Abstract

The growth of global governance—in terms of the proliferation of rules, laws, and institutional forms as well as their interactions—is an increasingly debated issue. Scholars are raising concerns about some of its negative impacts, but they are divided on the extent of these impacts and on the needed solutions. While some question the viability of international institutions and argue for embracing complexity, others see current growth concerns as a call for more order and a turn to constitutionalism. This article argues for a turn to sustainable development instead. This approach addresses the system’s underlying problem: its unsustainable development, which threatens to produce more rather than better governance arrangements and to enhance existing participation inequalities. The article uses the sustainable development paradigm to envision how to prevent rather than respond to growth concerns, and to integrate equity considerations into institutional strategies. A discussion of reducing, reusing, and recycling international institutions illustrates how to implement this approach and suggests areas for future research.