborative approaches in global governance could revolutionize our understanding of accountability in contemporary world politics.

It is worth stating at this point that such collaborative approaches have been identified by some academics (Hocking 2004; Sharp 2009; Thakur 2008) in new forms of public, private and public-private partnerships (PPPs). Next to the forthcoming of private elites and the phenomenon of “philanthrocapitalism”, partnerships are a concept of major concern for this study. At the end of this section on “new diplomacy”, it is therefore profitable to explore all three of them more in-depth.

2.2.3 Partnerships, “Philanthrocapitalism” and Elite Groups

Partnerships, according to Hocking (2004), are an essential component of what he calls “catalytic diplomacy”, i.e. forms of communication and representation where a number of actors has the capacity to manage complex policy areas through the contribution of different resources such as financial means, knowledge or the conferment of legitimacy. While the notion of partnership is mostly described as positive, Bexell, Tallberg and Uhlin (2010, p89) have distinguished two strands: “One emphasizes the potential of partnerships to close governance gaps, create winwin situations, and improve problem-solving, whereas the other is critical of the increased participation of for-profit businesses in cooperation on global public goods.”

The latter notion of criticism towards partnerships shows the concept’s close relationship to another phenomenon which has respectively been described as “corporate diplomacy” (Ordeix-Rigo and Duarte 2009), “greedy company diplomacy” (Sharp 2009), and “philanthrocapitalism” (Edwards 2009). It is not by accident that these labels imply positive and negative connotations. On the one hand, we have more positive accounts where private actors try to “change the role of the corporation as an institution in society … mainly dealing with public institutions when taking over some of its roles” (Ordeix-Rigo and Duarte 2009, p559) and use “business thinking … to promote development and social change” (Edwards 2009, p237). On the other hand, more negative viewpoints (Edwards 2011) hold that “philanthrocapitalists” produce fewer actual results than often assumed; raise accountability concerns if they gain more influence, resources and power; lead to a harmful introduction of market-capitalism approaches into the social field; and have not yet proven that they can contribute a solution to the injustice originally caused by capitalistic practices. While it is not clear which position is more convincing, both analyses have proven valuable for the conduct of this research with regard to the key role that private corporations play in CGI procedures.

Contradicting claims have also been made about the influence of private elites in global governance and diplomacy. Pigman (2007), for example, has stated that the World Economic Forum (WEF) an elite club that gathers international CEOs, heads of states, and civil society leaders once a year in Davos (Switzerland) can be seen as a space for informal diplomacy through information exchange and problem solving. Graz (2003) defines such elite clubs as places where individuals in power positions come together behind closed doors. Looking at this constellation of world politics from a critical perspective, de Sousa-Santos and Rodriguez-Gavarito (2005) point out that elite clubs represent fertile ground for the spread of “neoliberal governance.” Therefore, in its exhaustive analysis of the World Social Forum (WSF) Ramos (2010) promotes the notion of “alternative globalization” that is essentially non-ideological and anti-globalist. Certainly, these works provide a good framework for analyzing power relations and alternative ways of approaching world politics within CGI.

Nevertheless, one should also consider that “in a highly networked world, small-scale actors have the capability to achieve large-scale impacts in ways achievable in the past only through raw institutional growth” (Auerswald 2009, p55). Thus, elitist individuals who are responsible for socially valuable action and belong to one or more of the three categories identified by Stein (2008) namely philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and civil entrepreneurs are an effective force in global governance. Stein (Ibid) even goes so far as to use Bill Clinton as a positive example for such elitist individual actions.

