Strengthening democratic legitimacy in intergovernmental policy-making on sustainable development: the contribution of web-based civil society consultations

One of the main dilemmas facing global sustainable development governance today is the growing democratic deficit of the intergovernmental policy-making system (Scholte, 2002). The lack of responsiveness of intergovernmental norms and policies to collective concerns, as well as the lack of accountability of intergovernmental organisations and member states, are generating a crisis of legitimacy (Castells, 2001; Keohane, 2003; Haas, 2004). Resolving this crisis is a difficult task that requires among other things the creation of institutional mechanisms that allow citizens to participate in a meaningful way
in the creation and implementation of global norms (Castells, 2005). In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro institutionalised participatory governance with the creation of nine overarching categories called the major groups, through which “all concerned citizens” could participate in the United Nations’ (UN) activities on achieving sustainable development, as stipulated in principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. Twenty years later, this representative-based system of participation raises serious issues about its capacity to offer all concerned citizens direct access to processes of global norm production.

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