Take 2: Challenges for the WRF

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With less than a month to go to the second World Resources Forum (WRF), I’m taking a trip down memory lane to the inaugural WRF in 2009, where I was blogging as a Student Reporter.

While the environment itself was impressive to a student still immersed in classroom theories and game theory matrices, the feeling of change (or, forgive my use of British cultural terms, the ‘X Factor’) was missing from the air. The WRF succeeded as far as respectable international conferences go, but in terms of combatting the problems outline in the  WRF 2011 Summary, it felt like progress was slow. A couple of changes that could combat this include:

1) Meaningful calls for action, or none at all: The Calls for Action 2009, while including nothing objectionable, added little to the debate other than summarising the general feeling in the sustainability field.

2) Walk the talk: students may be idealists, but it’s common sense that if you’re at conference about sustainable resource use, serving shrimps and plentiful meat doesn’t set the best example of optimal resource use. We had a promise on the blog last time that the food provided would change for the next Forum, so fingers crossed…

It is always going to be a problem for big meetings that it’s difficult to measure or prove the value of participants networking and sharing knowledge; all that the organisers can do is to craft the programme to increase the chances that meaningful interactions happen. In this respect, the new structure of concentrating on five clusters is a fantastic improvement from the WRF 2009 to 2011.

Networking in person is undoubtedly essential for to share knowledge and spread ideas, and it’s not often that the brightest minds in science-based sustainable development gather together, so grab your coffee and get learning!


2 thoughts on “Take 2: Challenges for the WRF

  1. Hi Harriet, thanks for co-organising the wonderful student reporters project. One of the highlights of this conference as we heard from everyone, truly intergenerational dialogue.

    As you have seen we achieved some change, although still far from perfect:

    1. a clear and concise chair’s summary and press release, calling for a doubling of resource efficiency by 2020, and quadrupling by 2050. And unlike two years ago we already know that it will be fed into the political process, supported by the Swiss government and others. Bold and new? Nope. Realistic and heard before? Yep. For me what counts is whether it will be heard or not, and lead to some meaningful decisions next year at Rio + 20.

    2. walk the talk: again, not yet perfect, far from perfect even, but as compared to last time almost all local food (no shrimps and other “exotic” food and drinks some people complained about last time), somewhat better vegetarian choices (we hope) and we’ll do our best to further improve, taking into account the preferences of our multi stakeholder audience, from NGO’s to business, from Switzerland to India, from very young to very old. We keep searching for the best balance, helped by questioning our participants about it in our conference survey.

    3. somewhat more colour and arts in the sessions, letting emotions come in more easily, something that surely will pay off, be it invisible.

    We all hope that you’ll be with us in the years to come!

    • Hi Bas,

      Thanks for your comments! I do feel like the World Resources Forum has come on greatly since 2009. And as you said in your interview with Sandra (link below), conferences are just one part of the solution. My view of what role conferences can play has changed alot since the inaugural WRF, and I no longer expect miracles. I just hope that the intangible benefits offset the costs, but that is something we will never know!

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