‘Who is in charge here? Governance for sustainable development in a complex world’,

  • Meadowcroft J
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This paper explores one of the major challenges associated with governance for sustainable development: managing change in a context where power is distributed across diverse societal subsystems and among many societal actors. The discussion is divided into four parts. The first examines the idea of 'governance for sustainable development'. The second considers the diffusion of power in modern societies. The third explores the extent to which this constitutes a problem for sustainable development. And the final section advances some approaches to governing for sustainable development in a radically 'decentred' societal context. 1. Governance for sustainable development In the most straightforward sense, 'governance for sustainable development' refers to processes of socio-political governance oriented towards the attainment of sustainable development. It encompasses public debate, political decision-making, policy formation and implementation, and complex interactions among public authorities, private business and civil society – in so far as these relate to steering societal development along more sustainable lines (Meadowcroft, 2005). Since it was brought to international attention by the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, 'sustainable development' has been linked with a series of normative ideas including: protection of environment, particularly the essential life support functions of the global ecosphere; promotion of human welfare, especially the urgent development needs of the poor; concern for the well being of future generations; and public participation in environment and development decision making. It is often spoken about in terms of achieving an

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  • J. Meadowcroft

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