Regional governance for environmental sustainability in Asia in the context of sustainable development: a survey of regional cooperation frameworks

Authored by: Mark Elder

Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Development in Asia

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138182189
eBook ISBN: 9781351008204
Adobe ISBN:


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Mark Elder discusses in his chapter contribution “Regional governance for environmental sustainability in Asia in the context of sustainable development.” Dr. Elder’s chapter surveys the landscape of regional governance for sustainability in Asia, focusing on regional and sub-regional cooperation frameworks related to the environment. The survey covers not only frameworks specializing in environmental issues, but also broadly focused frameworks which include the environment and could help to mainstream the environment into other policy areas. Agenda 2030 calls on regional and sub-regional cooperation frameworks to facilitate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. There are many cooperation frameworks in the region, and this chapter identifies and classifies the major ones. Elder finds that, although formal and large scale international organizations and treaties exist in the region, the main trend has been toward smaller scale and looser, informal forms of international cooperation mechanisms. Another trend is increasing involvement of non-governmental stakeholders, which still work closely with governments, either as part of intergovernmental frameworks or in partnership with governments, often with financial support from governments. These frameworks have a wide variation in terms of their nature and structure, involving different levels of governance, and also a range of types of members. However, there are no supranational institutions like the EU, and most are voluntary. Overall, most are not very strong politically, with little authority and limited financial and human resources. Other challenges to regional sustainability governance include: overlaps and fragmentation, need for better coordination, insufficient coverage of issues by existing mechanisms, need for more emphasis on capacity building, and weak financial and human resource capacity. Some major institutions, particularly the ADB and APEC, are not formally focused on sustainability, so SDGs present a good opportunity for them to shift their focus more in that direction. Finally, regional governance for sustainability in Asia is characterized by key Earth System Governance concepts such as complex architecture, complex actors, and multiple levels of governance.

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