An example is the group of scientists, government experts, and NGO representatives who enabled the Mediterranean Action Plan. Members of such communities share principled beliefs, notions of validity, and policy goals that cut across political boundaries. Haas points out that the Mediterranean Action Plan brought together countries that are often in conflict, indicating that epistemic communities were significant in overriding such differences. More broadly, all policy issues bring together a “community” of players, from governments and other arenas. Thus, some scholars consider epistemic communities to be a subset of policy communities (Coleman and Perl, 1999). Others consider epistemic communities as unique, willful groups of individuals driven by their internalized beliefs about causation.
Auer (2000) pointed out that scholars in international relations have been investigating the environmental policy competencies of NGOs and intergovernmental organizations. Increasingly, nonstate actors, especially NGOs, are seen to be undertaking functions that states are either unwilling or unable to do. In addition to facilitating environmental negotiations between states, as in Haas’ epistemic communities, NGOs can perform key information gathering, dissemination, advocacy, and appraisal functions, thus facilitating cross-scale linkages.
The international Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change project science plan discusses institutions for linking the local and the regional in two areas of the world, Southeast Asia and the Arctic (Young, 1999). The arctic region includes cross-scale institutions such as the Arctic Council and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), which connect the Inuit people of several countries, thus providing horizontal as well as vertical linkages.
Cross-scale institutions like the ICC may be characterized more properly as social movement networks, rather than as policy communities. Such networks create links between local institutions in the South (developing countries) and supportive groups in the North (industrialized countries). For example, the Third World Network (2001) consists of citizen groups in the developing world and supportive groups in the North involved in environment/development issues in which international institutions such as the World Trade Organization have local impacts. The Third World Network addresses issues such as the protection of intellectual property rights of farmers and other biodiversity users against the patenting of life forms.
Research and researchers may have an impact on the institutions they study, especially if the approaches used tend to have a stimulating effect on cross-scale linkages. It may be useful to consider these collaborative research and management approaches (Blumenthal and Jannink, 2000) as a separate set because the emphasis is on a technique, rather than on a structure or an outcome, as in those in