All this evidence suggests that a “new diplomacy” exists and is a theoretical paradigm worth applying in this research. For a successful investigation of CGI within this paradigm, however, it is useful and necessary to have an understanding of theories that oppose existing frameworks within which world politics are defined. A final quote by Badie (2012, p87) will therefore provide a suitable transition to the next section which puts “new diplomacy” into perspective while giving a detailed account of its “traditional diplomacy” counterpart:

In fact, the global world is characterized by new diplomacy, which must be added to the traditional diplomacy associated with a world of more than 190 sovereign states. In this new diplomacy, societies (of individuals, peoples, and groups) are actively producing what I conceptualize as intersocial diplomacy. … Importantly, it leads to a double competitive dynamic: on the one hand, between the different actors; and, on the other, between the two kinds of diplomacy, intersocial and interstate. This competition creates new roles, new functions, and new prospects for diplomatic achievements and possibly global governance.

2.3 Characteristics of Traditional Diplomacy

“Traditional diplomacy” is a term best defined by Berridge (2011) as a “counter-revolution” of more traditional, state-based diplomatic approaches such as secret negotiations, active foreign ministries and serial summitry. Similarly, Kerr and Taylor (2012) argue that ‘track two diplomacy’ a synonym for non-state, informal diplomacy follows a clear hierarchy and mainly serves traditional state interests. Two characteristics are essential for the concept of “traditional diplomacy,” state-centrism and the dominance of biand multilateral negotiations in international relations.

First, and most convincingly, nation-states provide an outstanding analytical category and, as Morgan (1981) and Sharp (2009) have stated, it is easy to believe that the world consists of a single set of similar political units with roughly the same problems and conditions. More importantly, though, is the argument that among the “many actors on the international stage … states are still the most important since only they have far reaching, comprehensive functions” (Kleiner 2008, p322) a position that is supported by a multitude of academics (Berridge 2010; Jentleson 2012; Mair and Perthes 2011; Edwards 2009). Similarly, while it may be true that the increasing number of non-state actors has posed a challenge to the unique role of state-diplomats, research (Kleiner 2008; Berridge 2010) suggests that non-state representatives may be helpful in diplomacy, but do certainly not substitute professional diplomatic actors.

Yet, supporters of more state-centric approaches towards international diplomacy cannot deny the existence of transboundary problems such as poverty or environmental pollution and a certain degree of interdependence. The second argument of scholars at this end of the diplomacy debate is therefore a predominance of multilateral cooperation, that is, a concept that “centers on the collectively agreed norms, rules, and principles that guide and govern interstate behavior” (Hampson and Heinbecker 2011, p300). As such, international governmental organizations (IGOs) are created by states to manage parts of their foreign policy (Kleiner 2008) or, as Murray (2006, p306) puts it, they are “facilitators of expertise available to states if required … they occupy a specialised niche in the modern diplomatic environment.”

Whether or not these assumptions of “traditional diplomacy” hold true in the light of “real” practice is a question that cannot be answered at this point. It is, however, a core part of the second research question of this study when comparing the research findings on CGI with strategies based on a more traditional paradigm, namely the UNFCCC process. We should therefore now concentrate on how the academic world has tried to explain climate change governance in the theoretical light of “new” and “traditional diplomacy.”

2.4 Climate Change Governance

2.4.1 The Global Issue of Climate Change

The logic behind climate change as the topical focus for this research on international diplomacy is threefold: First, it is a transboundary issue that represents a typical global publicgoods phenomenon; second, it is an ambiguous topic that does not easily fit into a category of what has classically been referred to as “high” or “low” politics; and third, it has been analyzed in “traditional” as well as “new diplomacy” terms.

With regard to the first argument, several academics (Starkey, Boyer and Wilkenfeld 2010; Bernauer and Schaffer 2010) have reasoned that due to its cross-border implications environmental problems, more specifically global warming, represent a so-called global public-goods issue calling for collective action. In short, a global public good is something that cannot effectively be protected within territorial boundaries. As such climate change is, according to Storm (2009, p1012), “a quintessential ‘global public bad’, because the incremental impact of one ton of GHG on climate change is independent of where in the world it is emitted.” This high salience of global warming on the international agenda makes it a very suitable topic for an investigation of international diplomatic systems as it represents a playing field for diverse actors in the global arena.

