The attraction of a Davos Open Forum session is obvious as the audience arrives much in advance to guarantee themselves a seat. Normally, we would enter the transformed swimming pool to find a neatly arranged row of chairs on the stage. The blue and white colored name tags are an early announcement of who will speak during the evening. But Thursday evening was different. Instead of chairs, we have a set of instruments and no label revealing the upcoming star of the evening.
Keeping true to Swiss clichés, the World Economic Forum (WEF) press meeting in Geneva last Wednesday started just as the clocks struck eleven o’clock. The rows around me were already remarkably filled with members of international media even though there were still some days to go until the Annual Meeting.
This article is co-written by Tim Lehmann. “We recognize the severity of the global loss of biodiversity…” says paragraph 197 in the The Future We Want declaration. The same can be said for media-diversity, particularly in print. “Breakthrough in Rio+20!“ is a headline you would not find in any mainstream news outlet. Indeed, the declaration more closely resembles a 50-page work of art, merely painting a picture of importance without actually making commitments characteristic of a historical document. Nevertheless, the general media missed the point of Rio+20 in various ways, arriving too late, as most of them arrived just for the last 3 days, and with headlines already prepared in mind to be filled with celebrity statements. Sorting through some of the mainstream news with similar dramaturgy, we extracted the following predictable key statements:
The final declaration is weak. An article in the center-right newspaper Economist is titled “Many ‘mays’ but few ‘musts’ – a limp agreement at the UN’s vaunted environment summit”. There is no historical breakthrough. Editors of the center-left German Sueddeutsche Zeitung justify the unnecessariness of Rio: “If all countries are satisfied with the lowest common denominator, if they no longer want to discuss what needs to be discussed …, then the dikes are open. There is no need anymore for a conference of 50,000 attendees. Resolutions that are so wishy-washy can be interpreted by every member state as they wish.
Friday June 22, the last day of the Rio+20 conference. A haze of exhaustion hangs over the media center at RioCentro. At the far end of the auditorium, which houses a mess of cords, cameras, laptops and weary-eyed journalists, a huge screen depicts a live feed of dignitaries delivering carefully prepared statements from the plenary hall. Suddenly laughter fills the press center followed by an uproar of applause. On screen, Bruno Oberle, Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, reads the final statement from the Swiss delegation: “Yes, we made progress, but we missed the historical opportunity….” A well-reasoned statement steeped in empiricism, but not one that would ordinarily get a rise out of a tired press corps.
The 3rd preparatory committee meeting for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development closed without agreement. With negotiations hitting a bottleneck, it was left to the Brazilian hosts of the Rio+20 conference to take over the process rush an agreement before final meetings. The text of the draft is diplomatic and polite but a front has hardened between northern and southern countries. It is mainly an economical frontline between the developed and developing world. Mexican standoff: The EU, the US and the G77
Almost every group involved in the negotiations was far from agreement.
Here in RioCentro it’s the last day of the Four Days of Dialougue, which is meant to provide civil society with the opportunity to interact with the governments and participate in the negotiations process. However, the Brazilian government has been using these precious remaining days before the final Earth Summit to push for an agreement through informal negotiations, and thus neglecting the civil society. On Tuesday June 19th, the Government released a pre-finalised version which seems to be the final agreement to be handed over to the UN. The host country tried to avoid to carry over open negotiation points into the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, where heads of States, Government and high level representatives are supposed to finally approve it. Late night negotiation
In the past four days, the negotiator has had to cope with long, exhausting sessions and delayed meetings.
Friday night June 15, 2012. The last preparatory conference of the Third Preparatory Committee Meeting ended without any agreement on the final document for the upcoming Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. As a consequence, the Brazilian government took on a leadership role in order to facilitate continued negotiations. The exact nature of the process under Brazil’s direction was still unclear as of Friday night. When asked for comment, delegates from negotiating member nations expressed concern over the uncertainty of the process.
RioCentro Conference Center, Rio+20. A posse of well-appointed individuals leisurely stroll by, their security detail and a gaggle of media in tow. They seem important and unconcerned. They walk slowly. The work of the 3rd Preparatory Committee, tasked with negotiating the text of the so called “zero draft,” is important. Today is the last day of negotiation listed on the schedule and yet a sense of urgency is strangely absent. The “zero draft” with zero speed
The 3rd Preparatory Committee is negotiating the text of the zero draft. The text of the draft can be divided in four sections: renewing political commitment, green economy, institutional framework (i.e. “upgrading“ UNEP) and the framework for action and follow-up (including specific topics like food or education). Negotiations are not proceeding in sections or paragraphs or even sentences.
In 1979, Pink Floyd’s epic rock anthem, “Another Brick in The Wall” prompted many discussions about the state of primary and secondary education. Similarly a transformation in management education today, which brings sustainability into full focus, is the subject of intense scrutiny. I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Thomas Dyllick from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, the premier management school of the German speaking world, to talk about the state of sustainability in management education – listen to the podcast at the bottom of the post. Ups and downs in the sustainability agenda
As the engines of economic growth, private sector businesses play a central role in sustainable development. Whether one sees them as part of the problem or as part of the solution, businesses are central to sustainability and sustainability is an unavoidable facet of the new, emerging global economy. Business schools must therefore seriously consider how the concept of sustainable development is taught. Despite some praiseworthy efforts, there is still a need to fully establish sustainability as a central topic in management education. To say that nothing has been done would be cynical understatement. In the late 80’s, a few years after Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and David Gilmour crooned about students transformed into bricks of conformity, groundbreaking initiatives began reshaping the relationship between business, environment and society. The economy is characterized by upturns and downturns and the same is true with regard to interest in sustainability at business schools. During the dot-com bubble, in the 1990’s for example, the topic receded into the background. Today, however, the sustainability movement is gathering momentum again.
This post is in reflection of the Youth Blast – Conference of youth for Rio+20. The Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) gathers together these days in Rio at the Youth Blast – Conference of youth for Rio+20. The fact that they are a major group should help to give them a voice in the Rio+20 process. While the conference is not as strictly organized as official UN meetings, it provides some space for more creative approaches in order to influence the Earth Summit in Rio. Please find a short creative collection of what is in the mind of youth:
“The future we want” is the claim of the 2012 UN conference for sustainability! While all eyes keep looking forward let us risk a look back into the history of this event to get a wider understanding of what Rio+20 means. Quite obvious that the “+20” stands for twenty years after the groundbreaking UN conference in 1992. But the story goes further back in history. Publicity beats math? – the first UN world summit on sustainability
If we follow the history and the mathematical rule, the upcoming Rio+20 event in June should actually be labeled as Stockholm+40 since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm 1972 is considered to be the first UN conference on today’s understanding of sustainability.