Understanding the meaning of path dependency for negotiations – The climate change talks as example of contextualization

  • Research Fellow/ Graduate Student
    Penetrante, Dr Ariel Macaspac
    University of Leipzig, Allemagne


Claiming that history matters in negotiations is a commonly accepted notion among policy makers and researchers. Nevertheless, there seems to be much difficulty in providing answers as to how history actually matters, and how things in the past are not only determining the current behavior of decision makers but also defining the sets of possible subsequent decisions. For example, looking at the climate change regime building process, which already started long before the Rio convention of 1992, involves a historical process that is difficult to grasp. The current climate change context is highly dependent on how the scientific community and advocacy groups have built consensual knowledge in the past. Put simply, the possibly trajectories of negotiation systems are dependent upon the individuals involved and the methodologies they use.

This paper confirms not only that history matters, but that history may matter differently to different interest groups. Path dependence acknowledges the unpredictability of the regime building process by drawing attention to the context, or the initial conditions, of decision-making. However, the outcome is not completely dependent on these initial conditions, as self-reinforcing events and externalities may also occur. Path dependence shows how norms and procedures have been institutionalized through various learning processes to facilitate future interactions between actors. Path dependence confirms that institutions aim to manage cooperative processes, and to enable contingent decision making.


negotiations, path dependence, climate change, decision-making

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