Similarly, the high degree of uncertainty and controversy (Starkey, Boyer and Wilkenfeld 2010) related to possible ramifications of climate change qualify the issue as suitable for this research. Why is that? Because, while critics could argue that climate change is a matter that is only of secondary importance to nation-states, thus, claiming that even in a ‘new diplomacy’ paradigm a focus on ‘low politics’ would prevail, such a theoretical flaw can be easily overcome by pointing to scholars such as Detraz and Betsill (2009) or Biermann and Dingwerth (2004), and organizations like the German Advisory Council on Global Change (2008), that have branded climate change as a security risk. Moreover, blurring distinctions between the issue being a matter of “high” or “low politics” become evident when we take into account that climate change will also have important economic consequences (Meadowcroft 2009), thereby making the issue much “harder” than one might originally assume.

The third and probably most crucial point about climate change for this study is the existence of “traditional” and “new diplomacy” accounts of its governance mechanisms. Thus, on the one hand, we have positions such as Paterson’s (1999) who claims that the community of states is in principle capable of responding to environmental change in a collective. On the other hand, however, literature (Andonova, Betsill and Bulkeley 2007) suggests that climate change is an area where emerging forms of governance and multi-actor diplomacy are frequently found. Kjellen (2007, p211) even goes so far as to say that the “way [climate change] has been tackled by the international community is also the best example so far of practical implementation of the New Diplomacy.”

Next to this rather theoretical approach, the ambiguity of global warming that comes to the fore by looking at the academic debates evolving around it, is also shown in the complex and fragmented architecture that empirical research has identified (Bäckstrand 2008). Whether one believes in more or less state-centric paradigms, the institutional framework for tackling climate change on an international level is multi-layered and confusing. Consequently, the final part of this literature review will look, in turn, at more empirical research on both sides of the theoretical coin.

2.4.2 State Actors and International Organizations

Biermann and Dingwerth (2004) as well as Chander and Tulkens (2011) have identified key roles for the state in international environmental politics as they are typically still the core decision-maker. At the same time, research (Falkner 2012; Biermann and Dingwerth 2004) found that contrary to critics of more traditional accounts of global governance and diplomacy, international society has been witness to a steady “greening process” over the last 100 years in which there exists rather an environmental “race to the top” than a “race to the bottom.”

That states do hold a pivotal role in global climate change diplomacy is also shown by their significance in the negotiation of a mitigation agreement in the Rio and Kyoto processes under the umbrella of the UNFCCC (Starkey, Boyer and Wilkenfeld 2010). Although there is no consensus on whether this process will progress and succeed within one multilateral organization, a large part of the academic world still advocates a rather state-centric approach. Dröge (2011), for example, presents four scenarios for future development in climate change negotiations, all of which are based on national actors or on state groupings such as the G20; Esty (2009) calls for a new “Global Environmental Organization” that coordinates and pools national and international efforts undertaken so far; and Keohane and Victor (2010, p9) see the most promising future in so-called “regime complexes” where “many distinct problems— each with its own attributes, administrative challenges and distinctive political constituencies” is addressed by a functional regulatory state-actor grouping (see Figure 1).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1 The Regime Complex for Climate Change (Keohane and Victor 2010, p5)

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Fig. 2 The Transnational Climate Change Triangle (Abbott 2012, p5)

2.4.3 Non-State Actors and Multi-Level Partnerships

All the same, it is important to remember that an increasing number of climate change governance academics argue in favor of the “new diplomacy” paradigm. Abbott (2012), Bulkeley et al. (2012), Andonova, Betsill and Bulkeley (2007), and Pattberg and Stripple (2008), for instance, focus their research on the activity of transnational actors in the realm of climate change. Here, building on and essentially refuting Keohane and Victor’s (2010) “regime complexes”, the “climate change triangle” of Abbott (2012) recognizes the increasing role of non-state actors in climate change governance (see Figure 2).

This course of research does not only take into account the crucial activities of non-nationstate actors, it also points out that in climate change diplomacy similar phenomena as in the general accounts of “new diplomacy” occur. Thus, academics have investigated the cominginto-existence of partnerships, the key role of business and civil society actors, and the performance of influential individuals.

