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Difªculties faced in Materializing a Transnational ENGO Conservation Network

Iosif Botetzagias, Prue Robinson, and Lily Venizelos

Accounting for Difªculties faced in Materializing a Transnational ENGO Conservation Network: A Case-Study from the Mediterranean •

Iosif Botetzagias, Prue Robinson, and Lily Venizelos

Introduction Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) “are strategic organizations whose arsenal includes the formation of coalitions, tactical lobbying and multi-level campaigning.”1 The most basic linkage form, of paramount importance for any subsequent coalition’s formation, lobbying etc., is networking. Networks are considered as open, ºexible, dynamic, horizontal organizational forms or sets of interconnected nodes—as opposed to hierarchies and market-based exchanges2—which “communicate . . . sharing values or goals”3 in a “voluntary, reciprocal and horizontal” way.4 As Stone argues, “a network ampliªes and disseminates ideas, research and information to an extent that could not be achieved by individuals or institutions alone.”5 Organizations opt for networking since in the long run it can offer them a number of potential beneªts, such as increased access, efªciency, visibility, credibility or legitimacy, reduced isolation as well as providing solidarity and support.6 Network participation gives free access to information, expertise and (possibly) ªnancial resources while it is also initiated by the (potential) members’ realization that some goals can be better attained through collaboration than by acting alone,7 especially since each network member brings along its speciªc strengths and fulªls a particular role.8 For small and peripheral NGOs (especially in the South, or developing countries) participation in a transna1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Yanacopulos 2005, 37–38. Hudson 2001, 334. Castells 1996, 470, cited in Hudson 2001. Keck and Sikkink 1998, 91. Stone 2002, 3. Liebler and Ferri 2004, 28–29. Meadows, Meadows, and Randers 1992. Richards and Heard 2005, 31.

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tional network can provide both a broader forum and an audience to address9 as well as transfer status. This is important in situations of large power asymmetries between actors, as the less powerful ones can challenge these asymmetries by “speaking with one voice.”10 As Meadows et al. succinctly point out, “one of the most important purposes of a network is simply to remind its members that they are not alone.”11 Similarly, Keck and Sikkink,12 discussing networks between NGOs in countries of varying socio-economic capabilities, point out that NGOs in less developed countries seek out international allies to help them circumvent the resistance of their own governments (the “boomerang effect”) while Rohrschneider and Dalton13 argue that it is the particular issue at hand that largely determines the occurrence of transnational cooperation. Environmental nongovernmental organizations (ENGOs) that challenge the dominant social paradigm are more likely to look beyond their borders for allies who share such principles. More recently, it was shown that a restrictive domestic political opportunities structure makes it more likely for ENGOs to become active at the supranational level.14 Yet it is also the inherent transnational nature of most environmental problems that prompts ENGOs to cooperate across borders—if they wish to be effective.15 Such an option is all the more attractive since the sophisticated advances in communications and transport allow NGOs to share information, expertise and resources with other groups abroad much more easily.16 And past research has demonstrated that successful transnational networking can indeed have substantial effects: framing the issue at hand in new ways, changing the identities of the institutions the NGOs lobby/interact with and ultimately altering the existing policies.17 Thus, taking into account the beneªts of participation—the enhanced possibilities of inºuencing policy-makers and changing policies, and the availability of the means for coordination and contact—it is not surprising that recent research reports a dense network of international cooperation among environmental groups.18 Yet ENGOs’ transnational networks occasionally fail to materialize even when the beneªcial outcomes of their establishment seem obvious. Available research is rather mute on this issue, as previous researchers have pointed out.19 Thus this article takes its lead from the call “to write about cooperative efforts that failed (or those possible cooperative activities that never developed).”20 It 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

Duwe 2001, 178. Yanacopulos 2005, 100–101. Meadows, Meadows, and Randers 1992, 275. Keck and Sikkink 1998, 12–13. Rohrschneider and Dalton 2002, 516. Poloni-Staudinger 2008. Richards and Heard 2005. Henry, Mohan, and Yanacopulos 2004; Rohrschneider and Dalton 2002; and Yanacopulos 2005. Keck and Sikkink 1998, 121–163; Park 2005; and Wapner 2002. Rohrschneider and Dalton 2002. Rohrschneider and Dalton 2002, 513. Rohrschneider and Dalton 2002, 513.


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analyzes the efforts to establish a Mediterranean Network for Sea Turtle Conservation (MEDSETCON), proposed in the early 2000s and spearhead by a number of regional ENGOs, and identiªes the major reasons why the proposed network did not materialize. The paper develops in three major sections. First we deal with the theoretical reasons of why ENGO networks sometimes fail to materialize. In the ªrst part we argue that this could occur when a number of environmental conditions are missing: the issue at hand is not considered important/urgent, the involved parties lack the resources necessary for networking, or there are no individuals who could act as the “glue” that brings organizations together. Yet this approach fails to account for the cases when networks did not materialize in spite of the existence of favorable environmental conditions. We deal with this issue in the second part of the introduction of our theoretical frameworks, where we argue in such cases it is the actors’ rational considerations of costs and beneªts of network participation that determine the outcome. These costs and beneªts are calculated over the organization’s resources, labelled as intellectual, political, ªnancial and membership assets. Thus if an organization perceives that network participation will increase its stock of resources it is more likely to opt for membership and share the burdens of the network’s management. In the methods section we then discuss our data and methods and offer an introduction to the Mediterranean ENGOs’ cooperation on sea turtle conservation as well as a chronology of MEDSETCON. In the results section we explore the existence or otherwise of the conditions necessary for network creation for the MEDSETCON case. First we examine the environmental conditions and we conclude that they ought to permit the creation of a network. But when we move to the question of resource exchange, we demonstrate that the MEDSETCON initiative could not have provided the involved parties with the relevant power leverages and we conclude that this was the reason for the network’s failure to materialize. Finally, in the closing section we discuss our ªndings and offer suggestions for further research.

Theoretical Framework Prerequisites for Network Formation For an ENGO network to get established, and in the longer run to operate, a number of environmental conditions should exist, including structural, organizational and personal conditions. Concerning the structural conditions, on one hand it is necessary to have a challenge,21 a complex problem that the prospective participants feel has to be addressed and that can adequately be addressed through transnational cooperation. As already argued, this is usually the case for most environmental problems.22 On the other hand, there should also 21. Taschereau and Bolger 2006, 9–10. 22. Richards and Heard 2005.


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exist opportunities,23 such as the existence/opening/creation of political space where the network can operate and make a difference. To that extent, the existence of international governmental organizations, especially ones such as the UN and the EU,24 which offer permissible international political opportunity structures25 to ENGOs, constitute the political space where transnational networks can operate and try to make a difference. Even if the structural conditions are perceived to be met, an organization’s proªle is also of importance. Networking can offer a variety of beneªts, yet it is also conditioned by the NGO’s material capacity and resource limitations, such as the obvious demands on human-hours and resources for maintaining contacts with other members. Especially for smaller ENGOs, participation can be hindered by their often scarce means.26 Yet the most important parameter is the personal one. This is neither only because it is individuals who perceive and represent structural conditions as conducive to networking, nor only because it is individuals (as members of boards) who assess and decide about the demands made on their organization’s material capabilities (on these two aspects see the next section), but also because it is necessary to have a (number of) individual(s) who would initiate— and most probably subsequently lead—the process of network formation. These individuals, usually acting as front persons of their respective organizations, should have the vision, and also possess the moral and material resources, “to convene and mobilize actors to collaborate in pursuit of that vision.”27 The necessary resources include skills, expertise, seed funding as well as credibility, legitimacy and trust. Organizations’ networking is in most cases the formalized outgrowth of individuals’ networks of friendship and acquaintances, past cooperation, information exchange and/or common campaigning.28 In other words, for organizations to network, key individual members should have done it already. Thus, prima facie, networks will fail to form if some of these conditions are missing, most importantly the personal ones. We argue that the environmental conditions account for only part of a bigger picture because, contrary to the rosy picture often painted, there is “frequently a disparity between the rhetoric and reality of partnership between NGOs.”29 Whether involved in networks or not, NGOs are actually involved in direct competition with one another in terms of campaign proªles, sponsorship, membership base, media attention and identity. This, usually unspoken, yet nevertheless very real, situation means that NGOs would be unwilling to share center-stage with their competing comrades, fearing that they could be 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29.

Taschereau and Bolger 2006, 9–10. Van Der Heijden 2006. i.e. open formal institutional structures and integrative informal elite strategies. Stone 2002, 8. Taschereau and Bolger 2006, 9–10. See Keck and Sikkink 1998, 133–163 for relevant evidence. Lister 2000, 229.


