Navigating and strengthening the sustainable development institutional landscape
Since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, efforts to both curb the accelerating rate of environmental change globally and to promote sustainable development have led to the gradual proliferation of global, regional and local institutions. In 1992, when the first Earth Summit was held to discuss the global environment, there were more than 900 international legal instruments directly or indirectly addressing the issue of environmental protection.
Sustainable development problems persist despite more institutions
Despite the increasing number of institutions created to address issues of environmental degradation and sustainable development, environmental problems have been exacerbated rather than solved. This is mainly due to the fact that international environmental governance lacks co-ordination and is perceived to be at odds with other areas of global governance, notably economic and development governance.
What needs to be done
There is an urgent need to strengthen and adapt the institutional framework if sustainable development is to be promoted at the global, regional and national levels. This need was highlighted during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), and again by the 2005 World Summit and the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on System-Wide Coherence's Report "Delivering as One" (November 2006).
Based on the WSSD Plan of Implementation and the Coherence Panel's report, the UNU-IAS's Sustainable Development Governance Programme addresses the fragmented nature of the governance and institutional framework. Improvements are needed to promote sustainable development at multiple levels with a focus on institutional interplay and interlinkages, coordination among social, economic and environment-related institutions, and regimes, the development of flexible adaptive institutions capable of responding to environmental and societal uncertainties and changes, and, and the need for and potential for reform of institutions.
The Sustainable Development Governance Programme aims to identify and elaborate concrete and realistic steps that might be taken to strengthen existing institutional structures supporting sustainable development.
Within the parameters of the programme's goals, the two key research areas are:
For further information E-mail: unuias[at]ias.unu.edu