The main impediments to research in this area may be divided into two categories: definition and complexity.
The simple question in what ways, if at all, does the citizen submission process affect enforcement of environmental laws by the parties? involves several definitions: what does enforcement mean, what constitutes an environmental law, and how does one measure effectiveness?
The Secretariat, the Parties, and the interested public often have quite different definitions of these elements, which introduces profound complexity in the methodological design. The process, to be a useful tool, must successfully mediate between these differing definitions. To measure the process effectiveness, therefore, one must first devise a reliable way to measure effectiveness and then apply it to the real enforcement practices across North America. As Tollefson says, the evidence needed to evaluate how effectively the process is working is not readily available (Tollefson/2000).
Establishing the causal link between the CSP and enforcement levels is a challenge beyond the scope of this study and would be the subject of future research. To illustrate: in the course of the Oldman river interview, the interviewee when asked if there had been any changes in enforcement levels subsequent to the submission, averred positively that there had been.
Apparently, the DFO had established an office in Alberta, and as the interviewee said as a result of the CSP the government is starting to do its job. A personal communication from Prof. Ellis that this was not at all the case highlights the difficulty inherent in attributing causality. The submitter believed there was a connection and that therefore the process was working. But, even if this is not actually the case (as it was in this instance), perception is everything, as they say in international relations. Either one conducts extensive followup research to positively establish a cause and effect relationship between the CSP and enforcement, or one acknowledges that if a constituency believes the process is effective, then the process is in fact acquiring legitimacy and is therefore an effective tool. Our research has shown us that great subtleties may hide in a simple question.
It would also be interesting to explore the significant asymmetry that seems to exist so far in the usage of the process from country to country. Of the 35 submissions, 13 are Canadian, 8 American, and 14 Mexican. When one considers the population differentials that exist between the Parties, it becomes apparent that Canadians produce an overwhelmingly large number of submissions (Mahant/2000). It would be very interesting to explore what might possibly account for this, as it is relates to our hypothesis governing the relationship between effectiveness and accessibility. If the process is heavily used in one country, it is reasonable to assume the process is serving its intended use as a tool, and one aspect of effectiveness is thereby demonstrated. To this end, if one could discover the reasons that the process is effective in one place, it may shed light on why it is not so useable elsewhere. We would have to expand the scope of the research question to address the reality that awareness, usage and response to the CSP will vary. Moreover, does one attempt to measure this participation by region, by jurisdiction or by issue?
The question of who the CSP is designed
to used by is another issue beyond the scope of this study that intimately
relates to our question. Is the process really designed to be used by
all the citizens of NAFTA? Or is it more intended to be used, as the CEC
puts it by the interested public? If that is the case, who,
then, is the interested public? Tollefson quotes an ex-SEM unit director
as saying the purpose of the CSP could be to promote the emergence
of civil society in America through the creation of a mechanism that facilitates
citizens interactions with their governments and others on the continent
(Tollefson/2000). This is an area of study in itself. The implications
are wide reaching and fascinating. Does this process promote a new, supranational
society? Does the growing legitimacy of the process as the institution
learns its parameters promote not only the enforcement of
environmental laws as they stand, but does it function to increase harmonization
of environmental standards in an upward direction? The California
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