As for the role of NGOs and corporate actors, it is not by accident that one can identify them in the “Actor Triangle” that Abbott’s (2012) figure represents. As the author (Ibid, p547) writes:

Business … contributes material resources, managerial authority and expertise. However, self regulatory business standards are typically less demanding than those emanating from civil society bodies or public authorities. NGOs, in contrast, are independent of business, but have other problems of representativeness and legitimacy.

It is worth noting that once again next to the advantages of private actors such as flexible problem-solving approaches, advocacy and strong finance, research (Abbott 2012) emphasizes issues with market-based solutions and self-regulatory mechanisms. Questions about the accountability of new actors and partnerships are also voiced by Bäckstrand (2008) who points to various combinations of non-hierarchical and hierarchical approaches. Moreover, she argues that “transnational partnerships can be seen as a response to the “regulatory deficit” or “implementation deficit” permeating multilateral regimes” (Ibid, p76) and that this response has led to a trend towards more “complex multilateralism” (Ibid, p99).

At this point, one brief comment may also be allowed towards the increasingly important role of influential individuals and celebrities. In spite of difficulties to assess the actual impact of such players on climate change governance, Boykoff and Goodman (2009) state that a dramatic rise in celebrity involvement has occurred over the course of the last decade and has led to increasing levels of public awareness and media scrutiny.

While all this evidence does not suggest that the nation-state has lost his key role in global climate change governance and diplomacy, it does, however, stress the fact that a polycentric approach towards this pivotal public-goods issue may be more fruitful. Such an approach “encourages experimentation by multiple actors, as well as the development of methods for assessing the benefits and costs of particular strategies adopted in one setting and comparing these with results obtained in other settings” (Ostrom 2010, p555). In these terms, it is possible to read the academic debate on “new” and “traditional diplomacy” in general, and more specifically on climate change, in a way that introduces the idea of a somewhat “enmeshed” diplomatic system between the two extremes. As the following methodology chapter will show, this research tries to identify strengths and weaknesses on both sites to give recommendations on how the distance between them could be more easily bridged.

3. Methodology

3.1 Epistemological and Ontological Position

Can we study world politics scientifically? Can we quantify such important concepts as power and legitimacy? Is the human factor in diplomacy measurable? A study that aims at comparing a global forum like CGI with the international climate change regime under the umbrella of the UNFCCC, thus comparing two essentially different ideas of how to run the world, needs to take these questions into consideration. In the complex and interdependent world of the 21st century where "international affairs are beset by chance, accident, human choice and other factors that make events rather more unique and unpredictable than the scientist would like to believe" (Morgan 1981, p29), the methods chosen to approach a study of diplomatic systems have to strike a balance between arbitrary judgement based on mere impressions of the researcher, and mathematical techniques that fail to grasp the essence of human relations.

The dilemma we look at here, is at the same time the dilemma social researchers have looked at for the last 60 years or so, and which is expressed in the epistemological divide of positivists and interpretivists. Thus, while positivists believe that social realities can be studied through the application of natural science methods; interpretivists recognize the importance of values and how they construct social reality. While Weber (1949, p11), for example, writes that social sciences are value-free insofar as the “investigator … should keep unconditionally separate the establishment of empirical facts … and his own practical evaluations”; Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2005) argue that objective verification decisions are impossible due to the many research decisions that an investigator has to take during the research process. Similarly, Morgan (1981) puts forward the argument that reaching a comprehensive scientific understanding of international politics is a hopeless task. He concludes:

Politics appears to fall somewhere between art and science, and so the matter is first of all one of emphasis In general, it boils down to this: a broad familiarity with the subject, conscientious study, and a penetrating scholarly and practical judgment. If this sounds pretty vague, that’s because it is. … Politics … is an infinitely subtle, complex, and uncertain business, and we had best not kid ourselves and those who come to us for advice that some fancy new techniques really change that fact (Ibid, pp20-23).

