Emergence, Influence and Legitimacy
Edited by Philipp Pattberg, Frank Biermann, Sander Chan and Ayşem Mert
Chapter 1: Introduction: Partnerships for Sustainable Development
Philipp Pattberg, Frank Biermann, Sander Chan and Ayşem Mert Partnerships for sustainable development are often hailed as a vital new element of the emerging system of global sustainability governance. In policy and academic debates alike, partnerships are promoted as a solution to deadlocked intergovernmental negotiations, to ineffective treaties and overly bureaucratic international organizations, to power-based state policies, corrupt elites and many other real or perceived current problems of the sustainability transition. Partnerships for sustainable development are now ubiquitous. They have been promoted in particular at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), where partnerships have emerged as a ‘type-2 outcome’ of the summit, along with the traditional outcomes of the intergovernmental diplomatic process. As of August 2011, 348 partnerships for sustainable development have been registered with the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD). In addition, many similar agreements are in place across the globe but not formally registered. And yet, the role and relevance of these partnerships remains contested. Some observers view the new emphasis on public–private partnerships – also referred to as multi-stakeholder or intersectoral partnerships (see Bitzer, Francken and Glasbergen 2008; Morsink, Hofman and Lovett 2011) – as problematic, since voluntary public–private governance arrangements might privilege more powerful actors, in particular ‘the North’ and ‘big business’, and consolidate the privatization of governance and dominant neo-liberal modes of globalization (Ottaway 2001; Corporate Europe Observatory 2002; IISD 2002; SDIN 2002). Also, some argue that partnerships lack accountability and (democratic) legitimacy (Meadowcroft 2007). Yet others see public...