Consultants' Report on Options for Broader Reform of the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD): Structural, Legal, and Financial Aspects, Steven Bernstein with Jutta Brunnée
This report assesses options for reform of the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD). Serious reform efforts and initiatives to address perceived shortcomings, gaps, fragmentation and/or incoherence in the IFSD date back to at least the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002). Notable among them have been discussions at and initiatives of the United Nations Environment Programme?s (UNEP) Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environmental Forum and proposals from the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity Building (UNEP 2005), the High Level Panel on System Wide Coherence (UN 2006), and the Joint Inspection Unit Management Review of Environmental Governance within the United Nations System (Inomata 2008). In addition, there has been an active debate and wide variety of proposals for reform from member governments, stakeholder groups, and academics. These efforts have so far produced only limited results.

The Rio +20 process presents the greatest political opportunity in the last 20 years to move forward on the IFSD precisely because governments have agreed to make it one of two central themes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. There is virtually no debate among member governments or stakeholders that reform is needed. The challenge is to identify which of the many proposals for reform, singly or in combination, will best respond to the evolving social, environmental and economic challenges of sustainable development governance while at the same time be viable given an equally challenging global political and economic environment for any institutional reform effort. To assist member states in meeting this challenge, this report has been prepared specifically to assess the structural, legal, and financial implications of the five options for reform identified in the outcome of the Nairobi-Helsinki Process:

1. Enhancing UNEP

2. Establishing a new umbrella organization for sustainable development

3. Establishing a specialized agency such as a world environment organization

4. Reforming the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)1

5. Enhancing institutional reforms and streamlining existing structures.

  The report also aims to consider evolving discussions in preparatory meetings for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, as well as submissions by member states, the UN system and major stakeholders. No single report can do justice to the full range of options and views still under consideration, and this report does not propose to synthesize or replace, but rather to complement existing analyses. Nonetheless, it is hoped that specifically addressing the five options, and specific proposals by member states as they have developed so far in the preparatory process, will be a useful resource for member states and stakeholders.

Finally, the analysis here is designed to identify pros, cons, and implications of various options. It does not rank them. Indeed, an important premise of the analyses is that some options may be mutually supportive: for example, an enhanced or new environmental organization within the UN system (Options 1 or 3) and a reform of ECOSOC and CSD, such as the creation of a Sustainable Development Council (Option 4). Each option should be assessed on its own merits, as well as how it might mutually support (or contradict) reform efforts along other pathways.

Download Publication
Copyright (c) United Nations 2011 | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice | Contact | Site Map | New