If Morgan's assumption holds true, how is this study attempting to answer the research questions posed in the introduction? Which research design is appropriate while guaranteeing the necessary amount of reliability and validity? To give satisfying answers to these questions two aspects have been taken into account: the central role of the research problem and the adoption of a pragmatic research position.

First, as Srivastava and Thomson (2009) explain, methodology always depends on the central research questions. If where, what, who and when questions need to be answered, quantitative research typically has the upper hand; qualitative approaches are more advantageous when it comes to define how and why a certain phenomenon occurs (Crabtree and Miller, Silverman, Denzin and Lincoln, as cited in Srivastava and Thomson 2009). In this research both strands have been applied to shed light on a social phenomenon applying the strengths of both techniques (Onwuegbuzie and Leech 2005).

Thereby, the epistemological approach of a pragmatic researcher as described by Friedrichs and Kratochwil (2009) has been taken. The authors claim that with "an appropriate degree of epistemological and methodological awareness" three varieties of pragmatist methodologies can be identified: theory synthesis, analytic eclecticism, and abduction (Ibid, p7). Thereby, theory synthesis refers to the combination of theories at a fundamental level based on the data produced within a research; analytic eclecticism is the facilitative application of existing research traditions in a pragmatic way to achieve explanations for complex issues; and abduction occurs when social researchers gain interest in a phenomenon that lacks applicable theories and start collecting new observations based on a number of concepts from existing knowledge (Ibid). This usually falls in between the imposition of an already existing theory (deduction) or the establishment of new theories from scratch (induction) (Ibid).

As we can see at this point, epistemological pragmatism has to raise concerns about its applicability when taking into account validity and reliability of achieved results. Reliability refers to means that come up with the same results, even if they are used by different people. Validity refers to means that do what they are supposed to do, i.e. they measure what they try to measure. While valid outcomes might even be achieved easier through analytic eclecticism and a combination of methods and theories, how would such a methodology be able to achieve a high degree of reliability? Friedrichs and Kratochwil (2009, p19) counter that "despite a healthy dose of scepticism, formal methods can be helpful to control complexity, avoid biases, and analyze data. The ultimate goal, however, is not statistical sophistication but orientation in a complex field of research."

To sum it up: Based on a central focus on the research question and a pragmatic epistemological and ontological position, this research adopts a mixed-method approach. It explores CGI in as much detail as possible and includes deductive traits as it is based on a wide-reaching literature review. But it also uses inductive approaches when describing the sofar relatively unexplained phenomenon of CGI and comparing it to the UNFCCC. While this ensures the avoidance of dogmatic research schemes, the researcher adopted a critical attitude towards his own role (as called for by Ali et al 2004), constantly scrutinizing and reevaluating the research process. Moreover, issues of reliability and validity have been addressed method by method which will be outlined in the next sections.

3.2 Case Study Research

Case studies have, especially by more positivistic, realist-empirical researchers, received a lot of criticism. As Burnham et al (2008) outline, the arguments brought forward are usually concerns about the qualitative feel of case studies and the missing possibility to generalize findings from only one or a few investigated cases (small-n problem). However, advocates of more qualitative research methods (Flyvbjerg 2004, King, Keohane and Verba 1994) have argued that case study research can rule out the small-n problem if a number of methodological constraints are addressed. Silverman (2010), for example, states that more generalizability can be obtained by clearly defining the boundaries of a case, involving comparative elements, and combining qualitative and quantitative research methods; and Burnham et al (2008) argue that case studies allow for a relatively complete account of a phenomenon.

