Governance Research for Rio+20


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Zondervan, Ruben. 2012. Governance Research for Rio+20. VN Forum 2012 (1), 2-8.

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Governance Research for Rio+20

  1. 1. 2012 /1 De campagne voor een VN-parlementBeleidsadviezen voor Rio+20 UNHCR en het probleem van StaatloosheidBan Ki-moon en het Earth Hour-initiatief OPCAT in Nederland:Op weg naar een Wapenhandel Verdrag implementatie van het Facultatief Protocol bij hetVredesoperaties: negen recente Verdrag tegen Folteringontwikkelingen en aspecten Het UNESCO InstituutWanneer militaire interventie onder voor Statistiekde noemer van R2P?
  2. 2. 2 VNFORUM 2012/1Governance Research for Rio+20 Ruben Zondervan*Global environmental governance has been on the agenda of the United Nations sincethe UN Conference on the Human Environment of 1972. Despite more than 900 multi-lateral environmental treaties in force and numerous other UN conferences dedicated todevelopment and the environment, governance for sustainability is insufficient. Theupcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) providesan opportunity to come to governance for sustainability in the 21st century. While itseems unlikely that governments in Rio+20 will use this opportunity, findings fromsocial science research to do so are available.Towards Rio+20 been plenty of conferences, action plans, road- maps, working groups and reports with less, ifThis year will mark the 40th anniversary of the any impact. Slow, ineffective, and fragmentedlandmark UN Conference on the Human En- implementation of the agreements is furthervironment in Stockholm that led to the creation hampering governance of environmental change.of the United Nations Environmental Programme UNEP recently released the final report of the(UNEP); the 25th anniversary of the influential UN Foresight Initiative that identified the 21Brundtland Report on sustainable development; most urgent environmental issues to be addressedas well as the 20th anniversary of the UN by the UN system and related programmes andConference on Environment and Development agencies. One of the findings is that ‘Aligning(Rio de Janeiro) that resulted in Agenda 21, the Governance to the Challenges of Global Sus-Rio Declaration and the three Rio Conventions – tainability’ has been ranked as the most urgent ofall of them have been major achievements in the 21 items. It is therefore essential that thisgovernance for sustainability. Also this year, a year’s conferences do not follow the trend of lastnumber of conferences will be held that are year when the climate change negotiationsimportant to global environmental change and agreed on postponing agreement, and the Rio+20sustainable development. Amongst others the process has become known to the general public18th Conference of Parties to the United Nations mainly by the decision to postpone the confe-Framework Convention on Climate Change rence itself for frivolous reason.(UNFCCC COP18), the G20 Summit, and firstand foremost the United Nations Conference on But there is more to Rio+20 than just a few daysSustainable Development (Rio+20). Rio+20 will of intergovernmental get-together. The confe-be convened 20-22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, rence will be the climax of and a catalyst forBrazil, preceded by a series of preparatory for- processes it is embedded in. These processesmal and informal meetings. involve countless actors including business associations, youth movements, major groupYet, in the history of international environmental representatives, regional organisations, allian-governance since Stockholm 1972. There have ces of cities, various UN entities, labour unions,
  3. 3. VNFORUM 2012/1 3UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Sustainable Developmentsocial and environmental non-governmental London), have commissioned nine policyorganisations and many other stakeholders. The assessments on water security, food security,two themes of the Rio+20 Conference – green biodiversity and ecosystems, governance andeconomy in the context of sustainable develop- institutions, interconnected risks and challen-ment and poverty eradication, and the institutio- ges, energy security, health, well-being, andnal framework for sustainable development – green economy.1have received ample attention by these actorsover the past year already – and will increasin- These policy assessments aim at making concre-gly do so as the conference draws closer. te science-based policy recommendations for Rio+20. The assessment on governance andGlobal change research for Rio+20 institutions focusing on the institutional frame- work for sustainable development has been com-The global scientific community has also joined piled, based state-of-art in social sciences by thethis process towards Rio+20. For example, the Earth System Governance Project. This Project isfour global environmental change research pro- the largest research network in the area of gover-grammes under the International Council for nance and global environmental change.2 ItsScience (ICSU) – the International Human Di- international research programme takes up themensions Programme on Global Environmental challenge of exploring political solutions andChange (IHDP), the International Geosphere novel, more effective governance systems toBiosphere Programme (IGBP), the World Cli- cope with global environmental change. Themate Research Programme (WCRP) and Diver- Earth System Governance Project is a ten-yearsitas, an international programme of biodiversi- international and interdisciplinary project of thety science – as organizers of their joint Planet International Human Dimensions Programme onunder Pressure Conference (26-29 March 2012, Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and ope-
