|Eco-restructuring: Implications for sustainable development (UNU, 1998, 417 pages)|
|Part II: Restructuring sectors and the sectoral balance of the economy|
|12 National and international policy instruments and institutions for eco-restructuring|
Both the advent of a post-bipolar world order of security and an ideological institutionalization of sustainable development have been synchronized with the call for a renaissance of the United Nations system. That call has been obscured for some time amid the budgetary crisis that has been building since the mid-1980s. In parallel there has been an increasingly conscious search for a vision of a "third generation world organization" (the term used by Maurice Bertrand 1989). A vision of functions does not immediately overlap with a vision of due organizational forms, however.
With the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, the long overdue "rethink" of how to retrofit the existing complex array of multilateral organizations into a more coherent mechanism for global governance has begun to gather momentum. Much of the attention has so far been focused on the UN peace-keeping and peace-making operations. Although these can claim to be an integral part of global eco-restructuring, the techno-economic developmental arms of the UN machinery continue to decline.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali's staff reforms up to 1995 were still mainly confined to a "rationalization" of the United Nations proper, i.e. part of the secretariat for the high-level policy organs linked to the General Assembly and the Security Council. This part is dedicated to the upkeep of the most "diffuse" and universal regime for global governance. Some dramatic cuts may be foreseen in the administration of the now much over stretched technical cooperation machinery (a substantial number of Specialized Agencies, Funds, and Programmes). But the decisions to that effect remain largely decentralized or even fragmented. (These action arms of the system account altogether for about half of the dwindling total system budget of about US$5 billion per annum.)
The issue of how better to link the UN action machinery with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) remains unresolved. An earlier suggestion (by Bertrand 1987) to reintegrate the muddled hierarchy into a "13-Commissioners" system (including the IMF and the World Bank) to be overseen by the Secretary General made way for a slightly more moderate Nordic proposal for a high-level body to govern the two-thirds of the UN system budget being spent on development cooperation. The recently initiated UNDP policy centred on "national execution" and a decentralized "programme approach" (UNDP 1990) seems to be serving as an initial shock strategy - a sort of "meta-policy" to de-institutionalize some of the major nodes of organizational resistance to change. However, the call for a better coordinated, and budgetary tightened up, "unitary" United Nations system (voiced mostly by the developed countries struggling with their own budget deficits) fails to acknowledge a crucial fact: that the grossly muddled hierarchy of international institutions just mirrors the reality of international relations.
As things stand, our collective learning effort is likely to be directed, in the classical functionalist tradition, mainly to less contentious sector-specific approaches. This means focusing individually on such subjects as industrial energy use, automobile emissions, agricultural practice, clean coal technology, carbon sinks, sustainable forestry management, watershed management, population growth, etc. Familiar cross-sectoral issues such as technology transfer and global sustainable development will be kept hovering to enhance the scope of "diffuse reciprocity" in multilateral agreement-making through opportunities for cross-sectoral and Intertemporal issue linkages.
We need to muster a better hybrid than we have had so far between multilateralism, regionalism, bilateralism, and minilateralism. A better understanding is needed of how the virtues of one can be synergized with those of another, and the weakness of one rectified by the merits of another. Synergized bilateral or minilateral approaches would be essential particularly for accommodating the needs of big "problem regions" such as China and the economies in transition. Secret pacts and side agreements that undercut multilateralism will have to be discouraged through a central depository system of agreements, pacts, and codes. Such a central bridgehead for multilateralization of national and regional initiatives must be combined with a mandate to analyse their impacts on the third parties and to trigger complementary or remedial negotiation processes for advancing a consensus and common standards on difficult issues.
Indeed, this is precisely the kind of task that the UN Commission on Sustainable Development is expected to fulfil. And this happens to be the only new organizational device that the global community has managed to create through the long UNCED process.
A regime is a process whereby countries seek governing arrangements that affect the pattern of interdependence and mediate among their different values, goals, and ideologies. An organization is a legal entity having offices, personnel, equipment, and budgets. Whereas many international organizations are explicitly linked to specific regimes, most UN Specialized Agencies are rather of the "freestanding" type, being geared to technical action to preset objectives rather than to steer interest articulation and regime-building. And there are many regimes that operate in the absence of central organizations to administer them. Such anarchical arrangements may help to sidestep a range of classical problems associated with the rubric of non-market failures: organizational paralysis, underfunding, co-optation, intrusiveness, and bureaucratization, to which no magic solution seems to exist yet (Young 1989, pp. 32-44).
