Global Governance for Sustainable Development: The Need for Policy Coherence and New Partnerships

Global Governance for Sustainable Development: The Need for Policy Coherence and New Partnerships

Major Challenges and Unresolved Issues

On 25 March 2009, the report of the 12th General Conference was launched officially in a public event, hosted by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and kindly funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Janine Rodgers, Development economist and editor of the conference report, presented the main findings of the conference. Louka Katseli, EADI Vice-President and member of the Greek parliament, presented a politician’s perspective on key issues for policy-makers,

Jean-Louis Arcand, Professor of International Economics and Development Studies at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, presented a researcher’s perspective on major challenges and unresolved issues, and

Branislav Gosovic, former Executive Director of the South Centre, presented a civil society’s perspective. The event was chaired by Jean-Luc Maurer, President of EADI and Professor of Development Studies at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. In this report, the main outcomes of the discussion are summarized. More detailed speeches and analysis can be downloaded from the EADI website at

Janine Rodgers gave an overview of the main issues discussed during the plenary sessions and pointed out to some identified research gaps or suggestions for further research. Three main conclusions can be drawn from the conference:

* First, unresolved or worsening development issues have invaded the agenda of international relations and domestic policies worldwide. Hence, the relevance of development research in setting today’s global agenda.
* Second, in the current period of multiple crises the need for global governance is more pressing than ever.
* Third, a change of paradigm is necessary to make sustainable development possible. In that context J. Rodger emphasised that two areas badly need to be researched further (i) the process of change at different levels of society (individual, national and worldwide) and (ii) the links between the local and the global.

Global governance for sustainable development: Eight areas that deserve attention both from economists and development studies

Jean-Louis Arcand concentrated in his comment on eight key issues that have been addressed at the General Conference but would deserve much more attention from both economists and development researchers with regard to field research and data collection, interdisciplinarity and policy impact. The issues Arcand presented were Multidisciplinarity, Equity at the global level, Missing markets-creation of markets, Illegal migration, Food security, Policy co-ordination, Institutions, and Local governance. In this report, four have been chosen.


“The lack of interdisciplinarity is killing people” he said, giving an example from the struggle against HIV/Aids. A lack of communication between epidemiologists and economists for example, both working on solutions to combat the disease, leads to bizarre policy decisions like the promotion of circumcision of men by UNAIDS, in countries where this practice is very common (the Arabic countries are an example). Evaluations of the same programmes by both disciplines separately lead to diverse results, and communication between the two would help to find better adapted solutions.

Illegal migration

There is a huge research gap concerning illegal migration. Very little data are available and it is a difficult research area that desperately requires the formulation of an appropriate policy response to illegal migration. J. L. Arcand gives an example from a survey in Senegal which showed that illegal migrants migrate based on wrong assumptions on salary levels in Europe, which is due to a lack of information. A policy response there would be information.

Food security

“Let us go back and read the classics, we have 40 years of data on these issues, and it is a scandal that development researchers do not have a bigger impact on the policy arena”, J.L. Arcand argued. A lot of research was done in the fifties, sixties up to the seventies on the importance of agricultural productivity and food security for the development process and this is clearly an arena where development researchers have a deep knowledge and should be able to produce a coordinated policy response (like Etienne and Ziegler already do).

Local governance

The success or failure of community driven development programmes have to do with local governance and the links between the people, for example at the bottom of the food chain, applying methods of local governance in the programmes. There is more and more research on these links and a very important area where economists and development studies should cooperate. It is essential to move away from a central planning process à la World Bank to a more inclusive and community-driven planning process.

In conclusion, Arcand defines a strong need for data collection in the eight key areas so that the political discourse can be based on quantitative criteria. Development researchers are used to think in terms of local governance and decentralization which is a strength. Interdisciplinarity between economists and development researchers and other disciplines and better co-ordination and articulation of existing knowledge is strongly needed to formulate successful policy responses.

Global guidelines for action and a global bargain

Branislav Gosovic elaborated on the question „Who is gong to lead the planet and in what direction“. He gave an example on how the topic of environment had been disconnected from the topic of development in 1974 by the US, which decided not to contribute to the Environment Fund and impeded the idea of sustainable development. He emphasised that the question on global leadership depends on our decision-making of who is going to lead. He also criticises the still growing divisions and barriers between disciplines and institutions, which does not allow meeting the complexity of problems which are increasing day by day. He introduces the idea of a global brain, which consists of small local brains, which have to be connected and he urges for global guidelines for action.