  4. 4. 4 VNFORUM 2012/1rates under the auspices of the International Global Sustainability’, with key policy-relevantSocial Science Council (ISSC), the International messages. The core findings of the assessmentCouncil for Science (ICSU), and the United can be summarized in ten policy recommenda-Nations University (UNU). It started at the VU tions:University of Amsterdam, and the AmsterdamGlobal Change Institute is one of its central 1. Strengthen international environmental trea-research hubs in the global network that in The ties: Governments must engage in structu-Netherlands also includes researchers from ral reforms in how international environ-Wageningen University, UNESCO-IHE Delft, mental negotiations are conducted and trea-Utrecht University, Erasmus University, Univer- ties designed. Present and future treatiessity of Amsterdam, and PBL Netherlands must rely more on systems of qualifiedEnvironmental Assessment Agency. majority voting in specified areas. 2. Manage conflicts among multilateral agree-The Earth System Governance Project started ments: International economic institutionsthe assessment of the state-of-art of the social must advance transitions to a sustainablesciences on the institutional framework for sus- economy, including by multilaterally har-tainable development in April 2011. A group of monized systems that allow for discrimina-31 leading senior social scientists in the field of ting between products on the basis of pro-global environmental governance joined this duction processes, based on multilateralchallenge. Grouped in teams, they elaborated on agreement. Global trade and investmentspecific aspects of the assessment, based on regimes must be embedded in a normativetheir expert knowledge. The diverse group of context of social, developmental, and envi-contributors reviewed existing literature and ronmental values.drafted text elements as a basis for a consolida- 3. Fill regulatory gaps in international sustai-ted first draft of a policy brief. The text has sub- nability governance: New or strengthenedsequently been revised several times to improve international regulatory frameworks arethe outcome and to ensure accessible language, needed in several areas, including on emer-closely related to urgent political processes and ging technologies, water, food, and energy.questions. Consultations with diplomats and 4. Upgrade UNEP: Governments need to en-policy makers with key roles in the Rio+20 gage in negotiations for the up-grading ofConference confirmed the high demand for a UNEP to a specialized UN agency, alongpolicy assessment on the institutional frame- the lines of the World Health Organizationwork for sustainable development and helped to or the International Labour Organization.synchronize the content of the assessment with 5. Better integrate sustainable developmentthe specific questions of policy makers to social policies within the UN system: Govern-sciences. What followed was a very interactive ments need to support overall integrativeprocess which triggered interesting debates mechanisms within the UN system that bet-among the authors and the larger research com- ter align the social, economic and environ-munity. mental pillars of sustainable development. 6. Strengthen national governance: New poli-Policy Recommendations for cy instruments are a promising comple-Rio+20 ment to regulation if carefully designed. But they are not panaceas.This process resulted in a short, to-the-point 7. Streamline and strengthen public-privatePolicy Brief, titled ‘Transforming Governance governance networks and partnerships:and Institutions for a Planet under Pressure: The CSD and other bodies need a strongerRevitalizing the Institutional Framework for mandate and better methodologies for the
  5. 5. VNFORUM 2012/1 5 verification and monitoring of partnerships. The policy recommendations in the policy brief Despite the growing role of non-state ac- are based on the tremendous progress in under- tors, there is still a strong need for effective standing the variables that influence the creati- and decisive governmental action. on and effectiveness of and compliance with8. Strengthen accountability and legitimacy: international environmental governance made Novel accountability mechanisms are need- by social sciences. These findings indicate that ed, including mandatory disclosure of ac- it could be possible to come to better environ- cessible, comprehensible and comparable mental regimes sooner. However, such improve- data about government and corporate sus- ments although absolutely necessary, would tainability performance. Stronger consulta- mainly be incremental – just like most changes tive rights for civil society representatives in governance for sustainability since the 1972 in intergovernmental institutions should be Stockholm Conference. More transformative introduced. change is required. With this constraint in mind,9. Address equity concerns within and among the Earth System Governance Project, in colla- countries: Equity concerns must be at the boration with the International Environmental heart of the institutional framework for sus- Governance Architecture Research Group, the tainable development. High consumption Institute for Global Environmental Strategies levels in industrialized countries and in (IGES) and the United Nations University some parts of the emerging economies Institute for Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) or- require