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Global Governors and Local Governance: Transnational Networks and the Decentralization of Watershed Management in Ecuador Open Access

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In 2000 rising concern over the destruction of watershed ecosystems prompted "global governors" (e.g., inter-governmental organizations, donor agencies, non-governmental organizations, and technical experts) to set a goal of implementing local Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) reforms in all countries by 2015. Many attempts failed due to clashes with local norms and practices, but some succeeded. Why are transnational coalitions of local, national, and international IWM advocates more successful implementing their agenda in some communities than others? What are the processes by which norms and policies developed at the global level change people's behaviors and governance systems at the subnational level? In other words, how do global governors change local governance?This dissertation answers these questions through a subnational comparison of Ecuadorian watersheds. Specifically, it compares attempts to create two new institutions for governing watershed ecosystems: (1) a local, participatory decision-making body, and (2) a local financing mechanism. By creating these institutions local governments and citizens gained the ability to autonomously set policy, raise revenue, and control expenditures for managing local watershed ecosystems. In this sense, they constituted political and fiscal decentralization.Using logistic regression analysis, based on an original dataset of Ecuador's 221 cantons, I find that the presence of transnational environmental networks is the independent variable that best explains why some local governments pursued IWM reforms while others did not. I then compare six case studies to explain why some transnational coalitions were more successful implementing reforms than others. The qualitative analysis draws on 31 months of fieldwork, including more than 200 in-depth interviews. The dissertation presents a process model that explains variation in reform success and identifies key breaking points. Variation in outcome is explained by differences in framing and network construction strategies; different combinations produced either success or breakdown at different stages of the reform process.The findings challenge common assumptions reflected in the "cascade," "boomerang," "spiral," and "multilevel" models of global governance. The cases reveal new pathways of influence by which transnational actors implement global policies at the local level in less-developed countries. Local actors in rural Ecuador were poorly connected to the global system and state institutions were weak. Locals were therefore less vulnerable to pressure by international actors and the state than the scholarly literature has suggested. When faced with resistance to watershed management reform, successful coalitions relied on local Ecuadorian advocates who could engage with unwilling subnational groups and play on local vulnerabilities and goals. Rather than pressure from "above" or "below," as stipulated in the literature, successful pressure came from "beside" as subnational groups engaged in a mutually enforcing circle of pressure. I explain this dynamic in my "clockmaker" model of nodal governance.

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