Global Environmental Governance: Lessons in Herding Cats for Rio+20 Negotiators

Adil Najam

The first PrepCom negotiations for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (popularly being called EarthSummit 2012 or Rio+20) began in New York at the United Nations on Monday and will end on Wednesday. One of the two themes for Rio+20 is institutional frameworks. I have already argued here that Rio+20 needs to shift the focus towards global governance for sustainable development. In order to do so, however, Rio+20 will also need to understand how we got to where we are in terms of global environmental governance.

In this video (made for the International Institute for Sustainable Development in 2008) I highlight the lessons of some of my earlier research on global environmental governance (GEG). I suggest that (a) GEG is like herding cats and if you want to herd cats you need to be nice to them; (b) the evolution of GEG is, in fact, a good story – it is not the story of a system that failed, it is the story of a system that has outgrown its design; and (c) better global environmental governance will necessarily require a redefinition of what we mean by “global environmental governance.”

For background, the Pardee Center at Boston University offers a useful series of Sustainable Development Insights:

Global Environmental Governance: The Challenge of Accountability, by Adil Najam and Mark Halle
The Role of Cities in Sustainable Development, by David Satterthwaite
Are Women the Key to Sustainable Development?, by Candice Stevens
Rio+20 – Another World Summit?, by Miquel Munoz and Adil Najam
Pushing ‘Reset’ on Sustainable Development, By Alan Atkisson

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