Semi-Plenary Session VI

Thursday, 9 September 2021
12:15 – 13:45 CEST

50 years of multilateral diplomacy on environment and sustainable development. Taking stock and moving forward

Department of Political Science, Stockholm University, Sweden

Karin Bäckstrand, Professor of Environmental Social Science, Stockholm University

Naghmeh Nasiritousi, Stockholm University

Prof. Pamela Chasek, Manhattan College
Maria Ivanova, Associate Professor of Global Governance and Director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Boston
Pilar Bueno Rubial, Senior Researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research of Argentina

In 2022 it will be fifty years since the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment – the 1972 Stockholm Conference. The Swedish Government will host a global high- level summit in Stockholm in early June 2022 in conjunction with the anniversary. Core designated themes of the conference are green recovery after pandemic, transforming patterns of consumption and production, nature-based solutions, just transitions and mobilization of youth and leaving no one behind. This semi-plenary will reflect on both the achievements and setbacks of five decades of multilateral summitry on environment and sustainable development. To what extent have global environmental governance and multilateralism brought transformative change toward decarbonization, resilience and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? How can the current fragmented system with overlapping institutions be reformed to better tackle interlinked systemic threats such as the climate change, health crisis and biodiversity loss?  In this panel leading international scholars and practioners takes stock of the actors, structures and decision-making processes of 50 years of global environmental diplomacy and transnational sustainability governance.  How can environmental multilateralism be strengthened against the backdrop of challenges such as heightened geopolitics of climate change, weak political leadership, authoritarian populism and democratic back-sliding? This panel is co-hosted with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

Karin Bäckstrand is a Professor in Environmental Social Science at the Department of Political Science at Stockholm University and senior researcher at the Institute for Future Studies. Her research revolves around global environmental politics, non-state actors in climate change governance, partnerships in UN sustainable development diplomacy and 2030 Agenda, and the democratic legitimacy of global governance. She is a member of the Swedish government’s Climate Policy Council. She has been a professor at Department of Political Science, Lund University, Visiting Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Oxford, and Wallenberg Postdoctoral Fellow on Environment and Sustainability at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her latest books are Legitimacy in Global Governance. Sources, Processes, and Consequences (co-edited with Jonas Tallberg and Jan Aart Scholte, Oxford University Press, 2018) and Rethinking the Green State: Environmental Governance toward Climate and Sustainability Transitions (co-edited with Annica Kronsell, Routledge, 2015).

Naghmeh Nasiritousi is a postdoctoral research fellow at Stockholm University and the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Her research focuses on international climate change politics, energy governance, and issues of legitimacy and effectiveness. As part of her research, she has attended several UNFCCC COP meetings and the Rio+20 conference. She currently leads a project on Pathways to carbon neutrality and her latest book (co-edited with Fariborz Zelli, Karin Bäckstrand, Jakob Skovgaard and Oscar Widerberg) is titled Governing the Climate-Energy Nexus: Institutional Complexity and Its Challenges to Effectiveness and Legitimacy.

Pamela Chasek is a professor of political science at Manhattan College in New York City. She is also the co-founder and executive editor of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, a reporting service on United Nations environment and development negotiations ( She is the author and editor of several books and numerous articles on international environmental policy and sustainable development. Her books include Global Environmental Politics, Transforming Multilateral Diplomacy: The Inside Story of the Sustainable Development Goals, The Roads from Rio, The Global Environment in the 21st Century, and Earth Negotiations.

Pilar Bueno is a Senior Researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research of Argentina. She is a member of the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee. Former Secretary of Climate Change of Argentina. Professor at the National University of Rosario. She leads various research spaces on climate change and environmental policies, including the Project Argentina 1.5°C, the Center of Studies in Environmental Policies of the National University of Rosario and the Department of Environment and Development of the National University of La Plata.

Maria Ivanova is Associate Professor of Global Governance and Director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her academic work has been recognized for bringing analytical rigor and innovative input to reforming the UN system for environment. She served on the Scientific Advisory Board of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and is currently a member of the Joint Scientific Committee of the World Climate Research Programme. Her book, The Untold Story of the World’s Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty (MIT Press 2021) was on the World Economic Forum’s 7 ‘Champions for Nature’ must-read books list.