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The role of principles for allocating governance levels in the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development

Abstract

The global deliberations on sustainable development took another step in their more than 20-year history at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. A recurrent dimension of these negotiations is the allocation of governance to one or more specific levels in the outcome document. This allocation reflects the international consensus on who at what level should do what in sustainable development, and it has implications for both the effectiveness and legitimacy of sustainable development governance. This paper investigates the negotiation process and outcome of the conference preceding Rio + 20, the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, analysing the extent to which normative principles played a role in the allocation of governance to specific levels. This was done through qualitative and quantitative analyses of the different drafts of the outcome document. The results show that, although there were clearly limited explicit discussions on principles, it was possible to infer elements of several normative principles for allocating governance in the arguments and outcome of the negotiations. Most prominent among these principles were national sovereignty, but both the principles of substantive and procedural subsidiarity could be detected as well as the principles of fit, culpability and capacity.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. The mandate of the WSSD was to make a 10-year review of Agenda 21 and other outcomes of the Rio process and “focus on the identification of accomplishments and areas where further efforts are needed to implement Agenda 21 and the other results of the Conference, and on action-oriented decisions in those areas” (United Nations General Assembly 2001: 3).

  2. After its incorporation in the Maastricht Treaty adopted in 1992 a protocol with its application was annexed to the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty. At a later stage, it was included in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union adopted in 2000 (Carozza 2003).

  3. Article 3b (2), Treaty of the European Community.

  4. The culpability principle has also been referred to as the contribution principle in the literature, see for example Barry (2005).

  5. Barry (2005) refers to the concern principle as the association principle.

  6. Such an outlook is explored, for example, in the literature on global citizenship (Dower and Williams 2002) and cosmopolitanism (Nussbaum 2002). For a discussion on theories of human altruism see Monroe (1996).

  7. In another paper, see Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (2012), I focus on how the negotiations dealt with integration of governance between different levels, in terms such as coherence, coordination, etc.

  8. In some cases, these were officially listed on the WSSD website, in other cases, copies were circulated among delegations during the negotiations. I obtained copies these either on the site of the negotiations or in January 2004 from the archived files of the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, all of which are kept on file with the author. Although some of these documents have no named author, I have given ‘Commission on Sustainable Development’ as the author.

  9. Earth Negotiation Bulletin by the International Institute on Environment and Development, IIED and Outreach by the Stakeholder Forum for Our Common Future.

  10. These were not part of the quantitative analysis.

  11. As the length of the text increased substantially from the first to the last version—the number of total words increases roughly four times—each level should have increased if negotiators had been happy with the allocation between levels in the first version by the Chair. Since they only marginally increased, or even decreased in the case of the global level, it is clear that the phrase ‘all levels’ took over.

  12. The renewable energy target remained in a qualitative form without any percentage given on how much it should increase (United Nations 2002: para 20e).

  13. This loose negotiation coalition consists of Japan, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

  14. In Agenda 21, there was a whole chapter devoted to the role of local authorities for sustainable development (UNCED 1993).

  15. See Rajamani (2006) for an overview of how this principle has been used in various international negotiations.

Abbreviations

CBDR:

Common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities

CSD:

Commission on Sustainable Development

EU:

European Union

GEF:

Global Environmental Facility

IGO:

Inter-governmental organization

JPOI:

Johannesburg Plan of Implementation

JUSCANZ:

Japan, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

PrepCom:

Preparatory Committee

UNCED:

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

UNCSD:

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

UNEP:

United Nations Environment Programme

UNFCCC:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

WSSD:

World Summit on Sustainable Development

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Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S.I. The role of principles for allocating governance levels in the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. Int Environ Agreements 13, 441–459 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-012-9205-y

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Keywords

  • Common but differentiated responsibilities
  • Governance levels
  • Global sustainable development governance
  • Fit
  • Multilevel governance principles
  • Subsidiarity