Simon Hoiberg Olsen - Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES)
Findings from the just published Asia-Europe Strategies for the Earth Summit 2012 report will be presented at a side event on Scenarios for Sustainable Development Governance, on 15th June, from 9.30am to 11.00am at Rio Centro, Room T6. The report relates closely to the Rio+20 draft Outcome Document, recommending that a reformed institutional structure, such as proposed in the paragraphs 69 through to 76, should include a High Level political body equipped with monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. It should undertake regular sectoral and systemic analyses on countries’ development progress and its functions would be best embodied in a Sustainable Development Council. But serious reform of ECOSOC could be a plan B, if consensus for a new council cannot emerge.
Section IV of The Future We Want contains proposals on the establishment of a High Level Representative for Future Generations (paragraph 80) to help bring intergenerational equity to agenda setting and policy-making. Also important are the calls for ensuring participation of the International Financial Institutions (paragraph 48) in the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD), to improve both temporal and thematic coherence of development.
To advance international environmental governance (IEG), reforms should envision to upgrade UNEP into a Specialised Agency – along the lines of the International Labour Organisation and World Health Organisation – incorporating better utilisation of relevant non-state actors’ expertise. To this end, Rio+20 must set the stage for a process with concrete steps to be implemented and endow UNEP with the functions currently elaborated in paragraph Pre77.
Strengthening IFSD downstream
The IFSD includes nations and serves the nations. Its force is dependent on the collective strengths of nations and their institutional mechanisms. To start reinforcing these levels, it is necessary to clarify the functions and focus areas of coordinating mechanisms at each level. A large part of the report is devoted to analysis of existing mechanisms in Europe and Asia. One of the recommendations is to promote the subsidiarity principle (e.g. programme implementation, and resolution of localised issues and facilitation and monitoring at the regional level) that clearly articulates actors’ responsibilities at the implementation level.
The research also recommends strengthening the political and administrative mechanisms for vertical and horizontal coordination. As currently only reflected in the ‘old’ Sustainable Development Council proposal from the 2nd Round of ‘Informals’ in paragraph 49 alt. bis, it would entail better access to adequate and sustained financing for National Councils for Sustainable Development, including for its non-state members. It should involve the development of the capacity of national sustainable development bodies, by strengthening technical and substantive inputs; providing venues for the exchange of knowledge and experiences; and undertaking joint projects. This proposal should remain in the final outcome document of Rio+20.
Governments should also agree to establish platforms for coordination and knowledge sharing among sub-regions or across regions, such as those proposed paragraph 59 in Section III on the Green Economy and for the thematic areas in Section V. In the medium-term, governments should agree to provide legislative powers to strategic bodies at regional and national levels and strengthen national sustainable development mechanisms, by addressing inadequate participation of non-state actors, lack of financing and capacity.
Participation beyond Rio+20
Participation of a broad range of stakeholders is a crucial part of sustainable development governance, as is reflected in the current draft Outcome Document Section II C (paragraphs 36-49). Non-state actor participation should be based on a simple and clear overarching framework, emphasising contributions of each sector to the larger sustainable development vision. Such a framework should include mechanisms to ensure transparency, accountability, relevance, and representativeness of stakeholders. Their involvement can range from advisory roles, to voting and co-decision making in the longer term. Multistakeholder governance will require adequate and sustained resources. Private sector involvement should be considered as a source of funding.
Goal setting beyond Rio+20
IFSD reform cannot omit a consideration of the importance of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which embody important development topics of the ‘Future We Need’. The SDGs serve as aspirational objectives and provide the goal posts for progress measurement. Their national and regional implementation would necessitate review and monitoring, as well as reporting, periodic review or publication of findings, coherent to the functions of a reformed IFSD at the intergovernmental level. This should be one of the main tasks and functions of a Sustainable Development Council/reformed ECOSOC.