A Council for Sustainable Development: A Possible Outcome of the Rio+20 Process (2-3)
A Possible Outcome of the Rio+20 Process was prepared by Jan-Gustav Strandaneas for Stakeholder Forum. It is important to compare the expected outcome from the Conference with the actual results that was agreed upon on Rio+20, so it is necessary to know what the expectation was as detailed in this report under review.
The year was 2002. WSSD in Johannesburg had just finished. Participants left the conference venue at Stanton in Johannesburg thinking they really had commemorated Rio plus 10 from 1992 including Agenda 21 and given a boost to sustainable development. Sustainable Development Governance was about to become a household word among members of civil society, governments, researchers. Still the concept was neither given a proper definition nor a place in international politics. Paragraph 157 of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI), stated:
“Strengthening of the international institutional framework for sustainable development is an evolutionary process. It is necessary to keep relevant arrangements under review; identify gaps; eliminate duplication of functions; and continue to strive for greater integration, efficiency and coordination of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development aiming at the implementation of Agenda 21.”
Looking at the outcome document from WSSD, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, JPOI, one is sorely reminded of what governments of the world wanted to do ten years ago, but failed in certain key areas of sustainable governance to accomplish. Still, by referencing what the JPOI states about sustainable development governance, one is left with an impression that the same issues could serve as an agenda for the upcoming Rio plus 20 in 2012.
Rosalie Gardiner was commissioned by Stakeholder Forum, formerly UNED Forum UK, in 2002 to research and write a paper on how the governance issues were reflected and dealt with in the JPOI in 2002. She stated that:
“The key official outcome from the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) is the multilaterally agreed Plan of Implementation. This document lacks much by way of a clear structure and strong commitments but considering all that was staked against it, the agreement managed to produce more than many could have expected. Chapter X on “Institutional Frameworks for Sustainable Development” deals exclusively with issues of governance. The chapter presents commitments which support enhancing governance systems for sustainable development at all levels...... The introduction of the chapter (in the JPOI) states:
“Measures to strengthen sustainable development institutional arrangements at all levels should be taken within the framework of Agenda 21 and should build on developments since UNCED, and should lead to the achievement of, inter alia, the following objectives:
a) Strengthening commitments to sustainable development;
b) Integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced manner;
c) Strengthening of the implementation of Agenda 21, including through the mobilization of financial and technological resources, as well as capacity building programmes, particularly for developing countries;
d) Strengthening coherence, coordination and monitoring;
e) Promoting the rule of law and strengthening of governmental institutions;
f) Increasing effectiveness and efficiency through limiting overlap and duplication of activities of international organizations, within and outside the United Nations system, based on their mandates and comparative advantages;
g) Enhancing participation and effective involvement of civil society and other relevant stakeholders in the implementation of Agenda 21, as well as promoting transparency and broad public participation;
h) Strengthening capacities for sustainable development at all levels, including the local level, in particular those of developing countries;
A possible outcome
Prepared by Jan-Gustav Strandaneas for Stakeholder Forum 15
i) Strengthening international cooperation aimed at reinforcing the implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the Summit, (paragraph121, Plan of Implementation)”20 But as we have so often seen good deeds and intentions amount to little if there is no real political will to set principles in stone and implement decisions. Citing the loose mandate emanating from the JPOI, despite being given a new life until 2017, CSD was in effect considerably weakened by CSD 11 in 2003 which translated the JPOI mandate into political reality.
Two governance systems: IEG and ISDG
Governance has become a concept everybody seems to be talking about. In some cases it appears to have substituted democracy, in other cases it emerges as a panacea to all governing problems. But undefined and imprecise concepts remain concepts in search of applications, definitions and contexts until their voids are filled by substance.
“Global governance has been defined by one international body as ‘a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action may be taken. It includes formal institutions and regimes empowered to enforce compliance, as well as informal arrangements…There is no single model or form of global governance, nor is there a single structure or set of structures. It is a broad, dynamic, complex process of interactive decision making.”
Many have tried and many have failed in trying to establish the near perfect system. But following every effort, a bit more experience is made available, and can be used to construct a slightly-and even sometimes a considerably improved system. To be purposeful in efforts at developing governance systems, cognizance needs to be taken of the collective knowledge available today on a number of issues. If this is done, repeating mistakes that are all too well documented could be avoided.
In the run-up to WSSD a number of well written and well researched papers on how to strengthen CSD were composed and discussed. But one flaw seems to haunt them all – they do not properly distinguish between sustainable development governance and environmental governance. Without explicitly stating so, these two concepts became synonymous in the debate.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 07/07/2012