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DESA Issues Brief Focuses on Peer Review Options

July 2011: The second "Issues Brief" by the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), on the objectives and themes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), focuses on “Options for Strengthening IFSD: Peer Review.”

The brief links peer review to the UNCSD theme of the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD). It summarizes peer review mechanisms currently in place in UN system institutions and considers their potential to contribute to the implementation of international agreements. The brief describes peer review as distinct from compliance enforcement mechanisms or other dispute settlement bodies, such as courts or cap and trade systems. It indicates that peer review seeks to promote compliance through a constructive, persuasive, learning-based and non-adversarial process that rests on the equality of the parties concerned and therefore respects national sovereignty.

The brief reviews common steps in peer review mechanisms, including: national reporting; independent review; synthesis through a country review report; coordination and support through a Secretariat; consultation and feedback with the country under review; and presentation and review with peers. In addition, civil society has a role to play in peer review mechanisms, the brief notes, citing the separate report of civil society inputs to the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process.

The relevance of peer review to IFSD, according to DESA, stems from the fact that all institutional reform or strengthening proposals made to date “entail, consciously or unconsciously,” the need to address review and monitoring deficits, in order for institutional innovation to lead to fundamental change.

The brief concludes with a table summarizing the key features of 12 peer review mechanisms. [Publication: Issues Brief 2: Lessons from the Peer Review Mechanism] [Website of Issues Briefs]