Chapter 38 of Agenda 21

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In Agenda 21 from the Rio Earth Summit 1992, Chapter 38 envisions the International Institutional Arrangements for Sustainable Development Governance:

I find it very relevant for this working group to be aware of what that chapter includes, since it taps in both to the Rio 2012 theme on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development, and the Rio 2012 objective to "assess the progress to date and remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development". 
Here is an overview of what it includes:
Agenda 21
Section IV - Means of Implementation
Chapter 38 -International Institutional Arrangements
Institutional Structure: 
A. General Assembly
B. Economic and Social Council
C. Commission on Sustainable Development
D. The Secretary-General
E. High-level Inter-agency Coordination Mechanism
F. High-level Advisory Body
G. Secretariat Support Structure
H. Organs, Programs & Organizations of the United Nations System
    1) UNEP   2) UNDP   3) UNCTAD   4) UNSO   5) Specialized Agencies
I. Regional and Subregional Cooperation and Implementation
J. National Implementation
K. Cooperation Between UN Bodies and International Financial Organizations
L. Non-Governmental Organizations

What has been put in place of all the arrangements outlined here? How effective has this structure been for the implementation of sustainable development? The chapter was a result of negotiation and compromise and includes overlapping mandates. It is not ideal as an effective, efficient and coherent institutional support structure. How can we bring about more synergies and a better structure after Rio 2012?


Arthur Dahl's picture

Multilevel governance

Designing an effective institutional structure is only part of the problem. A poor structure can be made to work if the stakeholders want it to. A good structure can have checks and balances to make collective action easier, but it will still fail if there is insufficient political will and a lack of enforcement mechanisms, as has been the case with the present system.
The lack of coherence and synergies at the international level reflects a similar fragmented approach in national governments. When economic and finance ministries dominate political decision-making and diplomacy and are disinclined to regulate financial institutions and the private sector generally, long-term sustainability issues are secondary, if they are considered at all.
A new institutional architecture for sustainability needs equivalent cross-cutting and systemic functions at the local, national, regional and international levels of governance. Improvements internationally need to be accompanied by changes at other levels.