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Analytical Studies

Background on Compliance Assessments

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The first challenge in the compliance exercise lies in developing a definition of a commitment. A standard encoding mechanism for identifying actual commitments is required to assist in the task of distinguishing firm agreements from the often vague language of communiqués. A commitment,is defined as a discrete, specific, publicly expressed, collectively agreed statement of intent, a "promise" or "undertaking" by Summit members that they will take future action to move toward, meet or adjust to an identified welfare target. There are several key criteria contained in this definition. First, commitments must be discrete, in that each specified welfare target represents a separate commitment, even if a single set of actions is declared to be in support of these multiple aims. A sequence of specified measures through which these targets will be achieved, however, do not represent separate commitments, but a single commitment, defined by the given welfare target.

Second, commitments must be sufficiently specific, in the future action (the instrument), or the timetable of the welfare target to be both identifiable and measurable. The nature of the future action itself need not be specified. Targets can include changes in members' behaviour, in the behaviour of other countries or classes, in international organizations or private actors, or in general conditions ( for example, stable markets, ozone layer). General statements of desiderata, such as "prosperity" are excluded, although statements with specified parameters such as "sustainable, noninflationary growth" would be included.

Third, commitments must be future-oriented, rather than represent endorsements of previous or simultaneously unfolding action. However, pledges that "we will continue to..." are included, because they indicate a bound pattern for future action. They rest on an assumption that in the absence of Summit reaffirmation, re-articulation, or remembrance each year at the annual Summit, they would normally expire (or be taken less seriously and dwindle). Excluded are actions or decisions in the past that the Summit members "welcome".

Fourth, while action by Summit members is assumed to be required in the future, this need not be specified. Verbal instructions to international institutions, issued at the time of the Summit in the passive - "The WTO should pay more attention to the environment" - are included as there is an assumption that summit members will take action to move toward this result. There is also a specified actor target and welfare target.

Excluded are statements that identify the agenda or priority of issues ("Sustainable development is a critical concern", "this conference is a landmark one"), or even descriptions that contain logical language or that set parameters, ("debt relief helps promote democracy").

Although the Lyon Communiqué was found to contain a number of commitments on a wide range of issues, in order to make our study more manageable, we limited ourselves to one (or, at the most, two) "major" commitment for each of 17 selected issue areas. "Major" commitments were determined according to three criteria: ambition (how far-reaching is the commitment), timeliness (does the commitment address current or "hot" issues?) and clarity (is the commitment easily identifiable and measurable?). See Appendix A for the list of "major" commitments appearing in the same order as they do in the communiqué.

What Constitutes Compliance

Having identified our major commitments, our next task was to shape a definition of compliance. "First order compliance" is national government action geared towards the domestic implementation of the necessary formal legislative and administrative regulations designed to execute Summit commitments. National governments alter their own behaviour and that of their societies and outsiders, in order to attain summit-specified welfare targets.

Compliance requires conscious new or altered effort by national governments in the post-Summit period. Summit members must actively and consciously endeavour to implement the provisions contained in Summit communiqués. Should a government arrive at fulfilling one of its summit commitments by chance, this does not constitute compliance.

Compliance is measured according to governmental actions designed to modify existing instruments within the executive branch to accommodate the commitments reached. A commitment can be said to have been fully complied with if a Summit member succeeds in achieving the specific goal set out in the commitment. However, there can still be varying degrees of compliance in the absence of a complete fulfilment of the commitment. Compliance can therefore be assessed according to a five-point scale.

(1) Official reaffirmation
A reaffirmation of a G-7 commitment is made by an individual working in an official capacity. This may occur in a national or an international context. The government demonstrates its intention to fulfil a Summit commitment by stating its plans to include the commitment in the national agenda. By publicly referring to a Summit commitment, through internal policy debates, speeches or press releases, a leader legitimizes the commitment. Such evidence of remembrance indicates that officials are still mindful of the Summit commitment. A reaffirmation of a G-7 commitment represents moral suasion to inside and outside officials as well as the public.

(2) Internal bureaucratic review and representation
The earlier remembrance and reaffirmation of the G-7 commitment are then backed by review -- a systematic monitoring mechanism that includes processes such as public consultation. A national government internally reviews the Summit commitment through a formal policy review or the formation of a task force. Personnel are assigned to these tasks and are given new negotiating mandates. These persons are charged with studying and implementing the commitment. Any new diplomatic initiatives required to reach the welfare target are launched.

(3) Budgetary and resource allocations are made or changed
A national government allocates, or diverts from another use, a notable sum of its own money for the purpose of achieving the commitment. Further alterations are made with regard to the distribution of money and other resources to international organizations from the national government.

(4) New or altered programs, legislation and regulations
Broader changes are made in fiscal and monetary policy, to the extent that governments control the latter. International negotiating positions are changed. Programs, necessary for the implementation of the Summit commitment, are introduced or altered. Recommendations are made for increased research and development projects.

(5) Full implementation
The welfare target is substantially achieved.

Over-implementation occurs when a national government surpasses the established welfare target. This may be desirable if over-implementation compensates for the failures of other Summit members (for example, decreasing one's C02 emissions by 10% instead of 5% as outlined in the communiqué will be beneficial to other states). However, over-implementation is not always advantageous as it can produce a runaway syndrome.

The Scoring Method

In order to quantify the analytic results of the compliance study, the methodology first developed by George Von Furstenberg and Joseph Daniels in The Meaning and Reliability of Economic Summit Undertakings, 1975-1989. (3) as adapted by Ella Kokotsis and John Kirton in their paper, National Compliance with Environmental Regimes: The Case of the G7, 1988-1995 (4), was broadly followed. Kokotsis and Kirton's three-level measurement process was employed. Full or nearly full conformance with a commitment was assigned a score of +1. A score of -1 indicated complete or nearly complete failure to implement a commitment. An "inability to commit", or a "work in progress" was accorded a score of 0. An "inability to commit" refers to factors outside of the executive branch impeding the implementation of a given commitment and a "work in progress" refers to an initiative that has been launched by a government but is not yet near completion and whose results can therefore not be judged.

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