B. Gosovic strongly believes in UN organisations, but also emphasises the need that research on international organisation needs to be reinforced in order to give the UN back its thinking capacity which was lost since the 1980ties. His vision is a place where people are educated across national divides, age barriers and reach a perspective on the global situation. “My hope is that there will be money resources to educate people”, he said. He concluded by saying: “Sustainable development: When the issue was put on the agenda in 1972, a naïve hope was that the countries in the North become more cooperative on the issue of development. This was not the case. Today we have the same situation with the climate change, developing countries feel very disadvantaged. There is a need for a global bargain with regard to climate change. This has to be done and the question remains of how to convey this to decision-makers.”

Global Economic Crisis: Will the post-crisis world order be inclusive?

In her presentation, Louka Katseli focused on the global economic crisis, which opens up a lot of opportunities for development studies and global governance. L. Katseli pointed out that the financial crisis is likely to batter global economic activity in both advanced and emerging and developing economies and that global activity is expected to contract in 2009 for the first time in 60 years.

In this context, L. Katseli raised the following questions:

1. How fast will the global economy rebounce and with what results? Will the recovery be sustainable or will the globalisation process be linked to recurrent financial crises?
2. Is there likely to be a shift in the financial and economic power in the world, as the recovery will not be symmetric? What will the implications be for the new power poles of the world? Will new financial centres be formed, maybe in Asia?
3. Will this post-crisis world order be inclusive?

“Sustainability and inclusiveness of a new world order are major challenges and now is the right time to put them on the agenda”, L. Katseli said. Much will depend on the policies taken, but also on the actors who will mobilise to provide answers to the policy debate that is wide open. “If the NGO community and/ or progressive parties do not mobilise , then powerful financial interests will resume business as usual” she argued. “Already, the current debate focuses on the prospects for world recovery and on how to mitigate the negative effects for emerging and developing countries; few ask ‘what will the post- crisis world order look like?’. This question is not adequately addressed in economic and financial circles,” Katseli stated.

L. Katseli argued that the current financial crisis has highlighted once again the importance of interdependence across various policy domains , including debt , trade, migration, security , energy and development. Policy coherence is back on the policy agenda.“The financial crisis opens up the door for a new alliance between emerging and developing countries, which might make a difference”, L. Katseli said.

Can policy coherence and partnerships help?

L. Katseli defined policy coherence as “The pursuit of development objectives through the systematic promotion of mutually reinforcing policy actions on the part of both OECD and developing countries” and raised the question whether the crisis would facilitate or hinder the pursuit of policy coherence.

She introduced five important realisations that could pave the way for policy advances and new strategic alliances: “If we were to pursue a global policy coherence agenda, we need to identify and address cases of incoherence, to create and strengthen institutional mechanisms that facilitate policy coordination ,to provide incentives for the systematic promotion of mutually reinforcing policies and to ensure credibility and predictability in national and international economic systems; more importantly, we need global governance reform that would give voice and would bring around the table those stakeholders that have more to gain from the pursuit of policy coherence , namely the developing countries ”, L. Katseli emphasised.

She added, “Only when emerging and developing countries succeed to bridge their differences and assume a common stance on important global issues, such as global governance reform, will progress be achieved. It is for this reason that the G20 should include at least some regional representatives from developing countries”.

Can the crisis become an opportunity for the reform of global governance?

In conclusion, L. Katseli stressed that global governance reform is needed to fill institutional gaps and to enhance the voice and representation of emerging economies and developing countries in the Breton-Woods Institutions. She supported the 1998 proposal by the UN and its Committee for Development Policy to create a World Financial Organization (WFO) that would avoid micro-prudential risks ,provide oversight and coordinate regulation in financial markets , and for the creation of a UN Sustainable Development and Security Council to oversee human security and sustainable development policies at the global level. She also called for the regional representation of developing countries in the G20 on a rotation basis as well as for the reform of the IMF and the World Bank voting and governance structures to ensure adequate representation of emerging and developing countries’ interests in policy making.

About Author

Connect with Me:

Leave a Reply

  • Theme Settings