The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) underscores the importance of strengthening institutions for sustainable development at the regional level. It calls on the UN's regional commissions and other regional and sub-regional bodies to implement Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the WSSD.
The regional aspect of many environmental issues is critical to promoting effective solutions. Transboundary resources - such as shared river basins, migratory species of fauna, and habitats that span two or more nations - require regional management, since states cannot effectively address the issues alone, and global solutions are beyond their scope. The regional level thus represents a critical middle ground between the international and national levels as they concern sustainable development-related international governance with the potential to encourage co-ordination and co-operation among the multiple levels of governance.
However, despite the critical role that regional institutions can play in the hierarchical structure of sustainable development governance, little attention has been paid to the issue of coordination at this level. Regional institutions, if well coordinated not only amongst themselves, but also with international and national institutions, can facilitate the effective implementation of institutional frameworks and principles at the global level, which renders them a significant mechanism in the promotion of sustainable development.
The project under development at UNU-IAS aims to examine, within the context of the JPOI Institutional Framework, the capacity of the UN Regional Commissions, as well as other types of regional organisations, such as political, trade, financial and environmental organisations to implement the items laid out in the JPOI. Specifically, it will explore the ways in which regional institutions can facilitate the achievement of two goals:
- promoting the implementation of global agreements with coherence across regions and levels of governance, and
- integrating sustainable development considerations through enhanced co-ordination and joint implementation among regional institutions.
UNU-IAS believes that this research on the role of regional institutions has the potential to fill a much-needed gap in policy knowledge. The project will provide policy proposals for promoting coherence across regional institutions and among regional institutions and global agreements.