Institutional framework for sustainable development
Background
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), commonly referred to as the Rio Conference or Earth Summit, was a major success in raising public awareness on the need to integrate environment and development. In the preparatory process for the Rio Summit in 1992, there were a number of proposals for institutional reform to address the challenges of sustainable development. UNCED saw the adoption of a number of crucial agreements, including the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, and the landmark ?Rio conventions? (CBD, UNCCD, UNFCCC). It also created new international institutions, among them the Commission on Sustainable Development, tasked with the follow-up to the Rio Conference, and led to the reform of the Global Environment Facility.

Ten years later, the concept of three mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development was incorporated into the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI). The need to strengthen the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD) is addressed in Chapter XI. Sustainable development was recognized as an overarching goal for institutions at the national, regional and international levels. The JPOI highlighted the need to enhance the integration of sustainable development in the activities of all relevant United Nations agencies, programmes and funds, and the international financial institutions, within their mandates. The IFSD discussion thus also encompasses the role of institutions comprising the economic and social pillars, e.g. considering how to step up efforts to bridge the gap between the international financial institutions (IFIs) and the multilateral development banks (MDBs), and the rest of the UN system.

Institutional Framework
General Assembly

As the apex body in the UN system, the GA plays a central role in fashioning the institutional framework for sustainable development. The GA can translate into legal form the content of summit and conference outcomes, e.g. the establishment of CSD after UNCED. The GA can also initiate processes of consultation and negotiation on institutional arrangements, based on the recommendations of other organs. It could be expected that the GA would need to play an important role in implementing the outcome of Rio+20.

ECOSOC

The World Summit Outcome Document of 2005 recognised ?the need for a more effective Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as a principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on issues of economic and social development, as well as for implementation of the international development goals agreed at the major United Nations summits and conferences, including the Millennium Development Goals.? The World Summit Outcome also recognized that ECOSOC should play a key role in the overall coordination of funds, programmes and agencies, ensuring coherence among them and avoiding duplication of mandates and activities. Subsequent reforms introduced the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) to assess progress in achieving the internationally agreed development goals arising out of the major conferences and summits; and the biennial Development Cooperation Forum to review trends in international development cooperation.

ECOSOC is uniquely placed as a bridge between normative and operational capacities of the United Nations. Having a pivotal role to play in ensuring coherence and coordination in the area of development, ECOSOC could ensure through its operational activities segment that the UN agencies, funds and programmes mainstream CSD decisions according to their areas of expertise and report on their implementation, Additionally, the coordination segment of ECOSOC could dedicate more time to coordination of implementation of sustainable development decisions across the United Nations system. Equally, the general segment could move beyond the adoption of the reports of various subsidiary bodies to initiate more substantive discussions on how best to mainstream sustainable development in the work of all ECOSOC subsidiary bodies, in this way reducing overlap and duplication.

Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)

GA resolution 47/191 of 22 December 1992 established the Commission as a high level commission, a status that was re-affirmed in the JPOI. The Commission was tasked, among other things, with monitoring progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and reviewing the progress in the implementation of the commitments set forth in Agenda 21, including those related to the provision of financial resources and transfer of technology. Representatives of various parts of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations, including international financial institutions and regional development banks, are enjoined to ?assist and advise the commission in the performance of its functions? and ?participate actively in its deliberations?. The JPOI provides that the role of the Commission should include ?reviewing and monitoring progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and fostering coherence of implementation, initiatives and partnerships.

International environmental governance
The proliferation of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and fragmentation of environmental institutions has driven calls to strengthen the environmental pillar of sustainable development. A number of processes have addressed the scope and options for reform of international environmental governance (IEG). Topics under the functions covered by the IEG agenda include strengthening the science-policy interface with the full and meaningful participation of developing countries and encouraging synergies between compatible multilateral environmental agreements. Institutional, or form-related questions, make up the other part of the IEG discussions. In this regard, the Nairobi-Helsinki Outcome adopted by Consultative Group of Ministers or High-level Representatives on International Environmental Governance identified the following options for broader reform:

(a) enhancing UNEP;
(b) establishing a new umbrella organization for sustainable development;
(c) creating a specialized agency such as a world environment organization;
(d) introducing possible reforms to ECOSOC and the CSD; and
(e) enhanced institutional reforms and streamlining of present structures.
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