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Architecture of the Global System of Governance of Trade and Sustainable Development

9-10 December 2002, Berlin

The results of this workshop have been summarized in an Ecologic Brief:

Ecologic Brief: The Architecture of the Global System of Governance - The Nexus between Trade and Sustainable Development - (pdf, 53 KB, English)

A well functioning and coherent architecture of the global system of governance is essential to ensure that trade and sustainable development policies are mutually supportive and effectively implemented. At present, the myriad of rules, institutions, and mechanisms creates a set of mixed signals and inefficiencies that undermine the overall effectiveness of the global system. The interrelationship between the World Trade Organization, the numerous multilateral environmental agreements, and other international organizations addressing sustainable development is fraught with ambiguity. These ambiguities not only exist from a legal perspective, in the sense of a lack of clarity and coherence among legal norms, but also at the functional and programmatic levels, which then permeates down to the regional and national levels. The result is fragmentation, lack of legitimacy, incoherence, and a lack of authority to promote meaningful collective change.

These problems are well known, and in response a number of initiatives have taken place in the recent past: UNEP's work on enhancing global environmental governance, the creation of the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, the WTO's Doha Development Agenda, and, most recently, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The results have been mixed and have confirmed that there are no easy fixes. It is now time to take stock and consider how a forward-looking European research agenda can be developed in support of more effective and achievable policy solutions.

While it is important to focus research and analysis on achieving a more effective and coherent governance structure, it has also become necessary to take on board the increasing role and impact of non-State actors on the structure itself and on its outputs. The WSSD has affirmed the significance of public-private partnerships. But in addition, non-State actors have become de facto components of the architecture through public policy networks, voluntary codes of conduct, certification and labelling initiatives, as well as through the investment and financial decisions of the private sector. Placing these actors into an integrated research agenda presents an ambitious, but vital, challenge.

The workshop focuses on several themes:

  • Enhancing the impact of the sustainable development regime in addressing trade issues;
  • Reforming the WTO, in the context of the Doha Development Agenda and beyond, to ensure that it addresses sustainable development in an appropriate manner;
  • Strengthening the relationship between the sustainable development and trade regimes;
  • Leveraging the contributions of non-State actors in support of the global architecture of governance.

The goals of the workshop are:

  • Identifying elements of a research agenda on global governance on trade and sustainable development;
  • Supporting the creation of an European net-work of academics and research institutions to address these issues from a European perspective;
  • Providing input into the deliberations of DG Trade on these global governance issues relating to trade and sustainable development.

The workshop convenes participants from government (trade, environment and/or other relevant ministries), international organisations, environmental NGOs, the business sector, academic community, and other experts from EU Member States and beyond. Workshop language is English.


This Workshop is part of the international research project "Trade, Societies and Sustainable Development" - SUSTRA, financed by the 5th Framework Programme of the European Commission - DG Research. Supported by the U.S.-Embassy Berlin.


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