2009 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change location:Volendam date:2-4 December 2009
Global governance for sustainable development (SD) is characterized by the need to involve various actors and agents at all levels, from the global to the local (UNCED, 1992b). Relatively little research is done on the role of subnational governments, which are considered to be especially important because of their responsibility for the implementation of SD policies (Berger and Pohoryles, 2004). Subnational governments are, however, not recognized as decision-making actors in global multilateral organizations, where a significant part of the policy debate on SD takes place. Without direct representation, they need to find other ways to exert agency in global governance for SD. This paper focuses on how Flanders, one of the Belgian subnational entities, tries to be part of the multilateral decision-making process for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). We adopt a Multi-Level Governance (MLG) perspective (Hooghe and Marks, 2001) in order to conceptually interpret the research topic, by studying the multi-level and the governance characteristics of the process. Analyzing the role of the Flemish government in this process implies that not only the subnational and the global level, but also the national and the regional (i.e. the EU) levels have to be taken into account. In addition, starting from MLG a typology can be developed (Geeraerts et al., 2004) with four routes the Flemish government has at its disposal to be involved in CSD decision-making; i.e. the multi-level, the European, the national and the direct route. Particular attention is paid to how the Flemish government used these four routes to exercise agency in the most recent CSD cycle (2008-2009). Besides literature study, the paper is based on interviews with Flemish, Belgian, EU and UN officials and on nonparticipatory observation. As a member of the official delegation of the Belgian government, the author observed the entire decision-making process from the inside at every single level. This gives original insights and insides into the process.