What could a sustainable development council look like?

Mićo Tatalović

Mićo Tatalović
Deputy news editor, SciDev.Net

The idea of a Sustainable Development Council, a new body within the UN system that would have the power to make decisions on environment and sustainable development globally, started getting some flesh on it.

The Planet Under Pressure conference this week (26–29 March) heard from Norichika Kanie, a researcher from Tokyo Institute of Technology who presented findings from ‘World Cafes’ – focused discussion groups – known as Hakone Vision on Governance for Sustainability in the 21st Century.

The participants agreed that the current issues and political dynamics were different now to 1945 when the UN was founded, and that governance will require “transformative reforms with clear vision”.

Rio+20 conference offers an opportunity to start this process, they said.

The key conclusions were that aspirations need to be clearly defined; actors need to be broadened for “accountable participation and solutions from people for people”, and the institutional architecture needs re-building.

Any new institutions will need to be properly funded and have authority and capacity to address compliance and implementation of their decisions, but also be accountable, transparent and adaptable to fast-changing global circumstances.

The process also identified the Sustainable Development Council as one of the most noteworthy proposals for restructuring governance.

But the idea needs further research and deliberations that should be set in motion at Rio+20, Kanie said. Its mandate and charter could be similar to that of the WHO, so it can govern over environmental crises, too.

Its membership should include primary states which have a capacity to contribute through various forms of capital (e.g. natural of financial), rotating member-states which are most affected by the issues on the table, and non-state actors. This could help form a more inclusive governance, both in terms of including developing countries and non-state actors, Kanie believes.

Kanie told SciDev.Net that he hoped there will be more involvement from developing countries, especially in Asia, at a follow-up conference in Japan in January 2013: Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference: Complex Architectures, Multiple Agents.

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