special and urgent action. Financial ganised the Hakone Vision Factory in Septem- transfers from richer to poorer countries are ber 2011. Using a World Café dialogue format, inevitable, either through direct support this workshop addressed the key issues required payments for mitigation and adaptation for such a fundamental transformation of inter- programmes or through international mar- national environmental governance in the 21st ket mechanisms, for example global emis- century. The objective of the participants, that sions markets. included leading scholars in the field as well as10. Prepare global governance for a warmer policy makers and official negotiators for world: Global adaptation programmes need Rio+20, was to articulate a blue print for a local to become a core concern of the UN system to global governance system to achieve sustai- and governments. nable development. The resulting document, the ‘Hakone Vision for Governance of Sustain-Beyond incremental reform ability in the 21st Century’ goes beyond incre- mental reform options. It provides a scientificThe issues and political dynamics in the 21st vision for an institutional framework for sustai-century are different from those in 1945 when nable development and earth system governan-the United Nations and their institutions were ce. The Hakone Vision calls for a charter mo-founded. Today’s problems are characterized by ment – the beginning of a reform process lea-temporal, spatial, and sectoral interdependen- ding to transformative change of sustainabilitycies, complexity, as well as uncertainty. While governance.incremental changes have enabled certain pro-gress towards sustainability, the current system Since rigorous research on a Council for Sus-governing sustainable development is no longer tainable Development and on the concept ofsufficient given the number, impact, interdepen- Sustainable Development Goals is still lackingdence and complexity of problems associated these ideas, that are proposed by many actors inwith global change. Governance for sustainabi- the preparatory process for Rio+20 and are inlity requires transformative reforms with clear the official negotiation text, could not be inclu-vision. ded in the recommendations of the policy brief
  6. 6. 6 VNFORUM 2012/1World Café harvest at HakonePhoto: Karina Mullen / © Natural Vision Facilitationbecause that one is entirely based on findings of January 2012 and constitutes the basis for theexisting research. However, drawing on the col- official intergovernmental negotiations in pre-lective knowledge at the Hakone Vision Factory, paration of the high level conference in Juneit seems that proposals for a Sustainable Devel- 2012.opment Council and for Sustainable Develop-ment Goals deserve more serious consideration Many other interesting ideas have been submit-in politics and in research. ted to the conference secretariat by other actors as well, including ideas like an ombudspersonInitiative on International for future generations, regional conventions onEnvironmental Governance and transparency, and global panels and assess-the Institutional Framework for ments on sustainability. Many of these propos-Sustainable Development als are lacking rigorous scientific assessment; hence they pose interesting new challenges forThe Policy Brief and the Hakone Vision have research. The Earth System Governance Projectbeen submitted to the secretariat of the Rio+20 will therefore continue its efforts to provideConference for inclusion in the compilation text scientific input in the Rio+20 preparatory pro-that has been presented to the UN member sta- cess with an initiative that already provided thetes and other stakeholders for their comments organisational and communication frameworkand further guidance at the second Intersessio- for the policy assessment and the Hakonenal Meeting in December 2011. This compila- Vision.tion document subsequently served as basis forthe preparation of a zero-draft of the Rio+20 The aim of this initiative on International En-outcome document that has been released in vironmental Governance in general and the
  7. 7. VNFORUM 2012/1 7Institutional Framework for Sustainable Devel- Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) atopment towards Rio+20 (www.ieg.earthsystem the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to provide researchers on December system governance, and the broader globalchange research community, with a comprehen- In addition, the initiative will support the nume-sive overview on the state of research on rous leading earth system governance resear-International Environmental Governance. The chers who are currently serving as appointedinitiative will also foster new lines of relevant members on the UNEP Major Group andresearch. For example, Prof. Frank Biermann of Stakeholders Advisory Group on Internationalthe VU University of Amsterdam, who chairs Environmental Governance, UNEP’s fifth Glo-the Scientific Steering Committee of the Earth bal Environmental Outlook, as advisors to localSystem Governance Project, has recently deve- and national governments or are part of the offi-loped a concept for four reform options3 for the cial delegations to Rio+20, and as experts on theUN system that would advance global decision- High-Level Expert Panel in the United Nationsmaking by addressing major shortcomings in Environment Programme new Foresight Pro-the current system, i.e. lack of integration of cess initiative. This is an important part ofeconomic and environmental policies in the UN strengthening the science-policy interface.system; institutional fragmentation and