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overshadowed by their more high-proªle peers.30 Recent research on the Dutch environmental movement showed that the media visibility of one organization is negatively affected by the visibility of its peers, underlying a reality of intra-organizational competition for public attention.31 Particularly in times of mounting competition and/or scarce resources, organizations are more inclined to “assert their difference”32 and appear as the main or legitimate interlocutor in the eyes of authorities and founding bodies than to submerge into broad (and obscure) networks. The above are all the more relevant in cases of overlap in terms of ENGO campaign focus, such as speciªc species’ conservation, where the need to cooperate for achieving better results could more likely be counterbalanced by heightened competition and disputes over campaign ownership. And while NGOs would ultimately retract from a cooperative scheme which they do not ªnd beneªcial to themselves,33 a perceived disparity between participation’s beneªts and costs can also preclude networking. Thus accounting for a failure to network should take into account the existence (or otherwise) of both the environmental conditions as well as the organization’s own rational calculations concerning the network’s appeal. And while it is true that the former are the necessary conditions, prompting actors to consider networking in the ªrst place, they are not sufªcient: actors also have to perceive participation as beneªcial to themselves and their agenda before proceeding to network. In effect, the decision to get involved in a network is not simply about mobilizing (or not) existing resources, but also about calculating potential costs and beneªts within a framework of organizational competition. Taschereau and Bolger are right in arguing that individuals have to use their personal and organizational resources for mobilizing others into networking—the notion of leadership—yet they fail to explain why and under which circumstances these individuals would want to do so. Especially when organizational resource allocation and competition are a consideration, positive, incentives to network, such as vision and better outcomes, could be counter-balanced by negative, cost-beneªt calculations, through which the costs of demands made by other organizations or the network on the NGO’s own resources are weighed against the beneªts of the resources offered in exchange. Thus, if we wish to understand networking outcomes, we have to pay greater attention to the NGOs’ possession, evaluation and, ultimately, exchange of resources. These resources are the organization’s different “sources of leverage, or capital, [that] NGOs . . . rely on to transmit information and to inºuence decision-makers,” and have been described as the intellectual, (specialized knowledge and advice the organization can provide to decision-makers); the membership, (the number of members the NGO has); the political, (the organization’s access to politicians/decision-makers); and ªnally the ªnancial base, 30. 31. 32. 33.

Richards and Heard 2005, 37–38. Vliegenthart, Oegema, and Klandermans 2005. Barman 2002. Yanacopulos 2005, 103.


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(the ªnancial resources which can be used for campaigning, lobbying and research).34 The importance of each of these sources of leverage for a given NGO is related to the organization’s preferred strategy for inºuencing political decisions. Diani and Donati35 distinguish between organizations opting for disruptive (such as protest, boycotts, etc.) versus conventional forms of pressure (such as petitions, lobbying, and so on). Organizations may use professional (bureaucratic organization, specialized and professional staff, and so on) or participatory resources (rank-and-ªle involvement in running the organization, volunteer employees, etc.). Such a categorization is reminiscent of Gulbrandsen and Andresen’s distinction between activist (securing funding and legitimacy through offering membership) and advisory organizations (securing funding and legitimacy through their provision of expert knowledge to decisionmakers), which can opt either for an insider or an outsider strategy (trying to inºuence through inside cooperation with decision-makers and the provision of knowledge versus trying to inºuence through protest and mobilization of public opinion). Though any combination of organizational form/strategy and tactics/ resource mobilization is possible, it is obvious that some combinations are more likely. An organization opting for an advisory role is more likely to depend on professional resources and pursue an insider strategy. For such organizations, their intellectual base has been argued to be their prime weapon.36 More relevant to our topic, previous research on European marine ENGOs conªrmed that they consider their scientiªc and political expertise as their prime strengths, which “ultimately feeds into these organisations’ research and lobbying potential.”37 On the other hand, their limited ªnancial resources are thought of as their greatest weakness, a problem more acute for non-EU organizations.38 Thus, for the kind of NGOs we analyze in the present article, intellectual and political power leverages are considered most important while they are also the assets European marine ENGOs (claim to) possess. Financial assets are also considered important but there is a lack of them. Membership assets seem not to be of direct relevance to advisory groups, yet perhaps this kind of asset is indirectly important, by enhancing a group’s ªnancial power. Networking as an Outcome of Resource Exchange Recent research has challenged the earlier assumptions that networks “[are] web[s] of connections among equals.”39 Rohrschneider and Dalton’s40 analysis 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

Gulbrandsen and Andresen 2004, 58. Diani and Donati 1999. Gulbrandsen and Andresen 2004, 56. Richards and Heard 2005, 35. Richards and Heard 2005, 35–36. Meadows et al. 1992. Rohrschneider and Dalton 2002, 529.


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of transnational cooperation among ENGOs concludes the exact opposite, and other research on NGO networks has pointed out the existence of subtle processes of gate keeping, patronage, elitism, and domination of certain interests, as well as power relationships.41 Such ªndings testify to the reality of asymmetrical power leverage between organizations. Although this incongruence of power leverage might have negative effects on the operation of networks in the longer run, we nevertheless argue that it is rather important for network formation. It is precisely in such a situation, when organizations possess and need different kinds of resources, that they are more likely to enter into trade-offs (i.e. cooperation and networking) for securing what they consider important. As other researchers have argued, it is the different resources of participating organizations, “each with different strengths and fulªlling a different role,”42 that is also considered as one of the greater strengths of networks.43 These exchanges need neither be pro rata nor to entail the same kind of resources. The case of the Climate Action Network (CAN) can help to illustrate this point. CAN brings together activists (whose main asset is membership) and advisory ENGOs (whose main asset is intellectual).44 It joins Northern and Southern ENGOs of different capabilities, understandings and agendas.45 In light of the trade-off argument, the Northern ENGOs’ ªnancial and intellectual assets are the quid exchanged for the Southern groups’ political power leverage pro quo, i.e. the latter’s access to and ability to put pressure on national politicians, an important yet often neglected component of NGOs’ ability to inºuence international environmental regimes.46 In another variation of the same theme, local partners are needed, despite all their structural weaknesses, in cases where an ENGO’s area of interest and activity lies beyond the boundaries of its country of origin, as is usually the case for migratory species. Indigenous organizations in such cases are welcome network members since they can enhance the foreign ENGO’s legitimacy.47 The possible combinations of power leverage trade-offs between two organizations and subsequent networking outcomes are portrayed in Graphs 1 and 2. The ªrst considers the supply side, the assets offered by a member-to-be (Actor A), while Graph 2 deals with the demand side, the assets an actor seeks to secure by participating in the network. It follows from Graph 1 that an exchange (i.e. networking) is likely only when the asset being offered is both currently unavailable and considered as valuable (outcome 1.3). Offering an asset already in supply and considered as invaluable results in no cooperation (outcome 1.2). The remaining two combinations return conditional results. Offering an asset already in supply and considered valuable (outcome 1.1) could lead to net41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47.

Duwe 2001; Henry, Mohan, and Yanacopulos 2004; and Stone 2002. Richards and Heard 2005, 31. Richards and Heard 2005, 35–36. Gulbrandsen and Andresen 2004, 61. Duwe 2001. Gulbrandsen and Andresen 2004, 60–61; and Skodvin and Andresen 2003, 67–69. Lister 2003.


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Graph 1 Networking Outcomes as a Result of Assets Exchange between Actors. The Supply Side

working depending on what is demanded in return (we shall return to this below, see outcome 2.1). Offering an asset that the actor does not possess and does not consider valuable is unlikely to lead to an exchange (outcome 1.4). In the latter scenario, networking should be anticipated only if the asset asked for in return is of lower value to the one offered. Similar considerations are in play for the demand side (Graph 2). Networking will not occur if Actor B does not possess what Actor A wants (outcome 2.3). Asking for an asset which is considered invaluable is likely to result in networking since this is a low-intensity demand (outcome 2.2). The last scenario, asking for an existent and valuable asset (outcome 2.1) is the counterpart of outcome 1.1 in Graph 1: networking is dependent on which assets are supposed to be exchanged. The above graphs highlight that networking depends both on the existence and, more importantly, on the subjective evaluation of different assets by interacting NGOs. We have already referred to the relative rating of these assets by marine ENGOs, which are the focus of our case study. In descending order of importance, these are: (a) intellectual, (b) political, (c) ªnancial and lastly (d) membership. Thus, taking cues from Graphs 1 and 2, in Table 1 we present the probability of different power asset transactions taking place, or, in other words, of networking between two actors. Based on the relative importance of the assets, it is quite self-explanatory why some combinations are unlikely. Trade-offs of the same asset or of highly esteemed ones (such as intellectual and political) are dependent on their particular characteristics. For example an intellectual to intellectual trade-off would occur if both parties consider the provision of additional/new data as enhanc-


