Magnus Sigurdsson

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Rice U.

Grant number

Gr. 9629

Approve Date

April 13, 2018

Project Title

Sigurdsson, Magnus O., Rice U., Houston, TX - To aid research on 'Behind the Scenes of the Paris Agreement: Service-Power, International Civil Servants and the UNFCCC,' supervised by Dr. Dominic C. Boyer

Preliminary abstract: With global temperatures rising faster than most scientists expected, finalizing the intertwined local and global bureaucratic processes for the Paris Agreement is increasingly urgent. The staff of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, known as international civil servants, are officially charged with providing ostensibly impartial, politically neutral services to all national delegations. This study aims to examine and conceptualize a paradox of bureaucratic service-power: the ways in which the substantive forms of the UN staff’s political influence widely acknowledged though unspoken may shape climate diplomacy. Through participant observation and interviews the research examines the ways in which the staff cultivates political sensibilities (what they call ‘a nose for politics’) to different ideologies and national agendas. By studying a critical but overlooked structural aspect of global decision-making this research offers novel insights on climate diplomacy, and produces knowledge on the human practices behind internationalizing and rationalizing decision-making in the contemporary.