Cultural diversity and the governance of sustainable development

cultural diversityThe cultural dimension of sustainability governance has been neglected for decades, especially in political schiences and public administration. Denying the cultural dimension is one of the central bottle necks in the implementation of sustainability governance.

In this section several of our contributions to this important discussion have been put together, varying from organising a side event at the 2nd Rio+20 Preporatory Conference at the UN in New York to academic think pieces. 

The cultural or values/traditions dimension of sustainability governance can lead to value conflicts and even cognitive dissonance - the denial of available knowledge - see the latest contribution: paper for Berlin Conference 2012

2011 - Diversity and Development: From Hindrance to being Part of the Solution

Side event during the 2nd PrepCom of Rio+20, March 2011, New York

As part of the TransGov Project, IASS organized a side event on the role of diversity in sustainable development (SD) during the second session of the preparatory committee for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The event built on previous work on cultural diversity under the TransGov Project as well as a previous workshop on cultural diversity organized at IASS from 30 November – 1 December 2010.1 The side event focused on two questions: (1) how can diversity become part of the solution to SD governance instead of a hindrance, as a requisite of greening economies, and what does this imply for the existing institutional framework for SD; and (2) how can this positive approach to diversity in greening the economies and reforming the institutional framework in the UNCSD preparatory process. The aim of the event was to present and discus some of the preliminary conclusions of the TransGov project on cultural and other forms of diversity with a broader audience of policy makers and representatives of different stakeholder groups participating in the UNCSD PrepCom.

Download the side event report here.

2013 - Cultural diversity and sustainability metagovernance 

In: Louis Meuleman (Ed.)(2013) Transgovernance: Advancing Sustainability Governance. Heidelberg: Springer Verlag

In the twenty years since the United Nations summit on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the world has become more diverse, turbulent, fast and multi-polar. Tensions between old and new forms of politics, science and media, representing the emergence of what has been framed as the knowledge democracy, have brought about new challenges for sustainability governance. However, the existing governance frameworks seem to deny this social complexity and uncertainty. They also favour centralised negotiations and institutions, view governments as exclusive decision makers, and imply hegemony of Western economic, political and cultural principles. This is also reflected in the language of sustainability governance: it is centralist and is referring to monolithic concepts (the economy, the climate, the Earth System) rather than embracing diversity and complexity. This chapter aims to shed light on the problematic relations between cultural diversity, sustainable development and governance.

Dowload book chapter 

2010 - The cultural dimenson of metagovernance

Abstract: National cultures often reflect a preference for one of the ideal-types hierarchical, network or market governance. A comparison of four similar policy cases in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission reveals that successful public managers under certain conditions are able to construct and design productive mixtures of the three styles. They applied metagovernance, a process of designing and managing situationally optimal combinations of the three competing, and to an extent mutually undermining, governance styles. Their national cultures and politico-administrative traditions co-determined the governance mixture which would work in a given situation. The research reinforces the case already made by others, that governance doctrines cannot be transferred as ‘best practices’ from one nation to another without adaptation. The article suggests that the future does not lie in inventing new management and governance doctrines, but in investing in post-dogmatic public management.

Source: Meuleman, L. (2010). The Cultural Dimension of Metagovernance: Why Governance Doctrines May Fail. Public Organization Review, Volume 10, Number 1 / March, 2010, pp 49-70.