The past fortnight has brought a number of interesting developments related to sustainable development leadership and institutional questions.
The announcement that the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change would step down mid-year garnered the greatest amount of attention from the news media. Speculation has turned to who the replacement might be and what the implications will be for the climate change talks in Mexico at the end of 2010.
Meanwhile, the decision taken by the Simultaneous Extraordinary meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (ExCOPs), which convened from 22-24 February in Bali, Indonesia, will also have significant institutional impacts. Delegates discussed joint managerial functions, focusing on the potential of immediately appointing an interim joint head of the three secretariats. Their agreement to appoint a joint head, and to review the position and its effectiveness, may offer lessons for other debates over sustainable development institutions, and were interwoven into another issue discussed in Bali: international environmental governance (IEG).
Discussions on IEG at the 11th Special Session of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GCSS-11/GMEF), which convened in Bali from 24-26 February, included questions regarding what the balance between incremental and broader reforms of IEG should be, and where the debate should take place, with various speakers advocating the Rio +20 process, the UN General Assembly, or UNEP. Delegates also discussed institutional arrangements to bring scientific advice into the sustainable development decision-making process. Some speakers supported the proposed intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and many attended the closed door briefing on what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will do to address recent challenges to its assessment process. Efforts to learn from the IPCC model and its current challenges, and from the consultation process leading to the proposal for a science platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services, are being undertaken with the same objective that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set out in his message to GCSS-11/GMEF: improved international governance of environment and development can help close the gap between aspirations for, versus achievement of, environmental sustainability. We will continue to report on the lessons, challenges, aspirations and achievements as these issues continue to take shape over the coming year.