Environmental Governance – Globally and Locally

June 12, 2011
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri

Dr.-Ram-Bhooj“You all know that environment is one of the very important pillars of sustainable development,” remarked Dr. Ram Bhooj, Program Specialist, UNESCO, delivering his invited talk on Day 1 of the International Conference on Society, Technology and Sustainable Development.

“I think environment today has got attention not only globally but locally, regionally and nationally as well,” he added.

Dr. Ram’s talk was titled Transitions in Environmental Governance: Evolving Global Partnerships for Local Action. Included below are excerpts from the talk.


Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, set up a specialized group to look into environmental governance.  

The National Institute of Sustainable Development has defined global environmental governance as the sum of organizations, policy instruments, financing mechanisms, rules, procedures and norms that protect the global environment.

Environmental Governance

If you look at the journey towards global environmental governance, 1972 was an important milestone. That year, the United Nations convened the first International Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm. 108 nations participated and 2 (India and Sweden) were represented by their Heads of State. Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, delivered a keynote address at the conference.

At that time, the world was divided, and there were several issues, but the Conference Chair, Maurice Strong, was able to bring about some consensus. One major outcome of the conference was the formation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as Bruntland Commission brought out the publication, Our Common Future. This provided the definition of sustainable development – to meet the needs of the present generation, without compromising the needs of the future generations to meet their own needs.

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was another important milestone. Over 100 Heads of State participated. An important outcome was the document Agenda 21, which is considered even today as the blueprint for our survival in 21st century.

Environmental Governance

Common but differentiated responsibility was an important principal that was agreed upon. Though environmental problems were common for everybody on the earth, the responsibility was differentiated between the developed and developing world. Then principle of polluters should pay received support; environmental laws in most countries are today based on this.

In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg basically broadened the whole environmental debate to embrace sustainable development. Imparting social justice and fighting against poverty became just as important as environmental protection. The UN Decade for Education on Sustainable Development was announced.

Next year, in 2012, Rio + 20, will be convened as the UN Summit on Sustainable Development, in Rio de Janerio. The world community will meet again. There will be only two major themes. One – green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and two – the governance mechanism or institutional framework for sustainable development.


This year’s World Environment Day on June 5, 2011 will be hosted by India for the first time. India’s next Five Year Plan will embrace the green economy in a major way.

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