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Graph 2 Networking Outcomes as a Result of Assets Exchange between Actors. The Demand Side

ing their relevance to decision-makers. Similarly, political to political exchanges would be considered acceptable only if they offer access to political actors previously unreachable and/or only superªcially contacted. As for the membership case, this would be considered in cases where, for example, a public campaign or signature collection is involved—thus in cases where inºuence is to be exercised through numbers. Lastly, the ªnancial asset presents a particular case. Although it is not the most highly esteemed, this is nevertheless the power asset marine ENGOs are in almost constant need of, and securing it can contribute to the procurement of intellectual assets (i.e. funds made available for research). It is therefore likely that access to higher assets could be granted in exchange for substantial and sustained funding. In real life situations, calculations regarding these transactions occur simultaneously, over all kinds of resources and for all actors active in the network’s formation. Successful networking is then more likely to occur when a number of resource transactions are considered as acceptable for at least some of the actors involved. This can be illustrated by referring to the examples of two existing marine ENGO networks and demonstrating how resource considerations can help us account for their formation: the WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) and the i-Monk Alliance.48 WIDECAST was founded in 1982,49 following a recommendation by the highly inºuential IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the oldest and largest global ENGO network) that a “[w]ider Caribbean Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan should be prepared . . . consistent with the [UNEP] Ac48. We do not wish to downplay the importance previous cooperation and socialization processes have played in the creation of these two networks nor the obvious beneªts networking has for species conservation. 49. WIDECAST currently spreads over 40 countries and territories. The network depends on the voluntary work of its ‘Country Coordinators’ and project partners and has but two employees as its coordinating staff. WIDECAST 2009a


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Table 1 Possible Power Asset Transactions for Marine ENGOs Actor A offering (1–4) and asking in return (a–d)

Actor B Possessing: ASSETS

a. Intellectual b. Political

c. Financial

d. Membership

1. Intellectual 2. Political 3. Financial 4. Membership

Dependent Dependent Conditional Unlikely

Conditional Conditional Non relevant Conditional

Likely Likely Conditional Dependent

Dependent Dependent Conditional Unlikely

Note: The probability of a transaction—and thus networking—occurring is reported in each cell.

tion Plan for the Caribbean Environment Programme.”50 The call was answered by MONITOR International, an NGO created by Milton Kauffman—a seasoned and highly successful environmental activist and NGO network-builder.51 WIDECAST’s ªrst coordinator in the early 1980s, Dr. Peter Pritchard, has had a long-standing research presence in the region and was later selected as one of TIME magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet.”52 WIDECAST met all the environmental conditions we identiªed. In addition, right from its creation, WIDECAST has been a partner organization to the Caribbean Environment Programme of UNEP,53 thus being able to offer its prospective members substantial (international) beneªts of political leverage. For their part, these members could bring along their national intellectual, political and membership54 assets, as is shown in Table 2. WIDECAST can be viewed as a case of successful networking following external mobilization. It was not the Caribbean ENGOs themselves that started the process but an external group of individuals. Yet the existence of asymmetrical and different sources of leverage between initiators and regional ENGOs, as shown in Table 2, made networking appealing to all those involved. The i-Monk Alliance (International Monk Seal Conservation Alliance), on the other hand, was the outcome of internal mobilization of the ENGOs’ themselves. The Alliance was created on November 9, 2008 as the result of long-term and amicable collaboration among its founding members. Following many years of determined effort to protect the species, the founding members concluded that the time had come to join forces and create an international framework that would strengthen existing and support new conservation and research initiatives.55 50. UNEP/Caribbean Environment Program 1992, 51. Mr Kaufmann was selected for the UNEP’s “The Global 500: The Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement” in 1990 (WIDECAST 2009b). 52. TIME 2000. 53. Eckert and Hemphill 2005. 54. WIDECAST itself does not have an individual membership base. 55. i-Monk’s founding members are CBD-Habitat (Fundación para la Conservación de la Biodiversidad y su Hábitat) of Spain, IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), MOM (The Hellenic


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Similar to WIDECAST, all the environmental conditions were met: a pressing environmental need and the available political space,56 a group of powerful and inºuential NGOs and a number of well-acquainted and respected individuals. Yet again, the Alliance’s creation made sense in resource terms as well. Its international members, such as the prestigious International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the only specialized online journal The Monachus Guardian (TMG), contributed considerably to its international political leverage while its national members, MOM-Greece and SAD-AFAG-Turkey (eastern Mediterranean) and CBD-Habitat and Parque Natural da Madeira (eastern Atlantic) respectively, brought their own intellectual, national political and membership sources of leverage. Thus i-Monk’s formation can be perceived as the outgrowth of sustained resource transactions. Over the years IFAW has ªnanced most of the scientiªc work of national actors57 while TMG has been duly reporting to an international audience the NGOs’ efforts to mobilize their respective governments on the conservation of monk seals. More recently, IFAW ªnancially supported MOM in running an EU-funded LIFE program, aimed at reducing monk seal mortality due to ªshing activities in the Greek seas (2005–2009).58 One of the program’s other funders, the Piraeus Bank of Greece, even supported The Monachus Guardian by advertising on its website the Bank’s own LIFE project— GREENbanking4LIFE.59 As we show in Table 3, the possession of differentiated power assets meant that a number of acceptable resource transactions were available to the actors involved. Similar to the WIDECAST case, this should have made taking the next step, from mere cooperation to a more concrete networking, more appealing to the organizations involved. We can now formulate the analysis of our case-study. As we argued above, ENGO networks would fail to form when the environmental conditions (structural, organizational and personal) are missing. These are necessary conditions: in their absence the need for networking most likely would not have risen. We will begin our analysis by checking whether these objective conditions had been present in the MEDSETCON case. Yet the mere existence of these conditions does not sufªce. Individuals (acting as organizational representatives) have to

56.

57. 58. 59.

Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal) of Greece, The Monachus Guardian (an international journal and website dedicated to monk seals), the Parque Natural da Madeira of Portugal and SAD-AFAG (Underwater Research Society / Mediterranean Seal Research Group) of Turkey. TMG 2008a. Until recently the international political space for the Mediterranean monk seal’s conservation was void, giving the i-Monk initiative the opportunity to ªll in. Just a month before the Alliance’s formal establishment, the IUCN started to exhibit an interest on the species and expressed its intention to support and promote its own collaborative projects. TMG 2008b. IFAW 2008. MOFI: Monk Seal and Fisheries, Mitigating the Conºict in the Greek Seas. The GREENbanking4Life deals with an integrated approach for dealing with an enterprise’s environmental impacts (http://www.greenbanking.gr). The Piraeus Bank’s CSR spokesperson mentioned that choosing The Monachus Guardian for advertising the program was related to the Bank’s ‘ongoing support to MOM’s work.’ Email communication with Mr. Dimitrios Dimopoulos, Environment Department, Piraeus Bank Group Headquarters, 31 March 2009.


High (national)

Variable (national)

High (internat.)

Very low

National ENGOs/Actors possessing

High (internat.)

Low

Variable (national)

Political assets

Intellectual assets

High (national)

High

Variable yet lower than WIDECAST

Financial assets

Variable yet lower than international actors

High

Financial assets

International ENGOs/Actors possessing

Table 3 Distribution of Power Assets for the Actors Involved in the I-Monk Formation

Member-to-be possessing

Political assets

Intellectual assets

WIDECAST possessing

Table 2 Distribution of Power Assets for the Actors Involved in the WIDECAST Formation

Variable yet higher than WIDECAST

Variable

Variable

Membership assets

Nil

Membership assets

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take the decision to network, and their decisions are informed by an evaluation of the costs and beneªts involved. Thus, the next step in our analysis would be to examine each organization’s stock of assets or sources of leverage (intellectual, political, ªnancial and membership). By identifying which assets each organization had (or not) we can assess which of the combinations presented in Table 3 (and anticipated outcomes) would be most likely for each of the participants. We argue that if it turns out that for most of MEDSETCON’s participants the perceived combinations seemed unsatisfactory, that this would explain why the network failed to materialize.

Methods and Data Sources The data for our analysis come from a variety of sources. Archival data include the minutes of the two consultation meetings concerning the creation of MEDSETCON (1999 and 2000) and the results of a questionnaire which was sent by the initiating parties to Mediterranean sea-turtle organizations and specialists in mid-2000.60 We also analyze the archived email correspondence concerning MEDSETCON provided by one of the ENGOs involved. We have also tried to gather ªrst-hand data by contacting and surveying all persons active in the deliberations. In Spring 2007 the principal author of the article contacted all 19 individuals present at either of the two consultative meetings, asking them to ªll in an on-line questionnaire under conditions of anonymity: only 5 answers were received (response rate 26.3%). In Autumn 2008 the principal author emailed again all 19 participants asking them for a phone interview, again under conditions of anonymity. Only three individuals responded to this call. Although representing only a fraction of the people engaged in the MEDSETCON deliberations, our interviewees are individuals who were deeply involved in the network’s development. All of them were members of MEDSETCON’s 10-member strong Interim Executive Committee. DHKD and MEDASSET hosted the network’s Interim Secretariat and they were also members (alongside STPS-Greece) of the Bylaws Task Force. Every effort was made to contact the representatives of WIDECAST and STPS, but without success. Accordingly, the subsequent analysis is based primarily on documentary analysis and secondary on information derived from the interviews. Data originating from the two questionnaires will be used to complement our points wherever needed.

Analysis: A Chronology of Efforts to Create MEDSETCON Mediterranean networks dealing with environmental protection are not uncommon. A number of thriving regional networks currently exist, such as MIO ECSDE (the Mediterranean Information Ofªce for Environment Culture and 60. Available from MEDCOAST’s webpage, www.medcoast.org.tr/medsetcon, accessed 14 April 2009.


