Tag Archives: governance

Making a sustainable long term perspective and national reports

The Rio +20 outcome document, paragraph 85(k), calls for a Global Sustainable Development Report GSDR, in order to bring together dispersed information and existing assessments and to strengthen the science-policy interface at the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF). The United Nations Secretary-General tasked the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs with elaborating a first prototype report. A first prototype report has been published this year. It is a rich and open cluster of approaches and contents, with an open structure, inviting discussion and further elaboration about methods and content. “It focuses on global sustainable development in terms of issues, impacts, institutions and technology. It maps sustainable development assessments and related processes and highlights emerging issues identified by scientists; assesses sustainable development progress; tells the “Stories” of future pathways toward sustainable development based on the literature and discusses investment and technology needs; assesses various approaches to measuring sustainable development progress; identifies lessons learnt from national, regional and global case studies of the climate-land-energy-waterdevelopment nexus; presents illustrative science digests for decision-makers; and suggests a number of issues for consideration.”

Thinking of the forthcoming SDGs, the starting work of the HLPF, the UN-Conferences and Special Programmes on different subjects that are crucial for a global sustainable development as well as of the many national and international efforts to advance it, the usefulness of a GSDR seems quite evident. It would provide a worldwide overview about the state of the process, key issues, key players, best practices, special difficulties and long-term perspectives. So all persons and institutions involved would be in position to acquire useful information, the necessary orientation, and be able to determine more precisely where and how to concentrate their efforts and whom to collaborate with. But as soon as one starts to discuss more precisely the structure, contents, range and methods of such a report, the enormous challenge of composing it becomes obvious: The more generally and globally the perspective chosen, the less it says about the specific situation or development in a determined region or subject. What political or geographical borders should structure the report? Should it be structured by them at all? What range of time should be covered – past, present and the future, and to what degree? How to determine key issues? – Should the seventeen SDG be taken as a basis of the report? Or should they be further reduced to its five roots of assuring basic human needs, basic human rights, good house-holding, good governance and political coherence? It seems to be by far easier to formulate difficult questions than to find good answers.

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A new institution for sustainably shaping our future

The insight that modern democracy, its procedures and decision-making are rather short-term guided, is not new.

When Alexis de Tocqueville travelled through the United States of America in the first half of the 19th century, he made an honest effort to understand what American democracy was and how it worked. He thought American democracy – and democracy as he came to understand it in general – hardly able to deal with long-term issues and to work steadily and effectively for long-term goals. The short time until the next elections, its influence on the behaviour of the elected politicians, the fast changing emotions of the people, the many possibilities to manipulate them and the readiness among influential members of the society to do so for particular interests – all these were and still are good reasons for serious doubt in this matter.

Because of the enormous growth of our economical, technical and organizational possibilities to change the world’s outlook within a few years’ time and the racing speed of the development of our societies, the issue of shorttermism and ways to reform and develop our political decision-making institutionally in order to allow a sustainable, long-term shaping of our future have become more and more urgent. By now, they are crucial for our efforts to guide communities, countries and the whole world away from actual nofuture paths towards sustainable, long-term pathways of development.

The Future Council Foundation, founded in 1997, has since tried to initiate the creation of future councils to complement the work of governments and parliaments systematically and institutionally with a long-term dimension and to make it politically arguable and convincing. Within the last years quite a few institutions of that kind have been created – not very strong ones, but already quite tenacious. By creating the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and by establishing global sustainable development goals, within the United Nations a kind of a World Future Council is being created these months.

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Disaster Risk Governance: The essential linkage between DRR and SDGs

The issue of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is intimately linked to Governance model used by states to implement a comprehensive strategy to manage such risks and undertake integrated management. Depending on the chosen Governance model, the DRR circle can be either virtuous or vicious. At this moment when decennial appraisal of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is taking place and looking for better strategies, the first results are mixed about the effectiveness of selected governance. Fortunately, as we shall see below, interesting and successful examples exist.

