Leaving Nobody Behind? The Least Developed Countries in Global Sustainability Governance

Led by Frank Biermann & Carole-Anne Sénit

IR scholarly work on global governance has claimed that after traditional negotiation blocks such as the Group of 77 developing countries lost their prominence, poorer countries are increasingly losing out in an intergovernmental policymaking area dominated by industrialized countries and major emerging economies. The SDGs are now expected to increase global inclusiveness through “a global partnership [that involves] participation of all countries, all stakeholders, and all people” (United Nations, 2015). Yet will the goals really advance the interests of the world’s poorest countries?

This study will assess the role and marginalisation of Least Developed Countries’ (interests) in global governance in the Anthropocene. In a first step, we will qualitatively review the negotiating positions of the LDCs to identify their interests with respect to questions of architecture and agency, as well as justice and allocation in global sustainability governance.

In a second step, we will analyze how the major institutions governing sustainability issues, including the High-Level Political Forum, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the G20, currently represent LDCs. We will assess representation both quantitatively, by studying to what extent and how LDCs participate in such institutions, and qualitatively, by analyzing the acknowledgment and role of LDCs in global sustainable development norms and agreements formulated by these institutions.

Finally, we will evaluate the potential existing gap between the LDC narrative and their current role in global sustainability governance, and explore whether (and how) the SDGs had any effect in reducing (or extending) such gap.