Inspectorates operate in an ideological climate in which they are no longer automatically seen as the main or ultimate responsible authority for the supervision of economic activity (Almond, 2015). This ideological climate is based on the conviction that the ability and willingness to realize public goals by means of regulation and oversight are divided between the government, the market and civil society. Therefore, it often happens that state inspectorates delegate or share supervisory responsibilities with the business community and civil society (Lobel, 2012).
However, this does not in any way mean that in practice the distribution and coordination of responsibilities, tasks and powers with regard to supervision run smoothly and harmoniously. Concerns about regulatory capture by private regulators or their clients and concerns about the dominance of public regulators (‘reverse capture’) (Martinez, Verbruggen, & Fearne, 2013) can alternate or occur simultaneously with various network partners and ensure conflicts about the division and coordination of responsibilities, tasks and powers (Van der Voort, 2015, 2017). The institutional logic of various network partners may also conflict (McPherson & Sauder, 2013). The degree of instability and the conflict sensitivity of institutional practices may depend on the extent to which network partners are shielded from their environment, legitimize the prevailing institutional practices and are able to impose institutional practices on the other network partners (Zietsma & Lawrence, 2010). Especially when participants are not able to protect themselves from their environment, practices are controversial and none of the partners is able to impose their will on the other partners, instability and conflict are likely to occur.
- How are the tasks, responsibilities and authorities with regard to standard setting, monitoring and supervision divided and coordinated in regulatory governance networks?
- In what ways are regulatory practices in regulatory governance networks unstable and susceptible to conflict?
- In what ways can any differences in the stability and conflict sensitivity of regulatory governance networks be explained by the extent to which participants are able to shield themselves from their environment, the support of the distribution and coordination of tasks, responsibilities and powers regarding these tasks and power asymmetries between the network partners?
Answering the questions demands a comparative case study of regulatory governance networks. An example of two regulatory governance networks that could be selected for the comparison concern two Dutch networks that supervise the import of goods.
The first network is responsible for monitoring the import of endangered animals and plants. The protection of endangered species has attracted much social and political attention in recent years, for example in the form of the many reports that the Dutch Commodity and Food Authority (NVWA) receives annually from citizens, interest groups, government bodies and companies. Various government agencies (NVWA, customs, the Governmental Agency of Dutch Entrepreneurship and the police) have been working together since 2013 in the so-called CITES experimental garden (‘Proeftuin CITES’), which is aimed at detecting rule violations. The plan is
to gradually expand this cooperative project with traders in endangered animals and plants and with interest groups.
The second network is centered around customs and deals with the supervision of the import of cross-border goods in general by means of the so-called ‘Authorized Economic Operator’ (AEO) certificate that is valid in all member states of the EU. The certificate is based on the assumption that the business community and customs are jointly responsible for the safe and traceable flow of goods that cross the external borders of the EU. Companies themselves are responsible for protection measures, customs for checking the extent to which these safety guarantees are sufficient.
The surveillance network with regard to the import of endangered species seems to attract more involvement of citizens and politicians, to be more controversial and to include more equal partners than the AEO certificate network. By way of a comparative case study, it can be examined whether this also means that the former network is more unstable and more susceptible to conflict than the latter.
Candidates who want to apply for this research proposal are expected to complement it with a separate document in which they present their own ideas about how to proceed and a critical reflection on the research proposal.
Almond, P. (2015). Revolution blues. The reconstruction of health and safety law as ‘common-sense’ regulation. Journal of Law and Society, 42(2), 202-229.
Lobel, O. (2012). New governance as regulatory governance. University of San Diego School of Law, Research paper No. 12-101(November), 1-27.
Martinez, M. G., Verbruggen, P., & Fearne, A. (2013). Risk-based approaches to food safety regulation: What role for co-regulation? Journal of Risk Research, 16(9), 1101-1121.
McPherson, C. M., & Sauder, M. (2013). Logics in action: Managing institutional complexity in a drug court. Administrative Science Quarterly, 58(2), 165-196.
Van der Voort, H. van der (2017). Trust and cooperation over the public–private divide: an empirical study on trust evolving in co-regulation. In: Six, F. & Verhoest, K. Trust in regulatory regimes. Edward Elgar.
Van der Voort, H. (2015) Co-Regulatory failure in the food industry, European Journal of Risk and Regulation, 4, 502-511.
Zietsma, C., & Lawrence, T. B. (2010). Institutional work in the transformation of an organizational field: The interplay of boundary work and practice work. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55, 189-221.