If societies are to make the transformation to sustainable development, their governance will also need to transform. Within this theme, we examine how governance processes can become more inclusive and accountable, and how governance outcomes can become more effective and equitable. This theme considers all levels of governance and decision-making, from the community to global level, as well as both formal and informal institutions, and applies research across various environment and development challenges - from local water resources to global climate policy.
We work to advance new insights into good governance for sustainable development in the face of social and ecological change
Transforming governance – into what, and why?
If societies are to make the transformation to sustainable development, their governance will also need to transform. Within this theme, we examine how governance processes can become more inclusive and accountable, and how governance outcomes can become more effective and equitable. This theme considers all levels of governance and decision-making, from the community to global level, as well as both formal and informal institutions, and applies research across various environment and development challenges – from local water resources to global climate policy.
Research and capacity-building
Transforming Governance focuses on institutions that govern responses to social and ecological change, and how to build them. The theme offers critical perspectives on power imbalances in decision-making, and on how society shares power and responsibility for managing and developing natural resources, with a view to enabling more equitable and just outcomes. It studies how actors and institutions decide on policy agendas, as well as on the distribution of benefits and risks that results from these agendas. A multi-level governance perspective characterizes our work, recognizing links between the local, national and global scales.
Together with partners, we work towards sustainable livelihoods for individuals and communities, finding ways to empower stakeholders and build their capacity and resilience. This involves developing, testing and evaluating methods for meaningful and socially inclusive participation and social learning. We analyze shifting policy and governance frameworks at local and national levels, and improve policy design as well as the inclusiveness and accountability of decision-making processes. We also strive to influence the policy debate and how institutions and networks are formed at the global level in order to open up space for ideas that support transformation to sustainability.
Our work considers three dimensions of governance: good governance, effective governance and equitable governance (see below). Importantly, there are often tensions between these three dimensions, which our research acknowledges and aims to reduce, while at the same time seeking synergies.
Good governance – we examine how to ensure that decision-making processes and their institutional contexts are inclusive, participatory, transparent and accountable through, for example, gender-inclusive participatory processes and stakeholder engagement; provisions for transparency, accountability and legitimacy, and their implementation; corporate accountability; and rights-based approaches. Specific areas we work on include:
- Stakeholder engagement in local and regional natural resource management and climate adaptation (e.g. citizen science and participatory mapping tools; developing new climate adaptation strategy and other policies; governance of the Arctic)
- Stakeholder engagement and integrated water resource management (e.g. in the Ayeyarwady Basin, Myanmar)
- Transparency and accountability along commodity supply chains (e.g. SEI Initiative on Producer to Consumer Sustainabilitymining and Sami communities)
- Transparency and accountability in climate finance (e.g. SEI Initiative on Climate Finance)
- Transparency and accountability in climate governance, and in countries’ post-2020 climate actions under the UNFCCC.
Effective governance – we work to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to pursue sustainable development, through policy design, policy implementation and general institutional capacity through ex ante policy analysis; policy integration and mainstreaming; institutional fragmentation; policy instrument design and evaluation; capacity-building; coalition-building; global environmental governance. Specific areas we work on include:
- Supporting development and analysis of environmental policy (e.g. tax reform, waste policy)
- Governing innovation and transition management (e.g. electric vehicles and energy systems)
- Improving governance for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience (e.g. SEI Initiative on Transforming Development and Disaster Risk)
- Behavioural perspectives and implications for governance (e.g. local sustainability and mobility; SEI Initiative on Behaviour and Choice)
- Addressing ineffective global environmental governance (e.g. implementing multilateral environmental agreements; planetary boundaries; global governance of climate adaptation; institutional fragmentation)
- Improving policy coherence, integration and mainstreaming (e.g. a nexus approach to the SDGs)
- Supporting coalition-building (e.g. the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the New Climate Economy).
Equitable governance – we seek to understand the potential and actual distributive outcomes of policies and governance arrangements. For example, we focus on international climate equity; allocation of climate finance; and equity and distribution of natural resources within countries. Specific areas we work on include: