Do secretariats—the administrative arms of international treaties—simply do the bidding of member states? Sikina Jinnah, assistant professor of international relations in the Global Environmental Politics Program at American University’s School of International Service, argues that they can play an important role in world politics by influencing the allocation of resources, structures of interstate cooperation, and power relationships among states.
Jinnah examines how secretariats help to manage the dense interplay of issues, rules, and norms among international treaty regimes. Through case studies involving the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Trade Organization, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, she shows that secretariats can draw on their unique networks and expertise to handle the challenges of overlap management, emerging as political actors in their own right. Jinnah argues that secretariat influence matters because even after it wanes, it can establish a path-dependent dynamic that continues to guide state behavior.
This talk is part of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the University Program in Environmental Policy seminar series featuring leading experts discussing a variety of pressing environmentally focused topics.