All these arguments confirm that the case study is a suitable overall methodology to analyze the machinations of CGI. But what have been the reasons to pick CGI as an appropriate case in the first place? The author tried to identify a case that fitted into the category of “new diplomacy” without being particularly anti-mainstream. Certainly, within this category other forums such as the Genovese World Economic Forum (WEF) or the World Social Forum (WSF) could have served just as good as interesting cases. However, using an orientation provided by Seale (2012), the typicality of CGI was that it represented a possible future (e.g. adhering to the principles of “new diplomacy”) and fulfilled a cluster of characteristics (e.g. addressing global issues, non-ideological standpoint). Moreover, CGI qualifies as a ‘prototypical case study’, a form of case study where “a topic is chosen not because it is representative but because it is expected to become so” (Hague, Harrop and Breslin 1998). The overarching methodology of this study emerged from this typicality combined with considerations of the fairly limited resources and time-frame, and the characteristics of case study research described above.

The analytical framework depicted in Appendix 2 identifies the variables that have been used to examine the case study at hand. It builds on a structure developed by Starkey, Boyer and Wilkenfeld (2010) for investigating the nature of international negotiations on complex global issues. By and large, the authors portray this framework by using a board game metaphor. The key components, which represent the analytical variables as listed in the second column of Appendix 2, are the board (i.e. the negotiation setting), the players (i.e. the actors), the stakes (i.e. the issues to be addressed), and the moves (i.e. the actions taken). As a conceptual theory the board game metaphor is also the foundation of several sub-questions (Appendix 2, third column) that are, in turn, to be researched by certain facilitating quantitative and qualitative methods (Appendix 2, fourth column, and Appendix 3).

As outlined earlier, a facilitative combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was applied. In a first step CGI commitments dealing with climate change were collected and statistical data on participating actors, estimated values, regions of origin, target areas, and project approaches were collected. A sample of 24 texts was then investigated through a qualitative content analysis. At the same time, qualitative in-depth interviews with CGI participants and one external expert have been conducted. All the data were then analyzed according to the framework described above to draw a comprehensive picture of CGI. In a final step, the applied structure allowed for a comparison of CGI’s actions on climate change with the UNFCCC regime.

Although, the mixed-methods approach ensured a more exhaustive data collection to answer the wide ranging research questions, it also raised an important methodological concern: Triangulation of different research methods may easily become messy or contradictious, and multiple methods may encourage laziness as the researcher can easily “jump” between methods as soon as one particular dataset poses a problem for the analysis (Silverman 2010). It was therefore important to rigorously stick to the analytical framework explained above to ensure that the different methods applied would feed into one another. Hence, the analysis of CGI commitments gave insights for later scheduled interviews, and interviews provided for extra analytical codes when referring back to commitments during the qualitative content analysis. Fig. 3 illustrates this process of methods mutually informing each other and gives a detailed overview of how the combination of methods was realized. As we can see there, preliminary statistical observations gave some reference points for the first interview, that interview, in turn, helped focusing the statistical analysis, and so on. When the step-by-step process was finally concluded, all the information could be used for a comparative analysis. The following sections will shed light on every approach one by one.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 3 Structure of Overall Methodology

3.3 Commitment Analysis

On its website CGI states that a Commitment to Action ... is a plan for addressing a significant global challenge. Commitments can be small or large and financial or nonmonetary in nature CGI supports the development of commitments [and] serves as a catalyst for action, but does not engage in the actual implementation of commitments (Clinton Global Initiative 2013a).

In other words, commitments are the core outcome of CGI negotiations. They reflect the discourses, debates and calls for cooperation expressed at the forum. As such, commitments are the central feature of CGI and any attempt to investigate the forum without analyzing them would reveal a glaring methodological omission. One part of this research is therefore focused on the quantitative and qualitative examination of these plans of action, realized through a statistical assessment of 270 and a content analysis of 24 commitments.

3.3.1 Statistical Analysis

First, data on actors, financial resources, commitment duration, geographical scope and approaches towards climate change were collected for 270 commitments that were directed at climate change. For this purpose, the sections "Commitment by", "Partners", "Estimated Total Value", "Commitment Duration", "Geographic Region", and "Summary" were scanned and the collected information processed in an Excel spreadsheet (see Appendix 4 for an example commitment and the Excel files sent with this dissertation). For this purpose, categories to organize data had to be developed a process that took place during the data collection period and can be scrutinized by referring back to the category scheme in Appendix 5. Data were then cross-tabulated with the help of pivot tables to identify striking relationships between variables concerning themes as particular focus regions, the estimated value of projects, or the approaches favored certain by actor groups (see Findings).