weak-ness of the environmental pillar of sustainable The UNEP report on this UN Foresightdevelopment; lack of high-level regulatory Initiative that identified the 21 most urgent envi-competence and oversight regarding areas bey- ronmental issues to be addressed by the UN sys-ond national jurisdiction; and insufficient inte- tem considered governance to be the mostgration of scientific insights into political deci- urgent item for the years to come, and rankedsion-making. The reforms proposed in this con- ‘reconnecting science and policy’ as third mostcept would together create an Earth Alliance in important out of 21 identified emerging issues.the UN system, consisting of a high-level UN The report calls for a new look at the way sci-Sustainable Development Council, a World En- ence is organised and how the science-policyvironment Organization, a UN Trusteeship interface can be improved. This is what the ini-Council for Areas beyond National Jurisdiction, tiative aims to contribute to.and an UN Global Environmental AssessmentCommission. A need for Earth System GovernanceObviously, the initiative on International En-vironmental Governance and the Institutional In the light of the unprecedented speed andFramework for Sustainable Development is also magnitude of global environmental change, asdesigned to in the end provide decision makers indicated by numerous science assessments,with a better understanding but also guidance there is a clear urgency to come to a global,for improvements in international environmen- effective architecture for governance of sustai-tal governance towards an institutional frame- nability that can adapt to changing circumstan-work that enables sustainable development. To ces, that involves civil society, that is accounta-this end, the Project will synthesize contributi- ble and legitimate beyond the nation state andons from the research community in a variety of that is fair for everyone. Or in short: to come toways, including briefs, presentations, and direct earth system governance.advice to decision makers in the process leadingto the Rio+20 Conference. One example is the The need for earth system governance has alrea-discussion event organised by the National Plat- dy been stressed early on in the preparatoryform Rio+20 (NPRio+20) and the Netherlands process leading to Rio+20. In May 2011, the
  8. 8. 8 VNFORUM 2012/13rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sus- governance research and policy, have createdtainability, organised in Stockholm with the par- knowledge, recommendations, visions, andticipation and support of HM King Carl XVI momentum to make 2012 a year of worthy choi-Gustaf of Sweden, concluded with a memoran- ces – at Rio+20 and beyond. But a dauntingdum signed by 20 key Nobel Laureates that challenge for research and policy remains.calls for ‘strengthening of earth system gover-nance’ as ‘priority for coherent global action’. * Ruben Zondervan is executive director of the Earth System Governance Project.This memorandum was handed over to the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability appointed Notenby the UN Secretary General and has stronglyinfluenced their report ‘Resilient People, Resi- 1 The policy briefs for a planet under pressure are availablelient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing’. at 2 3 Biermann, Frank. 2012. Greening the United NationsAs said, there is more to Rio+20 than just a few Charter. World Politics in the Anthropocene. Earthdays of intergovernmental get-together. While it System Governance Working Paper, No.21. (www.earthremains to be seen whether governments at can live up to the expectations, the vari- ning-united-nations-charter)ous processes, not least those on the interface of enten • Signalementen • Signalementen • Signa Hoge Raad: VN niet vervolgd aan die macht. ‘Dat is politiek, menselijk en juri- voor Srebrenica disch onaanvaardbaar’, zo stelden ze in een reactie. De Moeders van Srebrenica stappen nu naar het Op vrijdag 13 april 2012 bepaalde de Hoge Raad Europese Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens in dat de Stichting Moeders van Srebrenica de VN Straatsburg om de zaak aldaar voor te leggen. niet voor de rechter kan dagen. De Hoge Raad vindt dat de VN ‘de meest verregaande vorm van Bron: De Telegraaf, 13 april 2012 immuniteit’ geniet en om die reden niet vervolgd kan worden. De Moeders van Srebrenica vinden dat de VN en Nederland hun verplichtingen niet VN betalen voor verdediging zijn nagekomen om de val van de moslimenclave Mladic ´ te voorkomen. In de zomer van 1995 viel Srebre- nica in handen van het Bosnisch-Servische leger, Tien maanden na de arrestatie van Ratko Mladi´ c waarna tussen de 7.000 en 8.000 moslimmannen is nog steeds onduidelijk of de voormalige Bos- en -jongens om het leven werden gebracht, onder nisch-Servische legerleider genoeg geld heeft om wie veel familieleden van de moeders. Het doel zijn verdediging zelf te bekostigen. De Verenigde van de stichting was een uitspraak van de rechter Naties gaan daarom de komende maanden door dat de VN en Nederland onrechtmatig hebben met het betalen van de advocaten van Mladi´, ter- c gehandeld, alsmede schadevergoeding. Met dit wijl de griffie van het Joegoslavië-Tribunaal de arrest kunne de VN nooit aan rechterlijke controle moeizame zoektocht naar ‘verborgen vermogen’ worden onderworpen, aldus De Moeders; ‘daar- voortzet. De chef van de griffie van het tribunaal mee wordt de VN absolute macht toebedeeld’. besloot hiertoe op vrijdag 16 maart 2012. Als dit het oordeel blijft, worden volgens De Moe- ders de mensenrechten ondergeschikt gemaakt Bron: Trouw, 16 maart 2012