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Sustainable Development), a federation of NGOs supported by the EU,61 and MEdIES (Mediterranean Education Initiative for Environment and Sustainability),whose core group includes the Greek and Italian Ministries for the Environment, UNESCO, UNEP-MAP62 and MIO ECSDE. A regional network is MEDCOAST which, by “enhancing scientiªc and professional collaboration among individuals and institutes,”63 aims at utilising improved coastal management practices to contribute to coastal and marine conservation in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. It also contributes to existing international efforts with similar goals. A regional newcomer is the “i-Monk” alliance, aiming to: “develop and implement joint, collaborative actions, where warranted and agreed by its constituent members; document the joint efforts of its member organizations; disseminate information; raise awareness; promote marine conservation, and facilitate the recovery of the Mediterranean monk seal throughout its current and historical range.”64 The Mediterranean has witnessed some early efforts to coordinate the protection of its endangered sea turtle species, especially the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas). As early as 1985, the Parties to the Barcelona Convention included among their priority targets the protection of Mediterranean marine turtles (Genoa Declaration, September 1985). The Action Plan for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Turtles was adopted in 1989 and in 1996 the Parties included all ªve species of marine turtle recorded for the Mediterranean in the List of Endangered and Threatened Species annexed to the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (Barcelona, 1995). The 1989 Action Plan was thoroughly revised between 1998 and 1999, and a new version of the text was adopted at the 11th Meeting of the Parties to the Barcelona Convention in Malta in October 1999.65 It was again revised in Palermo, Italy in June 2007. Despite these developments at the international level, there have been no bilateral agreements among Mediterranean states related to the conservation of sea turtles. Within national governments the responsibility lies with several ministries and agencies.66 This national piecemeal approach is obviously ineffective in implementing or facilitating comprehensive conservation actions. Furthermore, the existence of quite a few organizations dealing with sea-turtle conservation in the Mediterranean67 has not led to the creation of a regional ENGO 61. Founded in 1996 as a joint initiative by the EEB (European Environment Bureau) and one of the oldest Greek ENGOs, it currently has 105 members form 24 countries. MIO ECSDE has been generously funded by the EU ever since its creation: for the period 1997–2007 MIO it had received approximately 2.11 million £ for the “Co-ordination of Mediterranean ENGO activities.” EU Commission 2009 62. United Nations Environment Programme—Mediterranean Action Plan. 63. Currently 15 research institutions (from Turkey, the Netherlands, Italy, UK, Spain, Malta, Israel, France, Croatia, Egypt and Tunisia) formally collaborate under the umbrella of MEDCOAST. MEDCOAST 2009. 64. TMG 2008a. 65. Internet Guide to International Fisheries Law 2009. 66. Kasparek 2001. 67. Kasparek 2001, 143, lists three intergovernmental organizations, ªve Pan-Mediterranean


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network, contrary to the Caribbean case, where WIDECAST has been active since the early 1980s. In 1998, at a PEW Fellow Meeting in the USA, Drs. Erdal Ozhan (chairman of MEDCOAST) and Karen Eckert (Executive Director of WIDECAST) conceived the idea of a Mediterranean network to deal with the conservation of the region’s sea-turtles. In 1999, Ozhan and Eckert addressed an open letter to some prominent ENGO representatives dealing with sea turtle conservation in the Mediterranean stressing that: the implementation of conservation efforts has been largely orchestrated and undertaken at the national level, with little international collaboration for regional management. Such collaboration is essential due to the migratory nature of these species. It is clear that despite national efforts, sea turtles can be effectively protected in one area of the Mediterranean Sea whilst still being killed in another area of the basin.

This gloomy assessment was coupled by the comment that despite the fact that “the Mediterranean Action Plan . . . provides a uniquely useful inter-governmental forum for regional strategic action, what is lacking is a regionally inclusive and largely non-governmental network to advocate for sea turtle conservation in ways that are not practicable at the inter-governmental level.”68 The letter served as an invitation to a ªrst consultation (FC) meeting to facilitate the creation of a Mediterranean Sea Turtle Conservation Network— MEDSETCON. The meeting was held in Dalyan, Turkey, in June 1999, where the 13 attendees adopted a Resolution agreeing: To pursue the feasibility and the creation of a Mediterranean sea turtle conservation network, which has as its goal “to create an inclusive regional network of sea turtle NGO’s, scientists, conservationists, educators, policymakers and others capable of taking effective, collaborative action to prevent the extinction and promote the recovery of sea turtles in the Mediterranean Region.”69

MEDCOAST and WIDECAST asserted their willingness to serve as facilitators in the creation of the new network, yet it was stressed that “as the network becomes functional, it will be an independent NGO.”70 In late August 2000, the initiating group circulated a questionnaire to around 150 organizations and individual researchers active in Mediterranean sea-turtle conservation. Forty-four responses were received and the majority of respondents agreed that the creation of the network would be “useful” and “enhance their work” and they would “actively participate” in it.71 The results were

68. 69. 70. 71.

ENGOs (i.e. operating throughout the region) and approximately twenty national and local NGOs, “which either deal exclusively with marine turtles, or for which marine turtles are at least a major activity.” Ozhan and Eckert 1999. MEDSETCON 1999a. Ozhan and Eckert 1999. MEDSETCON 2000a.


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discussed, amongst other issues, at the second consultation (SC) meeting in Cairo, in November 2000. Although the questionnaire had managed to stir some regional political passions, by the unfortunate wording of “Northern Cyprus” as the country of origin for some of the questionnaire’s respondents,72 the issue was discussed and apparently resolved at an early stage and the meeting proceeded to debate and decide on other matters. Three interim bodies were elected: an Executive Committee, a Bylaws Task Force and a Secretariat. The latter was assigned with taking the lead in maintaining correspondence within the Executive Committee, working closely with the bylaws team, and circulating, editing and revising the draft bylaws, as well as organizing the follow-up meeting. A ªnal deadline (June 2001) was set for circulating the draft bylaws to the Executive Committee. Developments after Cairo were extremely slow and quite disappointing. It took eleven months to circulate the SC minutes and the June deadline passed without debating the draft bylaws within the Task Force. According to e-mail records, both the Secretariat and the other Executive Committee members had not been particularly active either. For example the Secretariat’s appeal to the participants of the two consultative meetings to provide examples of their own organizations’ bylaws was met with widespread apathy. The third consultation (TC) meeting held during the First Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles in Rome in 2001 proved similarly inconclusive. The two network initiators, Drs. Eckert and Ozhan were not able to attend due to other commitments. The Bylaws Task Force did convene but failed to reach any agreement while there had been “quite some discontent about the Secretariat’s seeming lack of attention to their responsibility this past year.”73. After 2001 the idea of MEDSETCON withered. It did surface from time to time, yet it was either delegated to future meetings or was not discussed in any detail or with much commitment. Table 6 summarizes the previous discussion and highlights some of the most important events concerning the deliberations about MEDSETCON.

Results: Creating MEDSETCON: Exploring the Environmental Conditions Structural Conditions As various researchers and activists have long stressed,74 marine environmental issues in general, and sea-turtle conservation in particular, necessitate international co-operation due to their transboundary character. As WIDECAST’s cur72. The “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC) is a self-proclaimed independent state located in the occupied northern part of Cyprus. TRNC is dependent on and recognized only by Turkey. The United Nations recognize the de jure sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus over the whole island. 73. Email archive. 74. Campbell 2007; Kasparek 2001; and Richards and Heard 2005.


• The SC meeting established: 1. Interim Executive Committee5 2. Interim Secretariat (DHKD with MEDASSET’s aid) 3. Bylaws Task Force (DHKD (chair), STPS & MEDASSET) • MEDTURTLE6 to be used as the network’s listserv

• 09/99 Questionnaire circulation (sent to

150 individuals in 13 countries) -44 answers received 10/99 • SC postponed to May 2000 • Several Greek ENGOs question the involvement and wording of “Northern Cyprus” in MEDSETCOM through “restricted” email circulation. • Face-to-face discussions at the SC meeting (10 attendees)4

• The ‘Northern Cyprus’ issue discussed and resolved

• Email exchanges

July 1999: Logistical procedures to November 2000: Second Consultation (SC) meeting (Cairo, Egypt)

hosts and observers—on Network’s “Objectives” • Resolution adopted in FC, agreeing to pursue the feasibility and the creation of a Mediterranean Network • Some present were selectively tasked (Facilitators)2 with: 1. Producing the FC’s Minutes 2. Creating a regional mailing list 3. Preparing the Questionnaire3 4. Arranging for the second consultation 5. Fundraising

• Vote at the FC, of nine participants present—excluding

Email exchanges • Face-to-face discussions at the FC (13 attendees, two of which with Observer status)1

November 1997: Conception of project to June, 1999: First Consultation (FC) meeting regarding MEDSETCON (Dalyan, Turkey)

Results

Main Activities & Events

TIME FRAME

Table 4 Chronology of MEDSETCON Related Events


Email exchanges Interim secretariat largely inactive SC minutes circulated by WIDECAST Third consultation to occur in Rome. MEDCOAST & WIDECAST representatives unable to attend. • MEDASSET suggests only the Bylaws Task Force convene

• Suggestion to put the network on the Sym-

November 2001 to April 2002: Mediterranean Sea Turtle Meeting at the 22nd Annual Sea Turtle Symposium (Miami, USA)

May 2002 to March 2003: Second Mediterranean Sea Turtle Specialists Group Meeting at the 23rd Annual Sea Turtle Symposium (March 2003, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

• • • •

December 2000 to October 2001: First Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles (Rome, Italy)

• No activities

posium Agenda • Most of the Executive Committee’s members as well as DHKD (Secretariat) announced they cannot attend the Miami meeting due to ªscal considerations • Face-to-face discussions in Miami (20 individuals from 10 countries plus three observers attended)

Main Activities & Events

TIME FRAME

Table 4 (Continued)

The issue of the network was on the agenda of the Second Mediterranean Sea Turtle Specialists Group Meeting in Kuala Lampur, but was not discussed.

