My 2019 in review and what to expect in 2020

It is always challenging looking back on a year and forward to the next.

I guess the highlights of 2019 were after three years of work the UN General Assembly passed the resolution on Promoting Investments for Sustainable Development. Passed on November 27th 2019 by the UNGA.

The original idea for such a resolution was a result of work started under the Danish Presidency of the UNGA of Mogens Lykketoft. He commissioned a report the Chain of Sustainable Finance:  Accelerating Private Investments for the SDGs, including Climate Action from that report there was an ongoing discussion in member states and stakeholders including the private sector led by AVIVA. In 2018 Nigeria championed the idea and the resolution passed under the Nigerian Presidency of the UNGA of Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.

For me the sad part of it was I was out of the country in the UK when it happened.
At the start of the year, it was a pleasure to serve on the UN Global Compact Internal Review Taskforce looking at what the UNGC should do moving forward at the local/country level, within the UN and Business ecosystem.

Another highlight was standing for the Executive Director of UNEP which was very rewarding experience and although late in the day nice to have the support of Number 10.

At UNEA 4 I had the pleasure of moderating one of the three Ministerial Leadership dialogues on Innovative sustainable business development at a time of rapid technological changes. I was then asked to present the outcome from all the three leadership dialogues. A report back to the plenary text can be read here.

In September the Strong Universal Network which I am part of with the wonderful Geoffrey Lipman signed an agreement with the government of Malta for three years to run a sustainable tourism thinktank based there. The first outcome was the launch of the first ‘Climate Friendly Travel Report’ launched with the World Travel and Tourism Council at the Heads of State week in New York.
UK politics has been a bit crazy this year…well over the last few years. With the announcement of the UK hosting the 2020 Climate Summit I sought to get approved to stand in the UK election and hopefully get elected and offer my support and advice to the UK team. Well the election happened on December 12th and although  I was approved and did stand in the wonderful constituency of Mid-Derbyshire (definitely worth visiting if you like walks and history and some great cafes) the campaign was dominated by Brexit and so a strong climate message though having more resonance than previously in the UK wasn’t going to be the deciding issue for enough people…even after the floods. One of the hustings was videoed so if you have an interest then this might give you an insight into UK politics.
The Friends of Governance for Sustainable Development had another successful year organizing workshops for member states and often with the collaboration of UNDESA. More on the outcomes of that below.

In 2019 I was fortunate to have three books out:

Acting as Secretariat for the Friends of Governance for Sustainable Development we hold three workshops a year and the papers from the workshops a become a book. Governance for Sustainable Development Volume 3: Preparing for the Heads of State Review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development came out in March 2019 and which I edited with a number of colleagues Akinremi Bolaji (Nigeria), Yeongmoo Cho (Republic of Korea), Verena Klinger-Dering (Germany), Cristina Popescu (Romania), David Banisar (Article 19), Quinn McKew (Article 19)and supported by Tanner Glenn.

The second book Stakeholder Democracy: Represented Democracy in a Time of Fear I wrote with contributions from Jan Gustav Strandernaus , Carolina Duque Chopitea, Susanne Salz, Bernd Lakemeier, Laura Schmitz, and Jana Borkenhagen and Minu Hemmati this came out in July and was launched at the UN Bookshop to a packed audience. Since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit the idea of stakeholder
democracy has grown, with stakeholders engaged in helping governments and intergovernmental bodies make better decisions, and in helping them to deliver those decisions in partnerships amongst various stakeholders, with and without government. Seen through a multi-stakeholder, sector and level lens, this book describes the history of the development of stakeholder democracy, particularly in the area of sustainable development. The authors draw on more than twenty-five years of experience to review, learn from and make recommendations on how best to engage stakeholders in policy development. The book illustrates successful practical examples of multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) to implement agreements and outline elements of an MSP Charter. This will provide a benchmark for partnerships, enabling those being developed to understand what the necessary quality standards are and to understand what is expected in terms of transparency, accountability, financial reporting, impact and governance.
The book is essential reading for professionals and trainees engaging in multi-stakeholder processes for policy development and to implement agreements. It will also be useful for students of sustainable development, politics and international relations.

The third book The Way Forward – Beyond Agenda 21 is part of the Routledge Classics Series and which I edited for Rio+5 in 1997. 1997 marked the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - the celebrated ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro which represented the high-water mark of intergovernmental action for sustainable development. Whilst some were tempted to dismiss the Conference as a gesture of concern by the participating governments, the list of resolutions which arose from the Summit is formidable, and the key text to emerge from the conference process, Agenda 21, had proven to be crucial to efforts to disseminate and implement the principles of globally sustainable development.
The Way Forward outlines the successes and failures of those first five years. Calling on a list of eminent experts, it provides an unparalleled analysis of the agreements that were reached, and the stakeholders who were charged with implementing them. It reviews the progress that was made at the intergovernmental, national and grassroots levels, and offers a cogent summary of the major issues that needed to be addressed for the future. Lucid, compact and authoritative, this is the essential guide to ‘Rio plus five’.
There were a number of papers I did in 2019 with Jamie Bartram and Gastón Ocampo Juniper Publishing International Journal of Science and Natural Resources the paper was Misaligned SDG Targets: How to Handle Target Dates Before 2030
I also had the pleasure to write one of the first opinion pieces for the new Taylor Francis/Routledge SDG Hub. Preparing for the 2019 Heads of State Review of Progress on SDG Implementation
For Inter Press Service I wrote the article Is Civil Society Arguing Itself out of Political Space?

For 2020
At the moment I am still recovering from an exhausting 2019 so sleep is playing a key role for me at the moment. My present publications planned for include one finished edited book – Volume 4 of the Friends of Governance for Sustainable Development. It should be out by late February.
The second book working with my co-author Carolina Duque Chopitea will take over and I will start work on New Technologies and Tomorrows People (Routledge) out we hope in July 2021. It is set in 2030 and will look at the impacts of new technology in our lives whether at home, travel, work etc. Any recommendations for reading appreciated.
There should also be a chapter the Water-Energy-Food-Climate Nexus through an Urban Lens: Building Integrated Approaches into Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals with Carolina Duque Chopitea in Cities for All: Issues in Sustainable Urban Development by Eugénie L. Birch, William Burke-White, Mark Alan Hughes with Penn Press
Clearly, the most important events of 2020 will be the Climate Summit in Glasgow and the Biodiversity COP in China. I hope this blog and my work will in some way contribute to those events and their success.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2020.


  1. Great, Felix - an impressive performance record, and especially _Stakeholder democracy_ is an important step forward. I still think, however, that it is not radical enough. And I hope to be able to get another thing into your agenda for 2020. All the best to you and your family and Cheers for a good 2020! Hanno


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