NOTE: The following commentary
was written by Mark Malloch Brown, Klaus Toepfer, Ian Johnson and
Jonathan Lash and provided courtesy of World Resources Institutes
The accelerated loss of species, the
contamination of our air, water and soil, the erosion of our climate
system and the ozone layerthese are symptoms both of the stress
we have placed on the earths ecosystems and the weakness of
our political institutions. The breakdown of governancecorruption,
patronage, backroom deals, land grabs, bribes or dishonest political
influenceerodes our civil and economic rights, as well as
our natural heritage.
Degraded forests, polluted rivers and dying coral reefs around the
world frequently reflect the flawed process of environmental decision-making
which lacks transparency, inclusiveness and accountable decision-making
over natural resources. Illegal logging, for instance, is flourishing
in places like Indonesia and central Africa, where forest managers
face little accountability to the public interest.
Plans to exploit natural resources without the input of local inhabitants
all too often enrich just a few, but dispossess the larger community
and disrupt ecosystems. For example, the Ok Tedi copper mine in
Papua New Guinea dumps more than 70 million tons of tailings, rock
and waste into local waterways, disrupting the lives of 50,000 people
living downstream. The government, which owns a stake in the mine,
failed to consult with local people before breaking ground in the
1980s and exempted the mine from environmental controls.
Good governance is almost always a prerequisite for sound environmental
decisions. And it is also one of the most important factors in reducing
poverty and promoting economic and social developmentin part
because public and private investors need the stability and transparency
that good governance brings.
That is essentially the conclusion endorsed by leaders from around
the world when they gathered in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002.
They concluded that money alone doesnt guarantee sound development.
Rather, success depends as much on sound institutions, prudent policies,
transparent processes, open access to information and equitable
participation in making decisionsall salient features of good
These building blocks of good environmental governance were spelled
out in 1992 at the U.N.s Rio Earth Summit. Principle 10 of
the Rio Declaration calls for access to information concerning the
environment, the opportunity to participate in the decision-making
process, and effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings.
But these principles are only as strong as our implementation of
them. A new report from our organizationsthe latest in a unique
series on the global environment and development that we have worked
on jointly since 1988finds that progress toward increased
access to information, decision-making and redress has been uneven
around the world. In a poll of more than 32,000 people worldwide,
more than 70 percent said they would like more environmental information
and greater opportunities to participate in decision-making. Only
40 percent said they were satisfied with their governments
efforts to provide information and include them in decision-making.
We reaffirm our organizations commitment to work to improve
governance of the environment through our programs, policy advice,
project work and funding practices. To increase government accountability
at the national level, our organizations formed the Partnership
for Principle 10 (PP10) at the Johannesburg Summit in September
2002. The partnership brings together a wide range of organizations
that have committed to improving access to information, participation
and justice to people around the world.
Of course, access alone is not enough to ensure good environmental
outcomes. Indeed, one of the most apparent failures over the last
decade since the Rio Earth Summit has been the inability to adequately
incorporate environmental thinking into economic, social and development
decisions. A responsible development path of growth needs to appropriately
value the contribution of ecosystem goods and services to human
Good environmental governance will succeed in achieving better environmental
outcomes only if it is seen as an essential contributor to better
and more equitable development. Years of experience show that including
affected communities and individuals in decision-making, and insisting
on accountability of those ultimately responsible for environmental
decisions, can lead to fairer and more effective management of natural
Human development and environmental goals must be integratedjust
as people and ecosystems are woven together in the web of life.
We cannot alleviate poverty over the long-term without managing
ecosystems in a sustainable manner. Nor can we protect ecosystems
from abuse without holding those with wealth and power accountable
for their actions and recognizing the legitimate needs of the poor
and dispossessed. This is the balance we must strike in every decision
we make for the Earth.
Mark Malloch Brown is the administrator, United Nations Development
Programme; Klaus Toepfer is the executive director, United Nations
Environment Programme; Ian Johnson is vice president for sustainable
development, World Bank; and Jonathan Lash is president, World Resources
Institute. These partner organizations recently published the book,
World Resources 2002-2004: Decisions for the Earth. The full report
is available on-line at www.wri.org.