The data collection was facilitated by two traits of CGI commitments: that is, they have to be specific and measurable. Thereby, “specific” means that “a specific approach to a problem [and] clear and feasible objectives to be accomplished within a defined period of time” (Clinton Global Initiative 2013b) have to be developed, and “measurable” refers to the degree to which the commitment can be monitored and evaluated based on quantitative or qualitative goals (Ibid).

An important aspect of the commitment analysis was the sampling technique applied to identify 270 documents that were related to climate change. CGI's website allows browsing for commitments via search terms. It does, however, not allow to search along topic lines. All the commitments do have a certain "Focus Area". Thereby, climate change commitments most often fall into the category of "Environment & Energy"; however, as the search function did not allow for looking up all the commitments in that area a sample of all the commitments including the search term "climate change" was taken (n=270 as of February 15, 2013).

Although n=270 does likely represent more than 50% of the total “commitment population,” this approach undeniably excludes climate change commitments where project initiators chose terms such as "environment" or "global warming" instead of “climate change.” Yet, two arguments will underline that possible selection bias was avoided. First, a screen of 20 commitments that did not include the term “climate change” led to the informed assumption that geographic regions, actor structure, and, most importantly, approaches did not essentially differ. Second, as Burnham et al. (2008, p110) argue, “sometimes it can be useful purposefully to draw samples that systematically over-sample cases belonging to particular categories [because] to deliberately over-sample a subgroup of the sample by a known amount enables the researcher to draw more solid conclusions and to take the over-sampling into account when formulating the conclusions.” Hence, such ‘booster sampling’ allowed for a more focused investigation of how CGI participants address the issue of climate change.

3.3.2 Qualitative Content Analysis

In a second more qualitative step 24 out of the 270 commitments were qualitatively analyzed to gain deeper insights into the issues discussed at CGI, how these issues are related, and what the resources, motivations and power relations of CGI members are. As content analysis has been criticized by Bryman (2008, p291) as entailing “some interpretation on the part of the researcher”, specific emphasis was laid on applying the analytical framework. Within the analytic categories that were thus applied, a precise coding scheme was developed to identify core themes (see coding scheme in Appendix 6). Thereby, researcher bias was addressed through continuing critical reflexivity while a multitude of terms was coded over the course of the analysis and possible combinations were tested (Bryman 2008).

Moreover, a method that Seale (2012) coins “maximum variation sampling” was applied to extract a sample that would allow for a more valid and reliable investigation. Thereby, a couple of considerations were integrated, whereas data collected from the first analysis step informed the researcher’s sampling choice. First, as the literature review revealed that in global governance and diplomacy particular attention is paid to agency, sampling was designed in such a way as to include a wide range of different actors and actor combinations. Second, since the quantitative analysis showed that in most years one or two of the commitments had an estimated value that contributed extraordinarily to the total value one such commitment was included four times (one from every year included). Finally, by sampling commitments from 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011, a longitudinal component was added.

3.4 Qualitative in-depth Interviews

Next to the commitment analysis, qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted. According to Byrne (2012) this research method offers a variety of advantages, inter alia the access to attitudes, values and feelings; the achievement of analytic depth; the reflection of complexity; and the opportunity to let participants answer questions “in their words.”


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The Clinton Global Initiative. A Role Model for 21st Century Diplomacy?
Sheffield Hallam University  (Faculty of Development and Society)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Clinton Global Initiative, Bill Clinton, Diplomacy, Diplomatie, Nicht-staatliche Akteure, Public-private partnerships, International Relations, Climate Policy, Klimaschutz, UNFCCC
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Sven Marschalek (Author), 2013, The Clinton Global Initiative. A Role Model for 21st Century Diplomacy?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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