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European Parliament Releases Report on the “Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development in the Context of the Upcoming Rio+20 Summit”

Thursday, 19 April 2012
A Report on the “Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development in the Context of the Upcoming Rio+20 Summit," was released by the Directorate-General (DG) for Internal Policies of the European Parliament, summarising the current Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD) and the sustainable development governance challenges on the road to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20). The Report concludes with recommendations to improve the governance of the sustainable development system.

The Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development is one of the two major topics to be addressed at the forthcoming Rio+20 Summit. Over the last 40 years these frameworks have progressed substantially. The Report identifies the most significant achievements, including the expansion of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the connection between business and sustainable development through Corporate Social Responsibility, the participation of civil society and business in the decision making process, the participation of local, regional and national institutions in sustainable development governance, and the creation of international scientific institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Resource Panel.

Six cross-cutting issues which present challenges to governance for sustainable development are analysed within the frame of reference of the Report:
  • Lack of integration of the three pillars of sustainable development in global, national and local policy
  • Proliferation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements and fragmentation of international environmental governance
  • The role of International Financial Institutions (IFIs)
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Leapfrogging towards Sustainable Consumption and Production (The Marrakech Process)*
  • Governance of the global environmental commons

In the lead up discussions held in the context of the upcoming Summit, there was common agreement that reform of governance structures for sustainable development and environmental protection is greatly needed in order to address the challenges of the 21st century. In that regard, the following reform options are identified:
Option 1: Enhance the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Option 2: Create an umbrella organisation for sustainable development
Option 3: Create a specialised agency for the environment
Οption 3: Reform the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)
Οption 4: Enhance institutional reforms and streamlining existing structures

The Report acknowledges that, in terms of the likely outcome of the discussions on IFSD “there is little apparent common ground around which to build compromises” and goes on to state that “the current likely scenario is for limited progress”. It concludes by presenting a series of recommendations: 1) promotion of accountability by establishing sustainable development indicators, targets and timetables; 2) integration of sustainable development principles into the operations of the International Financial Institutions; 3) governmental long-term strategic planning and stakeholder involvement in decision-making; 4) use of different governmental mechanisms (such as fiscal policy tools) in order to improve policy coherence and clarify the linkage between Sustainable Development Strategies and government action; 5) strengthening of governance structures beyond the nation-state and government institutions so as to engage stakeholder participation and incorporate non-governmental voices; 6) strengthening science-policy linkages; and 7) establishment of mechanisms to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production.

*Note: The Marrakech Process is a global process which provides a Ten-year Framework of Programmes (10YFP) on sustainable consumption and production, as called for by the Johannesburg Plan of Action. The lead managing agencies of the Marrakesh Process are the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

Sources: IISD Reporting Services, European Parliament Directorate-General for Internal Policies
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