Governing for sustainable development

Governing for sustainable development is very different from the way in which administrative governance is trying to address the challenges of our growing assault on the natural environment. The idea of governing for embraces the Brundtland Report idea of sustainable development becoming the guiding ethos of governance. It is a search for governing in a different way which addresses the underlying causes of unsustainability rather than our current reliance on using the governance approaches which have led to unsustainability to in some way temper its symptoms.

The basic demands of governing for sustainable development are a key element of the ‘unlearning’ needed for a new civic bureaucracy. These draw on understandings of ecology rather than the industrial/managerialist model of control still favored for (and by) public administration.

The basic elements are in stark contrast to the controlling model of bureaucracy. They are:

  • acceptance of uncertainty
  • recognition that we live in complex interactive and connected socio-ecological systems
  • an ability to learn, reflect and change
  • seeking out and respecting other forms of knowledge and understanding, including the local and indigenous
  • a focus on connecting issues and on collaboration
  • tackling causes of unsustainability at their roots by making this the prime focus of bureaucratic and societal values and practice
  • working locally and empowering communities to self-manage
  • genuine engagement with civil society and co-production of ideas and delivery
  • thinking and working for the long term and future generations