From: Editor, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate
Published June 15, 2012 02:34 PM

A New Global Architecture for Sustainability Governance

At the upcoming Rio+20 summit from June 20 to 22, political leaders will embark on new measures to achieve sustainability by enhancing institutional capacity. In particular, the summit will seek to improve the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other institutions in order to enhance the global community's ability to achieve sustainable development. In "A New Global Architecture for Sustainability Governance," Chapter 8 in the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, author and assistant professor of global governance at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Maria Ivanova, examines steps that can be taken to improve UNEP's effectiveness as an environmental institution.

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UNEP was conceived at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment as the anchor institution for the global environment. It was envisioned as the global body that would provide leadership and encourage partnership between organizations, nations, and peoples to enhance environmental policy and protect future generations.

Over the 40 years of UNEP's existence, it has become apparent that it suffers from inadequate authority and a lack of resources. These deficiencies have constrained UNEP from inspiring the broad, catalytic environmental policies its creators envisaged.

In order to increase UNEP's efficacy in addressing environmental concerns and improving partnerships, governments are discussing several reform options. One suggestion is to transform UNEP from a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly into a specialized agency. The other option is to improve UNEP's ability to deliver on its ambitious original mandate and enable it to perform additional functions as necessary without changing its current institutional form.

"No one institutional structure can guarantee effective resolution of environmental problems, especially at the global level," writes Ivanova. She argues that a systemic approach is necessary for success, where solutions begin at the source of challenges, instead of focusing on their symptoms.

Article continues at ENN affiliate, Worldwatch Institute

Image credit: UNEP

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