The issue was raised as an item on the agenda during the Mediterranean Sea Turtle Specialist Meeting at Miami but as one NGO representative mentioned “the time was not right for such a complex exercise.”

the network’s Bylaws. A two-month’ extension was agreed7. • The relevant Conference’s press release mentioned that the “NGOs’ group will continue their efforts towards setting up a network [. . .] and appeal for wider participation in their effort.”

• The Bylaws Task Force met in Rome but failed to agree on

Results


• No activities

March 2003 to February 2004: Third Mediterranean Sea Turtle Specialists Group Meeting at the 24th Annual Sea Turtle Symposium (February 2004, San Jose, Costa Rica) February 2004 to May 2005: 2nd Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles (May 2005, Kemer, Turkey)

network. Participants questioned the reasons for its necessity. The possibility of networking among rescue centres in the Mediterranean was raised. The MTSG regional chair concluded that maybe the time was not yet right for such a network

• Dr. Erdal Ozhal presided over a lengthy discussion on the

The issue of the network was referred to the forthcoming 2nd Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles in Turkey.

Results

1. The attendees included the representatives of the MEDCOAST and WIDECAST Networks, one English and one Italian academic (University of Swansea and ICRAM), representatives form UNEP/CMS, UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan RAC/SPA as well as a representative for the Turkish Ministry for the Environment. Only ªve were ENGO representatives: one Italian (Chelon), one Turkish (DHKD—Society for the Protection of Nature, the WWF afªliate in Turkey), one Greek (STPS-Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece) and two from MEDASSET (The Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles, Greece and UK). 2. The Facilitators were comprised of two national NGOs (STPS, DHKD), two regional NGOs (WIDECAST, MED-COAST) and one individual member (Dr. Annette Broderick, University of Swansea). 3. To “solicit feedback from colleagues throughout the Region on the desirability, feasibility and creation of a Mediterranean sea turtle conservation network.” 4. They included the representatives from MEDCOAST, WIDECAST, UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan RAC/SPA and the University of Swansea. Six were ENGOs’ representatives: two from STPS, two from MEDASSET, one from DHKD and one from the Ionian Sea Research Centre (a local Greek ENGO, no longer operating). It is interesting to note that seven out of the ten attendees had participated at the FC as well, while the UK representative was representing “both himself and his wife” i.e. the University of Swansea’s participant in the FC meeting. 5. Consisting of all organizations present. Chelon and MTSG (Marine Turtle Specialists Group) were added post-meeting. 6. The newly established listserv of the Mediterranean Section of the Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG). On this see also next section. 7. The Bylaws Task Force has not met since.

countries attended. • At the events’ program a topic reading: “Discussion on Mediterranean Network (by invitation)—2 hours in length” was included

• 177 participants from 16 Mediterranean

Main Activities & Events

TIME FRAME

Table 4 (Continued)


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Difªculties faced in Materializing a Transnational ENGO Conservation Network

rent Executive Director, Dr. Karen Eckert bluntly put it, “Sea Turtles will not survive in the Caribbean Sea without unºinching regional cooperation and coordination of conservation and management programs.”75 Nobody had thought that in the Mediterranean it would be any different. Attendees at the FC meeting pointed out that “the protection of sea turtles can only occur if we all work together at all levels”76 while the network’s most important feature had to be “the commitment of people to work together to enhance the survival prospects of shared populations of sea turtles.”77 The need to address this latter problem was described as “urgent” while a Med-level network was deemed appropriate as existing European approaches were considered as “too big.”78 Thus the existing situation was perceived as a challenge that needed to be met through international cooperation79. Accordingly, the Background Document to the FC envisaged the creation of an “inclusive regional network of sea turtle NGOs, scientists, conservationists, educators, policy-makers and others capable of taking effective, collaborative action to prevent the extinction and promote the recovery of sea turtles in the Mediterranean Region.”80 On the other hand, the existence of a favorable political space where the network could act had been an issue of consideration and debate. The Background Document itself envisaged the ideal situation where the network would serve as “a Partner Organization of RAC-SPA / MAP-UNEP.”: 81 This relationship was clearly modelled on the WIDECAST-UNEP/Caribbean Environment Programme (CAP), where “CAP publishes and distributes WIDECAST’s major outputs, including national sea turtle recovery action plans, standard guidelines and criteria for conservation and management, etc.”82 At Dalyan other inºuential agencies’ representatives also stressed the importance of connecting with RAC-SPA. Thus the representative of UNEP/Convention for Migratory Species (CMS), after indicating his agency’s “willing[ness] to be a supporting partner and collaborator” for MEDSETCON, mentioned that the emerging network “should work in collaboration with the existing RAC/SPA network, as governments are already comfortable with RAC/ SPA.”83 The RAC/SPA representative himself, after stressing his agency’s long-standing collaboration with and sponsorship of regional NGOs (making “RAC/SPA . . . a very successful mechanism for regional cooperation”), expressed the “hope to work closely with any NGO network which might develop.”84 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81.

Eckert 2002. STPS representative. MEDCOAST representative. MEDCOAST representative. MEDSETCON 1999a. Ozhan and Eckert 1999. The Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) (established in 1985) is a Secretariat overseeing the implementation of the relevant SPA protocol of the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan. 82. Ozhan and Eckert 1999. 83. MEDSETCON 1999a. 84. MEDSETCON 1999a.


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The emergence of new actors cast some doubts over the incipient network’s political relevance. In 1998, MAP-UNEP convened a Meeting of Experts on the implementation of its Action Plan for the Conservation of Mediterranean Sea Turtles, and in 1999 the Mediterranean Section of the Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) was established.85 Accordingly, the relevance and distinctiveness of MEDSETCON was based on its conception and promotion as an advocacy network. The Background Document to the FC meeting, while acknowledging the importance of MAP-UNEP’s initiative, maintained that “What is lacking, however, is a regionally inclusive and largely non-governmental network to advocate for sea turtle conservation in ways that are not practicable at the inter-governmental level.”86 Similarly the creation of the MTSG Med Section was not considered as diminishing either the need or the importance of MEDSETCON. As it was mentioned at the FC, the extension of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group into the Mediterranean Region would not likely be sufªcient to “stir the passions” of the region, simply because the MTSG was, by deªnition, a global body of experts assembled to serve the purposes of IUCN and not conceived to be an inclusive network at regional or sub-regional levels.87

What was really needed—and obviously lacking—was “a Med network of NGOs that can say what needs to be said and can lobby governments in a united way.”88 Stressing such a division of labor was all the more appropriate since most participants at the FC were concerned with how MEDSETCON would ªt in with other regional efforts. Thus the MTSG’s regional role was to be taken into account “so as to avoid a duplicate effort.”89. Other participants followed suit. Although they recognized the need for a network, they stressed, for example, that “RAC/SPA had many of the same objectives [as were listed in the Background Document] in mind and that related activities were already being implemented at inter-governmental levels,”90 while “some of the objectives listed in the Background Document were being undertaken by NGOs, as well, especially regional NGOs (e.g., WWF, IUCN) and some of the larger national groups.”91 To these concerns the rejoinder was that MEDSETCON (being an advocacy network) 85. The MTSG is one of the Specialist Groups and Tasks Forces of the powerful and inºuential IUCN-The World Conservation Union. In early 1999, that is a few months before the Dalyan meeting, the MTSG, having “recognized the need to concentrate more on regional collaborative efforts for conserving marine turtles” established (amongst others) its Mediterranean Section (‘tasked to identify key issues, focus MTSG actions on regional priorities and establish collaborations with key organizations and institutions at all levels’) with Mr. Dimitris Margaritoulis, then president of the STPS-Greece, as its ªrst Head. MTSG 2009. 86. MEDSETCON 1999b. 87. MEDCOAST representative. MEDSETCON 1999a. 88. Chelon representative. 89. Chelon representative. 90. RAC/SPA representative. 91. MEDASSET Greek representative.