The Governance concept has undergone some trends in the last years and knows some nuances according to different authors. However, a more comprehensive approach of this concept can be stated. For the Canadian Institute on Governance (IOG), “Governance is a straightforward process, akin to a steersman in a boat. (…) Governance is complicated by the fact that it involves multiple actors, not a single helmsman. These multiple actors are the organization’s stakeholders (…) Decision makers are then accountable to those same stakeholders for the organization’s output and the process of producing it.” (IOG, 20151)

The same philosophy is included within the UNDP definition, which states “Governance is the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.
Governance encompasses, but also transcends, government. It encompasses all relevant groups, including the private sector and civil society organizations.” (UNDP, 2010)

This more comprehensive approach to governance is found particularly in the field of Disaster Risk Governance.

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Towards diverse and sustainable governance ? Assessment of biocultural diversity (BCD) in European cities

Today more than half of the global population lives in urban regions and by 2030 the proportion is expected to have increased to 60 % (Elmqvist et al., 2013). To meet the needs of future generation, to support social cohesion within and among different socio-cultural groups, and to enable healthy living environments, cities are the main arena where sustainable solutions have to be developed. Especially urban green spaces (e.g. parks, forests, gardens, meadows, seashores) can support to meet these challenges. Urban green areas have been found to support citizen’s physical and mental wellbeing and social cohesion (Peters et al., 2010; Tzoulas and Green, 2011).

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Adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change: protecting the conditions of emergence through good governance

Super wicked problems such as global climate change (Levin et al. 2012) and the extensive subsequent changes to the environment, biodiversity and human economies cannot be tackled with the usual disciplinary approaches that have long been the basis for policy making. Problems in social and environmental planning tend to become wicked because their causes are complex and subject to different interpretations according cultural values and beliefs. Consequently there are no objectively definable solutions to wicked problems and disagreement on what might be done to address a problem may be profound. In the case of climate change, the problem is super wicked because of the urgent need for solutions, lack of a central decisionmaking authority, and those responsible for solving the problem are also creating it.

The concept of resilience in complex adaptive social-ecological systems (SES) provides a relatively novel way of thinking about change at all scale levels from the local to the global. It enables people to develop strategies that either enhances the resilience of an existing system, so that it can absorb and recover from disturbance like fire, floods and disease outbreaks, or deliberately transforms the system into a new state that is better able to meet long term human needs. A SES resilience perspective recognizes that change in all biological systems (including all forms of human organization) begin with the very small and grows upwards.

This brief describes resilience concepts and argues that they provide a foundation for the development of adaptation policies based on a relatively simple model of the drivers and feedbacks that define the change process at work in a system. It also makes some suggestions on how national policies might support the growth of resilience and adaptive capacity for coping with climate change.

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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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Innovation Policy and Sustainable Development

In Joseph Schumpeter’s view, fundamental breakthroughs of technology are the essence of the process, and they affect the entire economy. Thus technology and innovation policy can also be linked to the three pillars of sustainable development namely economic growth, social equity and environmental protection. Existing production technology and consumer behaviour can produce positive outcomes only up to a point or a frontier; beyond which depleting natural capital has negative consequences for overall growth for the economy. According to OECD (2010), innovation – implying both the creation of new products, processes and technologies, as well as their diffusion and application – can push the frontier outward and help to decouple growth from the natural resource degradation.

A key feature of innovation that emerges from existing analysis is that it does not follow a linear path that begins with research, moves through the processes of development, design, engineering, production, and ends with the successful introduction of new products and processes into the market, rather, it is an interactive (and cumulative) process that
involves continuous feedback loops between the different stages. A second feature is that innovation is essentially the result of an interactive process between many actors,
including companies, universities and research institutes.

Recent notions surrounding innovation policy refer to innovations with a reduced impact on the environment (Schiederig et al., 2011). This brief highlights the recognition of the need for “innovation” and the role of “innovation policy” to help in realization of sustainable development goals for tackling the trade-offs between economy, society and environment.

