Dr. Rak Kim

Dr. Rak Kim

Universitair hoofddocent
Environmental Governance


My research interests include the following topics.

  • Global governance
    • Fragmentation, polycentricity, and complexity
    • Network science of global governance
    • Complex adaptive systems model
    • Steering effects of global goals and targets
  • International environmental law
    • Concept of earth system law
    • System of multilateral environmental agreements
    • Governing environmental problem-shifting
    • Implications of planetary boundaries, tipping points, and the Anthropocene
  • Ocean law and policy
    • Ocean acidification, alkalinization, and fertilization
    • Deep seabed mining and the law of the sea
    • Marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction


Problem-Shifting between International Environmental Treaty Regimes: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions (PROBLEMSHIFTING) 01-05-2021 tot 30-04-2026
Algemene projectbeschrijving

International environmental treaties (e.g., Paris Agreement) are designed to solve specific environmental problems. Yet their potentially negative impact on environmental issues other than their own is rarely studied. Until now global governance theories have assumed that environmental treaties are inherently ‘green’, and hence, any adverse consequences are conveniently set aside as unintended or inevitable. But is that true? Here we question, do environmental treaties ever pursue their objectives by merely shifting problems to others? If so, when and why? Does such buck-passing create any systemic risk beyond those directly affected? And what might be appropriate responses to ensure our efforts add up to a net positive impact? Environmental problem-shifting, or protecting one part of the environment by damaging another, is a major dilemma arising in global governance. Yet the issue remains under-investigated, requiring an urgent scientific inquiry. This project will thus examine the causes and consequences of, and provide solutions to, environmental problem-shifting between international environmental treaty regimes. By drawing on our interdisciplinary and multi-method expertise in ‘earth system’ law and governance, we will (1) identify and explain the conditions under which problem-shifting occurs; (2) assess and predict the systemic effects of problem-shifting; and (3) offer solutions for optimizing the currently fragmented governance system. The project aims to advance the theoretical debate on the architecture of global governance and its overall effectiveness. The scientific breakthrough will be enabled through methodologically innovative combinations of qualitative and quantitative methods, including process tracing, comparative case studies, network analysis, system dynamics modelling, and multi-stakeholder workshops. Building on the theoretical and empirical foundations, we will offer unique insights and valuable advice to markedly improve global governance decisions.

For more information, visit the project website (problemshifting.org).

Onderzoeksleider & begeleider
3e geldstroom - EU (European Research Council 'Starting Grant' - EUR 1.5 million)
Global Governance through Goals? Assessing and Explaining the Steering Effects of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (GLOBALGOALS) 01-11-2018 tot 31-12-2024
Algemene projectbeschrijving

Achieving sustainable development worldwide remains probably the biggest political challenge of our time. In 2015, the international community adopted 17 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ with no less than 169 ‘targets’ as part of a global ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. The ambition expressed in these goals is unprecedented. But can such goal-setting, as a new central approach in global governance, help resolve the pressing challenges of economic development, poverty eradication, social justice and global environmental protection? Nobody knows at this stage. While the United Nations and its member states place high hopes on this novel strategy, there is little scientific knowledge on whether such global goals can live up to exceedingly high expectations. Sustainability research has tended to focus on concrete institutions, actors and practices – not on aspirational goals that bring little in terms of normative specificity, stable regime formation or compliance mechanisms. How can ‘global governance through goals’ nonetheless be effective – and under which conditions? GLOBALGOALS will address this puzzle and break new ground in sustainability and global governance theories. It offers the first and most comprehensive data compilation, network mapping and comparative institutional analysis of the evolution, effectiveness and future prospects of ‘global governance through goals’ as a central novel steering mechanism in world politics. This 5–year study programme deploys a unique set of cutting-edge methodologies, including social network analysis and online surveys, to assess and explain the steering effects of nine Sustainable Development Goals through a detailed investigation of their institutional arrangements and actor networks, at international and national levels. GLOBALGOALS makes a crucial knowledge contribution to both the theory of global sustainability governance and the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For more information, visit the project website (globalgoalsproject.eu).

3e geldstroom - EU (European Research Council 'Advanced Grant' - EUR 2.5 million)