During the recent Rio+20 negotiations at the United Nations in New York, words did not match actions. Despite delegates calling for an ambitious, action-oriented, and agenda-setting political document for heads of state and ministers to sign at Rio+20, hundreds of proposed revisions to the document will achieve the opposite result. Of the proposals on the table for improving sustainable development governance, five merit mention and reflection.
The basic institutional question is about reforming the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). There seems to be agreement that UNEP and CSD should be strengthened. Some suggest that UNEP should be elevated to the level of a UN agency, while others feel that internal restructuring and reordering current priorities is what is required. There seems to be general consensus that CSD has failed to deliver on its original mandate, and some suggest it should be converted to a council similar to the UN Human Rights Council. The more likely outcome will be internal reforms that enlarge the UNEP's Governing Council to include all UN member states and internal reorganization.
There is widespread agreement that transparency, citizen engagement, and accountability (1) are the heart of sustainable development. All states appear ready to affirm this principle, but some are reluctant to propose specific steps to implement it and close gaps in laws and practices at the national, regional, and global levels. Proposals by civil society groups for a global or regional convention(s), national commitments, and a robust UNEP program to help countries develop capacity under the 2010 set of guidelines are still being considered.
The proposal by civil society groups for the creation of a new office of the High Commissioner for Future Generations is gaining traction. The proposal envisages the High Commissioner researching and...