136 •

Difªculties faced in Materializing a Transnational ENGO Conservation Network

would be a qualitatively different scheme and one caring for hitherto unattended regional needs. Thus when the STPS representative suggested that since “There are many sea turtle projects in the region, and competition for money and other ‘turf’ considerations offer persistent impediments to collaboration” then “the ªrst step should be to ascertain whether Mediterranean project administrators wanted to work together as a network,” one of the meeting’s hosts responded: networks bring people together, not projects. The new network would not be responsible for the success of projects, and the history of an individual project would not feature as importantly in the structure and function of the network as the commitment of people to work together to enhance the survival prospects of shared populations of sea turtles (emphasis in the original).92

The need for integrating all involved parties was even highlighted by the UNEP/ CMS Secretariat observer who mentioned that “grassroots groups and resource users are not represented at the inter-governmental level, nor are ªsheries experts.”93 The issue of ªtting with existing schemes was further debated at the SC meeting in Cairo (2000). There the MTSG Mediterranean Regional Chair commented that: he had reviewed the Minutes and he wondered, “what is the need for such a regional network?” With the success of intergovernmental commitments and activities, what more is there to contribute? It is the business of RACSPA, for example, to pass Resolutions and to implement the Mediterranean Action Plan—who implements “our” Resolutions or recommendations? Maybe the primary role of a regional sea turtle conservation network, at least at the beginning, should be to deªne the relationship between the new network and the existing convention entities. He suggested that the PanMediterranean Conference might be a good forum for this discussion. He also noted that the network cannot produce an Action Plan (because the region has already negotiated such a Plan), but the network could have a formal role in implementing the Action Plan at the local level.94

A RAC/SPA representative agreed and suggested that . . . such a discussion (i.e. the relationship between the new network and existing regional collaborative mechanisms, especially those at the intergovernmental level) be placed on the agenda for the [then forthcoming] Pan-Mediterranean Sea Turtle Conference.95

Other participants counter-argued that while the network’s relation to the Mediterranean Action Plan was an issue deserving serious attention, there were 92. 93. 94. 95.

MEDCOAST representative. MEDSETCON 1999a. Mediterranean Regional chairman (and STPS head). MEDSETCON 2000b.


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nevertheless many aspects of sea turtle conservation that were not covered by existing venues—as they were identiªed during the FC meeting.96 In particular, “there is a need in the region for a broader vision and more collaboration at the project level, including information exchange, personnel training, standardized reporting, and advocacy, when appropriate, from the non-governmental scientiªc community”97. Thus the new network “would logically play a role in implementing the existing Action Plan at the local level, but also contribute to it and advocate for change as necessary”98. These rejoinders were met with the sober remark that some kind of alignment with the Mediterranean Action Plan . . . might lend continuity to the regional agenda already in place, “visibility” and “stature” to the network (as has already been discussed), and strengthen existing mechanisms. Also, by ªtting into the agenda set by the Action Plan, it might be more likely that the network would receive funding from UNEP.99

Therefore, we conclude that despite the existence of other actors in the political arena at that time, the space necessary for the creation of a transnational advocacy network was available. Thus MEDSETCON was envisaged as an allinclusive network whose . . . membership should not be conªned to established academics, NGO personnel, or project directors, but instead embrace people from any walk of life whose daily responsibilities involve sea turtles, coastal habitat management, or related conservation issues. This might include protected areas managers, local educators, or specialists in coastal zone management, pollution, or sea turtle husbandry/ rehabilitation.100

Such a network was surely missing in the Mediterranean, as all participants at the SC (members of other regional bodies and not alike) ªnally came to agree. Thus the second structural precondition we have identiªed in the theoretical introduction was also met for the MEDSETCON case. Organizational and Personal Conditions Participants of the two consultative meetings were amongst the most inºuential and powerful organizations concerned with sea turtle management in the Mediterranean. We have already mentioned their multiple afªliations with other inºuential bodies (UNEP/CMS, RAC/SPA, MTSG, MEDCOAST), and Table 5 offers an overview. As a case in point, when one of the participants at the FC meeting questioned its representativeness, “after considerable deliberation, none of 96. 97. 98. 99. 100.

WIDECAST representative. MEDSETCON 2000b. University of Swansea specialist. MEDSETCON 2000b. MEDCOAST President. MEDSETCON 2000b. MTSG Med Regional Chair/STPS President. MEDSETCON 2000b. WIDECAST Executive Director. MEDSETCON 2000b.


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Difªculties faced in Materializing a Transnational ENGO Conservation Network

Table 5 MEDSETCON Member Afªliations STPS (ARCHELON) Based in Greece.

ARCHELON is a Partner to the UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan, a member of the European Union for the Conservation of the Coasts (EUCC). Members of ARCHELON participate in the IUCN/ Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

MEDASSET Based in Greece and the UK

Since 1988 the organisation has been a partner to UNEP/MAP and a permanent observer-member to the Standing Committee of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention); a member of the EUCC, British Chelonia Group (BCG) and MIOECSDE. Members of MEDASSET participate in the IUCN/Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

DHKD (Turkish Society for the Protection of Nature) Based in Turkey

One of the oldest Turkish ENGOs. Reshufºed into WWF-Turkey in 2001

MEDCOAST (A network of 14 International University Departments and Research Institutes)

Consultative status with: UNEP’s Mediterranean Action Plan; GEF Black Sea Environmental Programme; Institutional organisational members of: International Center for Coastal and Ocean Policy Studies, ICCOPS- Joint Research Center of EC (Genoa, Italy). Institute for Remote Sensing, Joint Research Center, European Union, (Ispra, Italy). Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Center (PAP/RAC), Mediterranean Action Plan, UNEP (Split, Croatia).

Marine Turtle Research Group which was based at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Wales, Swansea in 1999 but now based at the University of Exeter.

Afªliated with Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter in Cornwall, UK, conducting research on the northern shores of Cyprus

CHELON Marine Turtle Conservation and Research Programme, based in Italy

An NGO based at the Tethys Research Institute in Milan since 1992 and collaborating with RAC/SPA; no longer working under that name.

HACETTEPE UNIVERSITY Department Of Biology Aquatic Life Laboratory, Turkey.

University Department


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the participants could think of a major sea turtle project in the region that was not represented at the meeting.”101 These were the organizations best suited, in terms of their organizational resources, to spearhead the MEDSETCON initiative. Table 5 shows that they also possessed high levels of political leverage, being connected to important policymaking bodies. They also had high stocks of intellectual capital: their online publication lists contain a number of research articles published in prestigious scientiªc journals. We conclude that the organizations involved at MEDSETCON possessed both the organizational as well as the personal resources necessary for the endeavour. The participants in the two meetings were personal acquaintances (in some cases even friends), their organizations were well respected and their scientiªc record was impeccable. Everything looked auspicious for the new network at the closing of the Cairo meeting, as both the minutes and our interviewees document. Why then did the professed engagement of all those important actors fail to translate into concrete action over the coming years? As we will show in the next sub-section, this was because the MEDSETCON initiative had not been able to provide any kind of leverage to its constituent members. In short, they had no incentive to actively engage in this scheme. Analyzing MEDSETCON: Exploring the Sources of Leverage Considerations One of the most important beneªts networking could offer was access to the data of other members. After all, as was mentioned at the FC meeting, “we are only as strong as our [individual and collective] database.”102 The importance attributed by all involved to the procurement of intellectual resources is plainly evident when the focus is on the priorities-to-be of MEDSETCON. When the participants at the FC meeting held a vote on this issue, typical transnational advocacy network priorities103 (shown in italics in Table 6) were overall given lower priority (third column of Table 6) than issues of scientiªc information sharing, standardization and fund raising. Similar rankings resulted from the responses received to the questionnaire circulated soon after Dalyan to the broader community, on which a similar vote was held (fourth column of Table 6).104 As Ta101. 102. 103. 104.

MEDSETCON 1999a. DHKD representative. MEDSETCON 1999a. Keck and Sikkink 1998, 8–25. Forty four answers from 13 countries were received, which recorded an almost unanimous agreement that ‘it would be useful to create a regionally inclusive and largely NGO-based’ network and that ‘such a network could enhance your work, particularly at local and national levels’ as well as that the respondent ‘will actively participate in a Mediterranean network for sea turtle conservation’ (For all answers 98% Agree/Strongly Agree or Deªnitely Yes/Probably Yes, respectively). Concerning the network’s priorities, different scales were used in the two votes. For the FC meeting’s vote four options were available: ‘1’ Highest priority; ‘2’ Second Priority; ‘3’ Third Priority; ‘4’ Least Priority. For the questionnaire circulated at the wider ENGO community three options were offered instead: ‘1’ Critically Important; ‘2’ Important’; ‘3’ Not Important.


