International Environmental Agreements vol:11 issue:4 pages:321-339
Since the 1970s, subnational entities such as provinces, states or regions have joined together in transnational associations based upon common interests, especially in Europe. Such transnational networks of subnational governments have also been created in the sphere of sustainable development, a policy domain that is largely shaped in multilateral decision-making settings and that is characterized by complexity and uncertainty, urging policy-makers to learn from other governments. Those networks have both external and internal objectives. On the one hand, they want to represent their members at international organizations and influence multilateral decision-making. On the other hand, they are aimed at fostering cooperation between subnational governments and at stimulating policy learning. After presenting a typology of existing networks in the sphere of sustainable development, the article presents a comparative analysis of the participation of the Belgian entities Flanders and Wallonia in ENCORE (Environmental Conference of the European Regions) and nrg4SD (Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development). The research shows that Flanders and Wallonia use networks mostly for formal and informal cooperation but not for influencing multilateral decision-making for sustainable development. The external dimension of the networks, however, is applied for identity politics. The analysis also demonstrates that little political capital is invested in the networks.