Cooperative institutionalism as a framework for sustainable development

Sarah attended the 2012 United Nations Rio+20 summit where she represented James Cook University. She is the National Scholarship Recipient and she is currently studying a Masters of Practical Development.


Key Point: In order to streamline and improve the legitimacy of the United Nations Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD) it is proposed that Sustainability is elevated to the status of council, superseding the ideologically antiquated Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

• The new Sustainable Development Council would utilize and improve on the existing coordinating machinery of ECOSOC.

• Cooperative institutionalism (derived from the example of cooperative federalism in Australia) would be the functional protocol employed. The Sustainable Development Council would serve as the coordinative, managerial body thereby ensuring the reduction of waste, duplication and inefficiencies throughout the various functional committees, specialized agencies, programmes and funds.

• The highest priority for Rio+20 is the establishment of a well defined approach that adequately balances socio-economic goals with the sustainable use of natural resources and the stewardship of ecosystem services. It is essential that this is simultaneously developed with a means for measuring both the advances and bottlenecks experienced along goal pathways, in accordance with the contexts and priorities of each country.

• The Sustainable Development Council would effectively establish and monitor the proposed Sustainable Development Goals and universal sustainable development.

• The fundamental ideology of “sustainable development” is the integration of the three pillars of society, the economy and the environment; with the acknowledgment that both society and the economy are presided by environmental limitations. The current UN managerial organ

ECOSOC is a direct contradiction of this fundamental premise and exemplifies antiquated development practices.

• The utilization of the existing coordinating machinery of ECOSOC would remove current concerns and would enable a more rapid transformation to a more ideologically and practically sustainable network. This is opposed to the generation of another committee or specialized agency which would add to the current issues of duplication and waste.

• Calls have been made for UNEP to be promoted to the state of council; however this would still engender an imbalance of the three pillars of sustainability and would also ignore the valuable network of functional committees, specialized agencies, programmes and funds within the ECOSOC framework.

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