Democratic global environmental governance: An oxymoron or a matter of ideals? : A study of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Institutionen för tema; Linköpings universitet/Institutionen för tema

Abstract: Today, one of the most compelling issues facing students of environmental politics is global environmental governance’s democratic legitimacy. Critics of multilateral and transnational sustainable development negotiations and implementations perceive these as democratically deficient, due to non-state actors deciding over nation-state politics. Multilateralism is then seen as a governance structure which sacrifices state sovereignty, which is the pillar of modern democratic theory together with the concept of national demos. Yet, other theorists consider global environmental governance and multilateralism to foster democratization beyond the concept of the nation-state – something which by them is understood as necessary in a world with ever-increasing supranational environmental and developmental issues. Since 1992, the United Nations has implemented stakeholder models, meaning multi-stakeholder partnership and civil society involvement in sustainable development negotiations, as a way of raising democratic legitimacy and accountability. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals is the culmination of these efforts and the globally guiding document on the subject. The Agenda is a result of the broadest deliberation strategy ever employed by the UN. Via typological content analysis and viewing the Agenda through our theoretical framework, we understand that the UN applying stakeholder models does not necessarily mean evoking stakeholder democracy. Furthermore, democracy is largely construed as a tool for sustainable development and less as an end per se, even if the two are sometimes communicated as equal objectives. All in all, whether one interprets sustainable development negotiations as democratically legitimate or deficient depends on one’s view of democracy beyond the nation- state, as either a possible and necessary notion or a directly undemocratic one.

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