Viewpoint:: The highest priority political outcomes for Rio+20

In Natural Resources Forum: A United Nations sustainable development journal
Volume (Issue): 35/4/Nov.2011
Peer-reviewed Article

The first Preparatory Committee Meeting for the Rio+20/
UNCSD 2012 conference prioritized the reform of multilevel
environmental governance aiming to address the
“persistent implementation gap” for sustainable
development. Most subsequent preparatory discussions
have focused on improving sustainable development
governance and institutions solely at the international level.
Reform of institutional frameworks for sustainable
development would be a decisive outcome of UNCSD
2012, however it is fundamental that these negotiations
move beyond a singular focus on international institutions.
The “persistent implementation gap” must be addressed
by first acknowledging where barriers to performance
actually occur in processes of multi-level environmental
governance. At the international level, important
agreements and treaties have occurred, thus we can examine
the resulting achievements of these frameworks and see
where gaps in implementation exist. For example, 178
countries adopted Agenda 21 and many countries
subsequently prepared National Agenda 21s, but vertical
integration of these plans and linkages to implementation at
local levels was inconsistent at best.
Therefore, the outcomes of UNCSD on strengthening
sustainable development governance must address how
these institutions secure the decentralization of policies
from international agreements down through national
policy to local implementation. One requirement is to
integrate aspects of top-down and bottom-up environmental
governance in these institutional frameworks. A second
requirement is to establish clear procedures for
advancement from policy formulation to action planning to
implementation and also to ensure that the necessary
resources are available at each stage. A third requirement is
to structure active public participation in sustainable
development governance to engender relevance,
understanding and ownership by local citizens.