International Environmental Governance Reform


While the number of institutions, policies, and programs charged with stewardship of the global commons has risen dramatically over the past 30 years, the state of the global environment continues to show negative trends and increasing risks. As a result, national governments, civil society groups, and experts on global environmental policy have called for efforts to strengthen the global environmental governance system.


After nearly a decade of deliberations, during the Rio+20 conference participating states agreed to enhance UNEP and make it a more powerful global environmental organization. The Global Environmental Governance Project and the Center for Governance and Sustainability have been at the forefront of the reform discussions. We have produced valuable research and organized events with scholars and practitioners to discuss reform options and the way forward.


Highlights from our research and writing in connection to the Rio+20 process include:


2012 and 2013 

  • Then Center developed a major partnership with the Global Environmental Outlook GEO-5, the Center led the research, convened authors, and engaged in outreach for the production of the flagship global environmental assessment.

  • The co-directors, fellows, and collaborators offered new perspectives on the environment and development reform processes within the United Nations which included the publications of articles, chapters, and policy briefs.

  • Student-faculty delegations participated in high-level intergovernmental meetings through support from the Center.

  • In collaboration with Yale University and Fundação Getulio Vargas, the Center co-organized the Global Climate Coalition Student Workshop at Rio+20. Sixteen student teams hailing from all continents shared their ideas for sustainability projects to implement on their campuses and in their communities. Center Senior Fellow Stanley Johnson delivered the keynote address.



  • The Global Environmental Governance Project convened a conference of academics and policymakers Berne, Switzerland 26-28 June 2011 to explore a set of questions relevant to national and international governance, bring rigorous analysis to the policymaking process, and foster policy relevance in academic inquiry. 



  • The Nairobi meeting of the Consultative Group was instrumental in spearheading and opening the ministerial process to civil society allowing for the collection and compilation of civil society contributions for the meeting.

  • The Center prepared an analytical summary of Major Groups and Stakeholders Input, which UNEP circulated to governments as one of the official background documents.



  • The Center participated in the Global Environmental Governance Forum: Reflecting on the Past, Moving into the Future took place from June 28th to July 2nd, 2009 in Glion, Switzerland and brought together several generations of environmental leaders, including all five successive UNEP Executive Directors (Maurice Strong, Mostafa Tolba, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Klaus Töpfer, and Achim Steiner). Participants from 26 countries gathered in order to rediscover the past, analyze the present and imagine the future of global environmental governance.