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Difªculties faced in Materializing a Transnational ENGO Conservation Network

ble 6 (column 5) shows, for some priorities we ªnd statistically signiªcant differences between the two groups’ answers. Yet these differences are due to the fact that the broader community groups consistently gave higher scores to every single priority offered, possibly testifying to these organizations’ scarcer ªscal and informational resources, as well as to their limited inºuence in policy formulation and implementation—both nationally and internationally. Yet the pattern of priorities is similar even for this latter group: (transnational) advocacy priorities were deemed less important than issues related to the ENGOs sources of leverage. We thus ªnd a disparity between the rhetoric of claims and the reality of needs for the organizations involved. An advocacy network was surely missing in the Mediterranean, and for such a network there existed some political space, taking into account the reservations and/or points raised by various participants at the consultation meetings. But it seems that both the organizations spearheading the MEDSETCON initiative and the general NGO community had more tangible priorities in mind for this new scheme. We argue that it is this discrepancy which accounts for the failure of MEDSETCON to become established while all the environmental prerequisites were in place. As we argued in the theoretical section above, network formation can also be understood as the outcome of acceptable resource transactions. In the case of MEDSETCON, the organizations initially involved already possessed high levels of both intellectual and political leverage (see previous section), and they would have liked to obtain more. And, as it follows from Column 3, Table 6, what they wanted out of the network was more information (intellectual leverage), more policy input (political leverage) and more funds (ªnancial leverage)—in that order. We argue that such rational calculations would have pointed against committing to the network. In other words, we argue that the way MEDSETCON was envisaged, promoted and supposed to operate would have failed to persuade the initiating members that it could enhance their sources of leverage. And if this was indeed the case, then these groups had no material incentive either to bear the costs of participation or to exchange their existing power assets. In other words, they had no incentive to pursue networking. In the following three sub-sections we shall analyze why this was the case for the intellectual, political and ªscal sources of leverage in turn. Intellectual Leverage Virtually all scientiªc information concerning the Mediterranean sea turtles had come from the research and publications of the involved actors, as can be seen For our analysis we consider the two scales identical. We merged the former’s categories ‘3’ and ‘4’ into a new category ‘3’: ‘Lowest priority.’ Also we have deleted from the broader community’s sample those individuals who had already answered the questionnaire at the FC meeting.


To facilitate and promote information exchange among sea turtle research and conservation programmes in the Mediterranean Region, including standardization

To facilitate and promote collaboration at a Mediterranean scale for sea turtle management and conservation, and to promote compatibility in data collection and reporting

To harmonize national programmes (including the adoption of best practices) in Mediterranean countries for protecting sea turtles, recovering depleted populations, and safeguarding critical habitat

To facilitate and contribute to research on sea turtle biology and conservation at a regional scale, including strengthening the capacity of NGO’s to design and implement scientiªcally sound research and conservation programmes (such as through training programmes)

To enhance public awareness of the need for sea turtle conservation, and increase public participation in and support of sea turtle conservation initiatives

To promote long-term national and regional conservation planning in order to establish mutual priorities, emphasize best practices, avoid redundancy, and evaluate progress

1

2

3

4

5

6

Objectives

7

7

5

6

4

6

3

2

1

ENGO relative ranking

12

2

1

FC relative ranking

2.249 (sig ⫽.049)

1.978

0.538

4.026 (sig ⫽.000)

⫺0.769

⫺1.382

t-test results

Table 6 MEDSETCON’s Priorities-To-Be: Relative Ranking of Objectives as Voted by the FC Meeting Participants and the Broader ENGO Community (1999) and In Between-Group Comparison*


To facilitate and enable a coordinated, regional response to issues of transnational interest, such as incidental catch in international waters, regional tourism policies, international trafªcking in sea turtle products, and the implementation of treaties

To provide input into inter-governmental organizations (such as UNEP/MAP RAC SPA) and international NGO’s (such as WWF and IUCN) with regard to their policies and programmes on sea turtle conservation in the Mediterranean

To integrate grassroots and national efforts into national and regional decisionmaking

To collaborate with regional networks in other parts of the world, such as WIDECAST in the Caribbean Sea and SPREP’s [South Paciªc Regional Environment Programme] regional sea turtle programme in the South Paciªc, to strengthen the solidarity of conservation efforts in Mediterranean range states

8

9

1 0

1 1

8 10

8 9

7

4

3

7

9

ENGO relative ranking

4

FC relative ranking

Note: t-test for Equality of means (independent samples). In bold are the statistical signiªcant results. In italics are the “advocacy” objectives.

To bolster the fund-raising capacity of Mediterranean sea turtle conservation projects

7

Objectives

Table 6 (Continued)

0.864

3.203 (sig .003)

3.014 (sig .004)

1.011

⫺0.339

t-test results


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• 143

from their voluminous publication records. Yet a closer look also reveals a lack of scientiªc cooperation. Take for example the case of joint scientiªc publications, conferences presentations, etc. The online dataset of publications of the STPS105 returns one single joint scientiªc publication with other NGOs active in the Mediterranean (out of approximately 60 publications over a span of 20 years). The case had been similar both for MEDASSET106 and the Marine Turtle Research Group.107 Thus, despite eagerly wanting access to others’ data (ranked ªrst in Table 6), the regional actors were not particularly keen on sharing their own. As one of our interviewees suggested, this might be attributed to two different mindsets. On one hand, academics were not eager to share their data before publication—a process which evidently was not compatible with the ENGOs’ need to get their hands on up-to-date information and use it as swiftly as possible for lobbying politicians and the public into action. On the other hand, ENGOs themselves were not particularly keen on sharing their data, not only because they too had a scientiªc agenda, but also because they were targeting a common population and, in some cases, the very same nesting beaches. Giving out data before it was properly reported by and credited to yourself could run the risk of being used by your faster, more resourceful, more active or aggressive peers in enhancing their own leverage and public image. Furthermore, the issue of information sharing and exchange began to be addressed (albeit partially and in a limited fashion) through other schemes, developed independently of MEDSETCON. Thus the MTSG Mediterranean section had just been created and its newly established listserv (MEDTURTLE) aimed speciªcally to spread and circulate information amongst the region’s specialists/ NGOs. Quite importantly, the listserv was free from any organizational/ personal costs relating to networking formation and maintenance. As a direct result of the MTSG creation, the ªrst Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles became a reality in less than two years (2001) and there has been a “Meeting of Mediterranean [Sea Turtle] Specialists” in every relevant international symposium since that time (starting with Miami, USA in 2002). These occasions provided an opportunity for annual face-to-face meetings and exchange of ideas (thus meeting one of MEDSETCON’s primary would-be beneªts), as well as providing for the low intensity interaction that was the most regional actors could (or would) cope with. Some of the very same issues raised at MEDSETCON’s consultative meetings were also debated in the specialists’ meetings (e.g. tagging procedures, exchange of data, networking, etc.) with equally disappointing results. For example, the idea of a “Rescue Centres” network had been suggested, but never came to fruition because sea-turtle tagging conformity proved rather difªcult in practice. A suggestion at the Miami (2002) Medi105. STPS 2009. 106. MEDASSET 2009. 107. MTRG 2009.


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terranean meeting “to create a database of all tagged turtles captured at sea” was met with “The general consensus . . . that most turtle groups want to use their own data, consequently it is unlikely that such a database would work. Instead, it was suggested to encourage projects within the Mediterranean to publish their data regularly.”108 Apparently then, the interested actors felt both that their existing intellectual assets sufªced and that any addition could and would come though more regular publications. As such, a formal network was not considered beneªcial. An illustration of this point emerges from the Mediterranean Specialists’ meeting of 2005 where cooperation/networking in the Mediterranean was discussed: The issue of networking in the Mediterranean is considered very important but until now attempts were unsuccessful. It would be good to have an ofªcial network, but available solutions from other regions are not perceived as possible at the moment. Whatever develops, the need for national representatives is considered important. It was agreed that, at the present time, the only way for networking is through speciªc projects or activities.109

It is evident that for (most of) the Mediterranean ENGOs an intellectual to intellectual exchange was not acceptable. Most of them were happy with gathering and working with their own data—and waiting for their peers’ publications. More data was surely welcomed—and sought after, but not at the price of sharing one’s own depot of such a valuable resource.110 Political Leverage As we have demonstrated in Table 1, intellectual assets can be—under certain conditions—exchanged with other resources such as political leverage. Yet again, for the MEDSETCON case this was not possible. To start with, and as it follows from Table 5, all initiating actors’ political leverage was already high. Furthermore, as one of our interviewees mentioned, most ENGOs had been quite mindful (and perhaps apprehensive) of how this new network would interfere with their national conservation efforts in the ªeld. Thus participation in MEDSETCON would have been attractive if it resulted in even higher political relevance and especially at the international level. This could only occur through closer association and cooperation with important regional bodies, which in the past had supported and added muscle to various ENGOs’ efforts, and this was made explicitly clear by different actors’ remarks during the consul108. Margaritoulis and Glenn 2002, our emphasis. 109. Casale et al. 2005. 110. All ªve of our online questionnaires respondents “(Strongly) Agreed” that one of the reasons MEDSETCON failed to get established was that “Some of the parties did not wish to share their own scientiªc data.” This has to be complemented with the view that “The sea turtle organisations are very territorial and the Mediterranean’s nesting beaches have in a sense been ‘carved up’ between them, with disputes in rights to research the beaches” (60% “Strongly Agreeing,” 40% “Nor/neither”).


