Integrating sustainable development into global institutions

Reforming the United Nations

Donna Craig, Michael I. Jeffery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article will briefly outline the origins, structure and functions of United Nations Environment Program and the Commission on Sustainable Development in the context of the goals of ecologically sustainable development (ESD). Economic development, social development and environmental protection form the three interconnected parts of ESD. The achievements of the key UN environmental institutions and programs in opening up the global system to civil society, the private sector and a diversity of actors and interests, promoting the role of poverty alleviation as part of ESD through the Millennium Development Goals, and facilitating important Multilateral Environmental Agreements should be recognized. However, with these notable exceptions, organizations such as United Nations Environment Program and the Commission on Sustainable Development have become weak in scientific and technical leadership, global policy, co-ordination (inside and outside the UN) and has few achievements in the international and national implementation of obligations and standards in Global Environmental Governance – including enforcement, compliance and effectiveness. This article will outline the key reasons for this inadequacy. Attention will also be focused on the way forward through of a new United Nations Environment Organization. This will require a clarification of purpose and function (within the UN system and as part of global governance structures) as well as consideration of whether it depends on system-wide UN reform. It is recommended that medium and long term strategies for reform are necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-12
Number of pages10
JournalChinese Journal of Population Resources and Environment
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Ecologically sustainable development
  • Global environmental governance
  • UNEP
  • United nations environment organization

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