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Strengthening the international regulation of offshore oil and gas activities

Recent decades have seen a marked increase in the development of offshore oil and gas activities. Due to increasing energy demand and technological innovations, drilling activities extended and moved into deep and ultra-deep water areas (Dragani and Kotonev, 2013). As of today, almost a third of the oil and a quarter of the natural gas consumed in the world come from underwater areas. This rush to offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation is not about to end: forecasts show a continuing growth of production in traditional offshore regions (e.g. Western Africa, Gulf of Mexico) (PCF Energy, 2011) and significant development in new areas (Pike, 2013), such as Eastern Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Drilling more and deeper means increased threats to the environment, depletion of natural resources, and potential negative consequences for the human activities dependent upon these ecosystems. Recent accidents on offshore platforms have demonstrated that the environmental risks of offshore drilling activities concern all regions of the world and all types of companies. These transboundary nature of the impacts from these accidents have reinvigorated discussions regarding the suitability of the current international regulatory framework for offshore oil and gas activities (Rochette et al., 2014). In this regard, it is clear that there are regulatory gaps, both in terms of safety of offshore drilling activities and liability and compensation in case of accidents.

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How New Metrics for Sustainable Agriculture Can Align the Roles of Government and Business

In three decades the potential for the private sector to make a positive difference in development has garnered increasing credence and support (Schmidheiny 1992; Porter, Ketels,
& Delgado 2007). This aligns with increasing acceptance that being sustainability-oriented can also benefit a firm’s market performance (Eccles et al. 2011). It is clear that the private sector will have to be an important part of any effort to attain the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It has likewise become clear that for agricultural producers merely participating in markets or trade is not sufficient to ensure poverty reduction and increase sustainability (Hopkins 2007; Jaffee et al. 2011).

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Anthropogenic Drivers of Emerging Infectious Diseases

The Ebola crisis in West Africa highlighted critical deficiencies in global health infrastructure, as well as the impact of disease outbreaks to developing economies. The recent emergence of other diseases, including SARS, H7N9 and Marburg virus, has been linked to human practices, many which also correlate with the leading drivers of biodiversity loss. The following science brief provides an overview of findings to support a more proactive, integrated and preventive approaches to disease emergence, which emphasize the need for a more coherent set of sustainable development goals and targets that better reflect the interconnected nature of the tripartite health, conservation and development challenges that we face.

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Water governance: context is crucial

Humanity faces daunting water management challenges, as demand for water hits limits of supply and competition increases between agriculture, industry, cities and the environment. Climate change, too, will affect the availability of water. Worldwide, the focus of conversations about water governance has moved from resource development to resource management. To be effective, water governance needs to directly identify and respond to local problems and needs. It needs to take into account the local institutions, knowledge, socioeconomic, political and environmental conditions.

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This brief was submitted in both English and Portuguese. Click the below link to access the brief and share your comments.


城市生态可持续发展中社会治理创新研究 (The study of innovation of social governance for urban ecology and sustainable development)

This brief is submitted in the Chinese language. The full brief could be accessed through the below link. Your comments could be in either English or Chinese.

摘 要
城市生态可持续发展涉及到经济、社会、环境等各个方面,需要良好的社会治理机制来发动和推动,而社会治理创新 包含了治理理念、治理模式、治理途径等方面的创新。因此,为了促进城市生态可持续发展,必须不断进行社会治理创新,即更新社 会治理理念、建构多元治理模式、开辟双向互动的治理途径。


Acceptabilité sociale et sécurité juridique

L’acceptabilité sociale est une expression qui a fait son apparence il y a quelques années et qui fait maintenant les manchettes à tous les jours. Né de la volonté de donner une voix aux populations marginalisées (disenfranchised) des pays du Tiers Monde, le concept a été introduit en Occident par des dirigeants de sociétés minières. Telle une espèce envahissante, il se propage via les médias sociaux et affaibli la démocratie représentative.

Dans ce récit, j’offre un éclairage d’avocate en droit de l’environnement sur le concept d’acceptabilité sociale ainsi que sur les inquiétudes qu’il suscite au niveau de la sécurité juridique et l’investissement en Occident….


Advancing governance of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction

Marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) — the high seas and the deep seabed located beyond the limits of States’ continental shelves covering almost two-thirds of the global ocean — represent around half of the Planet’s surface. In ABNJ, biodiversity is at significant risk. Threats to biodiversity include the intensification and expansion of human activities into previously inaccessible locations as well as the growing impacts of climate change and ocean acidification (Census of Marine Life, 2011). This requires an urgent action from the international community at several levels…

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