Issue Brief Series
The Governance and Sustainability Series
This series of short policy papers on governance and sustainability provides analytical input to contemporary political discussions on institutional reform for environment and sustainable development.
These briefs present analytically grounded and politically plausible reform options that negotiators could consider in the run up to the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, and beyond.
Brief 13: The Power of Policy: Reinforcing the Paris Trajectory (Figueres, 2016)
Brief 13: The Power of Policy: Reinforcing the Paris Trajectory
by Christiana Figueres, June 2016
In this brief, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), analyzed the trajectory to the Paris Agreement and the breakthroughs in climate policy, including universality and ambition. She addresses future challenges and opportunities for all sectors to engage in sustainable development. Finally, Figueres writes, "Our generation had the responsibility to understand climate change and initiate our response. The next generation has the responsibility and the opportunity to address it effectively.”
Brief 12: Energy Transitions to Modern Renewables: Context, Barriers, and Promises
by Stanislav Vavilov, February 2016
This brief narrates the evolution of the transition toward modern renewables by drawing on experiences of several countries and argues that these transitions will play a significant role on a global scale, because followers learn from the experience of pioneers.
Brief 11: Gender and the Sustainable Development Goals: Moving Beyond Women as a "Quick Fix" for Development
by J. Michael Denney, July 2015
In September 2015, the international community will sign on to a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDGs are applicable to all states, developing and developed alike, and are the result of a political process led by an Open Working Group comprising 70 member states in consultation with other stakeholders. This brief concerns MDG 3, Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women, and the corresponding proposed SDG 5, Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls. All information about SDG 5 comes from the Open Working Group Proposal for Sustainable Development Goals.
In the first part, the author presents an analytical framework for evaluating whether the goals for female empowerment and gender equality attain the desired result. Next, the framework is applied to the targets for the proposed SDG 5. Finally, the author argues that the international community should embrace goals, targets, and indicators that advance gender equality for the sake of equality itself, rather than as a quick fix for economic underdevelopment.
Brief 10: How the United Nations Should Promote the Post - 2015 Development Agenda
by Kara S. Alaimo, September 2014
This issue brief examines how the United Nations can most effectively communicate the post- 2015 development agenda in order to catalyze the global movements necessary for its achievement. The author, a former U.N. communications professional, argues that the U.N. should carefully calibrate expectations in advance, be transparent about the state of negotiations, retain top communications professionals to craft the name and narrative of the agenda, use clear language in the agenda, communicate in “human terms,” make the agenda globally accessible and relevant, and promote shared ownership of the agenda.
Brief 9: UNDP: Reviving a Practical Human Development Organization
by Craig Murphy and Stephen Browne, January 2014
Constant reform has characterized the UN Development Programme (UNDP) throughout its existence. Change bespeaks an organization ready to adapt but also fundamentally uncertain about its proper role. It teeters between two sets of tensions—as coordinator of and competitor within the UN development system, and as exerting priorities from the center while seeking to be flexible in its program countries. These tensions should be resolved, and enable UNDP to be the UN’s sustainable human development organization. This brief lays out the options that are open for UNDP to take on; and concludes by giving inputs towards re-orientation, with implications for its substantive orientation, its funding role, and its country presence.
Brief 8: International Fisheries Governance that Works: The Case for a Global Fisheries Organization
by J. Samuel Barkin, June 2013
This brief examines the current institutional structures in place to manage international fisheries, and argues that they are inadequate to the task of preventing overexploitation. The brief argues for a new global fisheries organization that could serve the core functions of coordinating institutional participants in international fisheries governance, addressing the crisis of overcapitalization and overcapacity in the fishing industry, and overseeing a system of international individual transferable quotas.
Brief 7: Building an International Court for the Environment:
A Conceptual Framework
by Philip Riches and Stuart A. Bruce, February 2013
This issue brief considers the role and nature of existing and potential international dispute resolution fora in relation to international environmental law. It addresses impediments at the international level, such as limited access to justice by non-state actors and the lack of technical and scientific capability. As a conceptual paper, it highlights two possible remedial options: an international environmental tribunal and an international environmental court.
Brief 6: Environmental Emergencies: Challenges and Lessons for International Environmental Governance
by Rene Nijenhuis and Carl Bruch, June 2012
This brief examines the strengths and weaknesses of existing instruments and institutions and addresses the efforts to improve coordination among the international sectors of environmental emergency response. Potential operational, capacity-building, and legal options for strengthening prevailing mechanisms are identified and discussed, including the need for stronger political mandates, the need for a stronger framework to address fragmentation, and the need for procedures to support and facilitate environmental emergency responders. The lessons from this discourse can improve the field of environmental emergency response, while also informing advancements in broader context of international environmental governance.
Brief 5: Enhancing Environmental Governance for Sustainable Development: Function-Oriented Options
by John E. Scanlon, March 2012
The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, is likely to determine the future direction of the institutional framework for sustainable development and for international environmental governance. As States move towards the ‘sharp end’ of their negotiations, it is important to analyze some of the risks and benefits of the identified options for the reform of international environmental governance and offer pragmatic ideas on how to make best use of existing resources and structures.
Brief 4: Lessons from the Multilateral Trading System for Reforming the Architecture of the International Environmental Regime
by Thomas Cottier, Manfred Elsig and Judith Wehrli, February 2012
Recent studies on environmental regimes suggest that important lessons and policy recommendations may be drawn from the functioning of the multilateral trading regime. This brief compares the needs and goals of the trade and environment regimes, and discusses how insights from over sixty years of experience of the multilateral trading system might provide ideas for redesigning the architecture of the international environmental regime. It further calls for a better dialogue and improved complementarities between the two fields in order to enhance coherence within international law.
Brief 3: Clustering Assessment: Enhancing Synergies among Multilateral Environmental Agreements
by Judith Wehrli, January 2012
Against the background of a widely fragmented and diluted international environmental governance architecture, different reform options are currently being discussed. This issue brief considers whether streamlining international environmental regimes by grouping or ‘clustering’ international agreements could improve effectiveness and efficiency. It outlines the general idea of the clustering approach, draws lessons from the chemicals and waste cluster and examines the implications and potentials of clustering multilateral environmental agreements.
Brief 2: Overcoming Fragmented Governance: The Case of Climate Change and the MDGs
by Oran R. Young, November 2011
Fragmented governance hampers efforts to address tightly coupled challenges, like coming to grips with climate change and fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals. The way forward is to launch programmatic initiatives focusing on adaptation to climate change and the transition to a green economy that appeal to many separate bodies as win-win opportunities.
Brief 1: Financing International Environmental Governance: Lessons from the United Nations Environment Programme
by Maria Ivanova, October 2011
Financing for the global environment is scattered among many institutions and, without an overview of total financial flows, often considered scarce. This issue brief begins an analysis of the financial landscape by focusing on the anchor institution for the global environment, the UN Environment Programme. It examines the relationship between institutional form and funding and offers insights into innovative financing.