Building Networks for Sustainability: The Role of International Organizations

Forthcoming in UNIDO, Networks for Prosperity: Advancing Sustainability through Partnerships (2014)

16 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2014

Date Written: November 15, 2014

Abstract

Governance for sustainability has made a striking turn to “transnational” institutions, in which non-state actors – including business firms, civil society groups and sub-national governments – play major roles along with or instead of national governments. Their numbers have expanded rapidly, especially in areas such as climate change.

In their internal structures, many transnational organizations resemble networks: they bring together multiple stakeholders that coordinate their contributions to the organization as well as organizational decision-making. In addition, many transnational actors and organizations are linked in broader networks, formed autonomously or sponsored by other institutions. International organizations (IOs) have played important roles in these developments. Yet numerous transnational sustainability organizations operate almost wholly independently; and many networks, such as the “action networks” of Rio 20, remain weak.

There remains, therefore, a significant role for IOs in facilitating, promoting and coordinating sustainable development organizations and networks, to maximize their contributions to knowledge creation, sharing and capacity-building, policy- and rule-making, financing and practical initiatives. IOs can also steer transnational organizations and networks to focus on democratically established goals and priorities, such as the sustainable development goals (SDGs) now being negotiated. The governance strategy of “orchestration” enables IOs to catalyze the formation of networks; provide guidance and support to them; and steer their conduct, albeit in modest ways. It allows IOs to enhance their own impact by working through networks, while strengthening and guiding those networks in line with public goals.

Keywords: transnational governance, sustainability, networks, international organizations, orchestration

JEL Classification: D71, Q29

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth Wayne, Building Networks for Sustainability: The Role of International Organizations (November 15, 2014). Forthcoming in UNIDO, Networks for Prosperity: Advancing Sustainability through Partnerships (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2524986

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)

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