Lost in Translation – Following the Ecosystem Approach from Malawi to the Barents Sea


  • Maria Hammer UiT The Arctic University of Norway
DOI: https://doi.org/10.23865/arctic.v14.3478


New ideas are constantly being produced as a changing world demands solutions to new problems. International environmental regimes often present ideas to reduce negative human effects on the environment. Implementation of ideas has often been studied through diffusion theory, where ideas are expected to be implemented in their original version. Translation theory from New Scandinavian Institutionalism allows for an analysis of how ideas invented to solve problems change from introduction to implementation. Ideas heralded through UN processes may face a very long route from introduction to local implementation, during which the idea can become radically changed. Through a thorough study of documents, this article follows the trajectories of the idea of Ecosystem Approach (EA), from its first limited practical application in the US during the 1980s and 90s, during its travels in different United Nations fora, and ending up implemented locally through the 2006 Norwegian Barents Sea Management Plan. The novelty of this study is that the analyses cover a long timeframe combined with a focus on all the different steps of translation combined. This also allows for possible drivers of change to be identified. The results show that there are changes made to the idea to such an extent that what is finally implemented is something quite different from the original idea, and more like “business as usual”. According to the theory, discrepancies do not necessarily mean the idea has not been successful; on the contrary, ideas that can be changed may be more likely to become institutionalized.

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Author Biography

Maria Hammer, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Department of Technology and Safety



How to Cite

Hammer, M. (2023). Lost in Translation – Following the Ecosystem Approach from Malawi to the Barents Sea. Arctic Review on Law and Politics, 14, 46–69. https://doi.org/10.23865/arctic.v14.3478



Original Articles


Ecosystem Approach, translation, organizational change, international environmental regimes, CBD, Barents Sea Management Plan