Global Sustainable Development Governance

7 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2014

See all articles by Tom Pegram

Tom Pegram

University College London

Date Written: November 1, 2014


Effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may be dependent upon domestic configurations of institutions and political will, but the irreducible nature of the challenge demands a global governance component. Myriad developmental issues are transboundary in character, from forest stewardship, to soil fertility, desertification and air pollution. Solutions to other goals first proposed in the agreement of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio in 2012 (Rio 20), such as poverty eradication, non-communicable disease control, health system reform and educational provision, are conventionally regarded as embedded principally in domestic (read: sovereign) political and institutional processes. But they also have a crucial global dimension – especially as policy space for transformative thinking on public goods delivery is increasingly circumscribed by prescriptive economic models and expansive transnational trade regulation. The massive scope of the SDGs poses a significant global governance dilemma, risking a potential retreat into silo particularisms and policy prescriptions which do not account for the cross-cutting nature of many of the goals, or, equally problematic, an overambitious governance frame which identifies all of these issues as facets of the same problem, but offers little in the way of concrete solutions. This paper provides an overview of a long history of goal-setting in global governance for sustainable development and highlights a number of pending challenges, including: a lack of normative clarity regarding the sustainable development norm; a stagnation in international law; profusion of private rule-systems; fragmentation in the UN sustainable development complex; and the challenge of rightful authority in the absence of an apex coordinating organisation.

Keywords: sustainable development, global governance, regime complex, fragmentation, international relations

Suggested Citation

Pegram, Tom, Global Sustainable Development Governance (November 1, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Tom Pegram (Contact Author)

University College London ( email )

29/30 Tavistock Square
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United Kingdom
442031089291 (Phone)


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