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tative meetings. The new network had to work together not only with national governments, but most importantly with international bodies if it wished to be of relevance. As was mentioned at the Cairo meeting, MEDSETCON “[had] to court relationships with larger entities in the Mediterranean . . . UNEP, IUCN, WWF” and secure “an air of ofªcial status and ‘glamour’ . . . similar to the relationship that WIDECAST has with the UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme”111. And this had to be achieved while making sure not to duplicate, bypass and/or antagonize existing initiatives and/or relations. As we have shown, partly in trying not to step on the toes of any of the operating schemes, MEDSETCON was promoted as an advocacy network, clearly different from anything that already existed. Yet trying to avoid the risk of redundancy eventually led the network initiative into irrelevance. Spurred by a well-intended, yet quite puritan, understanding of advocacy, a number of offers by important regional bodies were not taken up. Thus, when the UNEP/CMS representative indicated that his agency “would be willing to be a supporting partner and collaborator [for MEDSETCON]” this was not pursued further.112 And when the RAC/SPA representative asked the participants at the Cairo meeting “whether RAC-SPA could host the new regional network,” this offer from the region’s most powerful actor was kindly rejected: [MEDCOAST Head] responded that, in his view, NGOs and governments tend to view things differently, and perhaps a complementary relationship would be more beneªcial for both parties. Nonetheless, when the criteria have been established and the Bylaws adopted, UNEP should feel free to express its desire, if it has one, to host the network. (A short discussion of this point ensued, and the consensus was that NGOs and academics would beneªt from an apolitical forum in which to collaborate, exchange information, and advocate to the inter-governmental community.)113

MEDSETCON thus consciously chose not to cooperate (at least initially) with these high-proªle actors. As a result it would not be in a position to enhance its perspective members’ political capital. Quite logically, for most of the initiating actors it would have made little sense to invest in a network which was not providing another important asset, political leverage, while at the same time making claims over their intellectual resources. Financial Leverage Last—but not least—we turn our attention to issues of monetary resources. Their importance and relevance is hard to miss, particularly for the initiating organizations. As it follows from Table 6, these were actors which have considered “bolstering the fund-raising capacity of Mediterranean sea turtle conservation 111. MEDASSET Greece representative. MEDSETCON 2000b. 112. MEDSETCON 1999a. 113. MEDSETCON 2000b.


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Difªculties faced in Materializing a Transnational ENGO Conservation Network

projects” as an important priority (Ranked 4th out of 11), unlike the general community (Ranked 9th). This may come as a surprise since the former were better resourced and more afºuent organizations. Yet they were also the ones with the larger conservation and research projects—thus in need of more and larger funding. Furthermore, as one of the participants at the FC meeting observed, regional “competition for money and other ‘turf’ considerations offer persistent impediments to collaboration.”114 Thus, in order to be attractive to participants, MEDSETCON had to offer some solutions to these ªnancial demands. Again, ªscal beneªts might have counterbalanced the unavailability of political and intellectual resources—it might even have persuaded some groups to give access to their stocks of either of these resources. But ªnancial bonuses were not readily available. The consultative meetings were only made possible due to the availability of funds by the Pew Trust. And as these funds withered, so did any ªnancial appeal of MEDSETCON. The negative role played by the lack of follow up funding—and its crippling effect on future developments—is evident through the email exchanges at the time,115 and was conªrmed both by our interviewees and by the respondents’ answers/ comments to our online questionnaire.116 One of the latter commented “participants only attended as their expenditures were paid,” and “they did not feel that they [had] to engage themselves in the absence of funding.” Arguably, a successful network would enhance the participants’ funding prospects. At the FC meeting the “competition-over-money” claim was counter argued by pointing out that “networks can serve to enhance project funding by emphasizing cooperation, not competition ([and] this is viewed favourably by donors).”117 Yet MEDSETCON simply lacked the ªnancial resources necessary to overcome the initial inertia. Similarly, a suggestion at the First Mediterranean Specialists’ meeting (in Miami in 2002) to create a regional fundraising mechanism for encouraging funding and administrating such funds was welcomed yet never materialized. Devoting desperately scarce resources to a nonguaranteed bid for securing more funds in the future was obviously not appealing. We summarize the previous discussion in Table 7. It shows that the distribution of particular power assets meant that no transactions were feasible or desirable. MEDSETCON could not provide any of the important resources. We argue that this was why this initiative could not have developed into an operating network. 114. MEDSETCON 1999a. 115. “I know it’s not much of an excuse, but this project doesn’t provide any salary time [. . .], and it seems that when a signiªcant chunk of time is needed (such as in compiling these minutes), it is so very difªcult to ªnd a week to devote to it.” Email communication between selected MEDSETCON participants. “I agree however that meetings are becoming more and more expensive for most of us!.” Email to all MEDSETCON participants. 116. Four out of ªve agreeing that lack of (follow up) funding and organizational resources needed for the network’s creation contributed to MEDSETCON’s failure to materialize. 117. MEDSETCON 1999a.


ENGOs (present at the meetings) possessing

Variable yet higher than MEDSETCON

Very low (international)

Very Low

High (national)

Political assets

Intellectual assets Nil

Variable yet higher than MEDSETCON

Financial assets

MEDSETCON possessing

Table 7 Distribution of Power Assets for the Actors Involved in the MEDSETCON Formation

Nil

Variable yet higher than MEDSETCON

Membership assets


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Difªculties faced in Materializing a Transnational ENGO Conservation Network

Discussion and Conclusions This article has focused on an unsuccessful attempt to establish a transnational ENGO network, the MEDSETCON (Mediterranean Sea Turtle Conservation network). Very little research has been undertaken on why networks fail to emerge even when favorable environmental conditions exist. MEDSETCON was such a case: the issue of transnational co-operation for the conservation of sea turtles has been (and was perceived) as a real and pressing problem by a number of prominent regional ENGOs and other organizations. Furthermore, the actors involved could clearly see a number of potential beneªts in the establishment of such a network. Researchers investigating NGO network formation have placed a strong emphasis on the importance played by common ideas and beliefs, a shared vision, past collaboration, and the availability of political space. They have also emphasized the role played by anticipated, future beneªts (increased solidarity, access to resources, acting with one voice), which presumably have the ability to lure organizations into cooperating and networking. All these reasons are both valid and important. Yet, while they are quite successful in explaining instances of success, they offer us little help in cases of failure. Why should it be that we ªnd cases when networks do not form in spite of all these prerequisites being present? We have argued that the answer lies in the fact that the above considerations are not the only ones pertaining to network participation. ENGOs, like any other organization, depend on a number of resources for their maintenance, operation, growth and impact. These can be broadly deªned as intellectual, political, ªnancial and membership resources. Thus, successful network formation is also related to the extent prospective members feel that their involvement will secure them some of these resources. It is important to note that we do not intend to downplay the importance of common values and beliefs, of past socialization and of any other ideational and/or values-led factors in bringing ENGOs together. Rather, we wish to complement these factors with some more tangible ones. Accordingly, network formation will also be dependent on individual actors’ cost-beneªt calculations over relevant resources. If an NGO perceives networking as a way of enhancing its stock of valuable resources, then this NGO is more likely to join a network. Such a positive evaluation would make the organization more willing to share the costs of membership (i.e. manhours and/or ªnancial resources devoted to network activities, sharing of data, and conforming with the group’s decisions). These considerations are all the more important during a network’s incipient stage: some beneªts have to be readily available if only to counterbalance the initial inertia and the immediate costs (i.e. demands on the participant NGO’s resources). Successful NGO network formation elsewhere supports this view, as we have shown for WIDECAST and i-Monk. But it was a completely different story for MEDESETCON. The network was unable to provide its prospec-


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tive members any of the important power leverages—each for different reasons. Thus membership considerations were irrelevant for the particular case while ªnancial resources drained out very quickly. The participants in the consultative meetings, arguably in an attempt not to duplicate existing cooperative schemes and/or upset the regional power balance, shied away from institutional afªliations with important transnational bodies—thus denying the network any early political relevance. Finally, MEDSETCON could only provide new intellectual resources through sharing and disseminating the existing ones, at least in the short to medium term. We have demonstrated that organizations were not particularly keen on sharing this prized resource. Furthermore, when scientiªc information was becoming more and more available through other schemes taking off at the time (such as the Mediterranean Specialists’ meetings and their listserv), it would have made little sense for organizations to bear costs for services which could be secured free of any charge. It was these kinds of considerations, over the management and exchange of important power assets, which made the MEDSETCON option unattractive to most of the participants and thus sealed its fate.118 And it is probably those same considerations and calculations still at work—more than any personal and/or organizational grievances and shortcomings, lack of vision, and lack of past cooperation—which have not to date allowed the creation of a formal Mediterranean network for the conservation of the sea turtles.

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Accounting for difficulties faced in materializing a transnational ENGO Conservation Network  
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