Sustainable Development Councils were among the few specific recommendations for institution building to come out of Rio in 1992. At their best the councils manifest Agenda 21's call for new participatory arrangements. At their worst they represent the frustrations and unmet challenges of the thirteen years since Rio. The article compares attempts to establish councils in three Caribbean states: Grenada, Dominica, and St. Lucia. The cases offer lessons in the survivability of deliberative bodies concerned with sustainable development policy and raise questions about their efficacy. We conclude that such bodies survive when members derive significant if intangible benefits; and that by surviving, they help optimize limited human resources for the implementation of international environmental conventions and provide needed venues for deliberation and accountability. But the relationship between efficacy and survivability is not linear and councils may have to avoid direct challenges to government decision-makers and established relationships between the state and private sector.
The authors wish to express their sincere thanks to the members of the Grenada Sustainable Development Council. Their cooperation, enthusiasm and support helped make this research possible. This research was supported by a Visiting Professorship for Dr. Rosenberg at the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation of St. George's University, Grenada. Any errors or omissions and all opinions presented are the sole responsibility of the authors.