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Editor's Note: Brainstorming Stage 

Issue #172 | 21 July 2011

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By: Lynn Wagner, Ph.D., Group Director, SDG Knowledge, IISD <>

The brainstorming of options related to the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD) gained momentum this week, with the High-Level Dialogue on IFSD developing a report to be forwarded as input to the second intersessional meeting of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in December 2011.

In relation to one IFSD option, the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) focused its recently-released “issues brief” on peer review. This brief summarizes peer review mechanisms currently in place in UN system institutions, considers their potential to contribute to the implementation of international agreements, and suggests that peer review is a relevant option for consideration because all institutional reform or strengthening proposals made to date “entail, consciously or unconsciously,” the need to address review and monitoring deficits, in order for institutional innovation to lead to fundamental change. The Declaration adopted at the fourth session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP 4) to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) called attention to another IFSD option – the Aarhus principles. As implementation efforts have increasingly relied on public-private partnerships or pledge-and-review-type arrangements, such as the Copenhagen Accord, options that can enhance the transparency and review of these arrangements, in a system without official sanctions, are receiving increased attention.

Meanwhile, many options to be taken into account in the debate on the other UNCSD theme, green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, continue to be presented. The small island developing States (SIDS) are concluding their preparations on UNCSD, with participants at the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS) meeting calling for further refining the concept of the blue-green economy in the context of the sub-region through additional research and analysis, among other actions. On the heels of the 17th session of the African Union (AU) Summit's adoption of a decision on youth employment and other measures to support the Summit's theme "Youth empowerment for sustainable development,” the UN will host a summit on Youth next week, which may further define a related direction for the UNCSD outcome.

This week, the Environment Management Group's Issue Management Group on a Green Economy discussed elements of its upcoming report on “Supporting the Transition to a Green Economy,” which seeks to assess how the UN system can more coherently support countries in making the transition to a green economy. The reports highlighted in this issue of Linkages Update indicate that a number of other actors also are already defining how they will take action related to this theme. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published an information note titled “The Green Growth Strategy Reshaping the OECD's work agenda for the years to come” outlining its 2011-2013 work. And our report from the IRENA High-Level Africa Consultative Forum on Renewable Energy indicates that the ministers noted the need to assess existing conditions and needs to stimulate investment in, and ensure sustainable deployment of, renewable energy in Africa.

While the actors we report on in this issue of Linkages Update and through our many meeting reports and knowledge management projects have been brainstorming around the UNCSD themes, our IISD Reporting Services team engaged in our own brainstorming meeting recently, to consider how our efforts can better serve international sustainable development policy makers in a changing technological environment. We will be working to implement a very large agenda in the coming months, beginning with a survey to ensure that we are incorporating your needs into our work. As with any new endeavor, moving from the brainstorming stage to the implementing details will present exciting challenges for us all, and we look forward to keeping up with your knowledge management needs.