The developed market economies tend to be generally resistant to "hard" international arrangements of the command-and-control type. The developing countries, in contrast, generally stand in favour of such arrangements, because they are in a position to benefit from the regime-generated rules without sharing the full cost. Indeed, the evolving new regimes for sustainable development may promise more attractive options for international resource transfer, as we have seen earlier, if international organizations (new or existing) are allowed to intervene to collect environmental rents in the name of humanity's common heritage (see above). This is not a new idea. It was once vehemently invoked in the form of an International Seabed Authority in the Law of the Sea negotiation. A similar idea, though on a more modest scale, materialized also with the commission created under CRAMRA (Convention for the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities). However, it is likely that, for the foreseeable future, major donors will continue to resist the idea of international organizations being entrusted with sizeable revenue sources that they can control on their own (Young 1993, p. 259). This tide of thought (which reflects a sort of "neo-realist" benevolence, coupled with the post-modernist preference for bottom-up multilateralism) points emphatically to a coordination and switchboard-type role for the CSD rather than to any pre-fixed blueprint for an organizational hierarchy to govern a number of specific environmental regimes that are evolving.
Haas et al. (1993) suggest, by way of the most general lessons to be drawn from past experience in international environmental negotiations, the principle of "three Cs": (i) to "increase governmental Concern", (ii) to "enhance the Contractual environment," and (iii) to "increase national Capacity."
The first "C" refers to the organizational ability to generate a complex network of international organizations, governments, NGOs, mass media, and industry groups, which can exert public pressure on laggard countries and interests. This includes open procedures for agenda-setting through which weaker states, as well as laggard states, are enabled to put their concerns in ways that cannot be ignored by the international community. It also allows for ways in which other issues of concern to them can be linked to the agenda at hand.
The second "C" refers to the ability to make and keep agreements. Means of doing this include information-sharing and bargaining forums that help reduce the transaction costs of negotiating agreements. Monitoring and verification are essential, particularly when we move from norms to rules, that is, laying the necessary groundwork for effective protocols on the basis of the shared problem diagnoses and behavioural norms.
The third "C" - capacity-building - stems from the need to help create domestic administrative and technological capacity and to transfer resources to weaker states. It also includes the creation of international networks that serve as catalysts and facilitators on a continual basis.
The desired switchboard-type role for a third-generation global institution would imply a renewed focus on the first and second Cs in particular. It will be important in these phases to help create and nurture leading coalitions among like-minded states, relevant "epistemic" communities, and advocacy NGOs. These phases do not seem to require a large administrative bureaucracy, albeit they do imply a need for a high staff quality for servicing the politically charged negotiation dynamics. Action-oriented capacity-building programmes may prove instrumental in enhancing the rule-making climate if they are strategically tied to the function of those first two Cs. (The third Function becomes even more crucial in implementing the signed agreements that usually come with a prescription of complementary action agendas. And full-scale capacity-building actions must be "participatory" on a broader front, involving myriad actors such as bilateral donors, action NGOs, business communities, and the world's citizenry in general.)
Thus, a renaissance of the United Nations system is not likely to be conditioned by any clearer hierarchy of issues and organizations than the existing one at least for the time being. Although some functions are not readily covered, there is no shortage of international environmental organizations today. There seems to be ample room for piggybacking on existing organizations or sharing organizational arrangements for regime formation and maintenance (Young 1993).
So, let us hope that the Commission for Sustainable Development can get into gear towards a new turning point in humankind's art of organizational learning and institutional innovation for planetary governance. How it will manage the task for the coming years is thus a subject of the utmost interest.
The UN system is only a single facet of the formal and organized dimension of global governance. After all, global governance is a process of interactive thinking and planning among diverse actors, encompassing both governmental and non-governmental actors. It operates both at the level of individual behaviour and at the level of political aggregates in the form of national and international laws. No matter whether we are entering a new world order or just struggling with a partial reconstitution of the old one, we can more or less confidently sense the direction in which changes are occurring. We are witnessing both the globalization of national economies and the fragmentation of societies into ethnic, religious, and political subgroups. Amidst these contradictory trends (which are a natural consequence of the very dyed of modernization - social differentiation and integration), we witness an increasing willingness of citizens and local autonomies to coalesce on public and international issues.
That is to say, the very concept of the sovereign nation-state has begun to erode. Its sovereignty can no longer be defined in isolation. In many fields there is no real alternative to interactive decision making and joint problem solving arrangements with other states. National territory has to be reconceived in terms of trading regimes and common market-like arrangements for sharing different values and resources. And the nation's people, too, need to be redefined more in line with the requirements of interethnic, inter-cultural cohabitation. Regionalism and localism need to be seen as being both the consequences of enhanced human freedom and the conditions for integration. Then many of a country's domestic political issues will have to be increasingly intertwined with those being faced in other countries.