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Sustainable Developement: Looking ahead to the 20th Anniversary of Rio
DEMOCRACY, CAPITALISM AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: Renewing the policy agenda.
During the decade before us we will mark the 20th anniversary of the United Nations world summits on various dimensions of development including Education (Jomtein , 1990 ), Human Rights ( Vienna, 1991), Sustainable Development ( Rio, 1992) Women (Beijing, 1993), Population (Cairo, 1994) Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995) Human Settlements (Cities) (Istanbul, 1996), Food, (Rome, 1999); followed by the Millennium Summit with its millennium development goals, (New York, 2000). Half way through the decade in 2015 the targets of the millennium declaration are to be achieved. World leaders will gather at the United Nations and elsewhere to reflect on the progress the world has achieved and it will be viewed mainly through the lens of sustainable development or though one of its dimensions. The will likely conclude that the results have been mixed. We have made some progress but not enough. And they will seek new commitments, resources and strategies to accelerate progress. They are like to adopt existing strategies slightly modified at best, to achieve a new set of bold targets which they will call for in a loud and unified voice. They will not notice, or may pretend not to notice the huge gap between the weakness of their strategies and the ambition of their targets. They will also commit to be more accountable and to deliver on their promises, but the targets will not be reached in the time frames they will set unless the analysis of past performance is rigorous and hard hitting; and above all a new world view and radically different strategies flowing from it are pursued. This will demand political, business and spiritual leadership at a whole new level as the lynch pin of failure or success. This paper, prepared at the beginning of this decade seeks to frame the debate in context of capitalism and democracy as the dominant drivers of world progress and failure and suggests a brief agenda of what might be done differently to put the world on a sustainable development path.
The concept of sustainable development (SD) was introduced in the policy making literature at the global level in 1980 as part of the global conservation strategy of the IUCN. It is of course considered to have been brought into the mainstream international policy and political debate by the Brundtlant Commission which started its work as the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1982 and launched its landmark report, Our Common Future, in 1987,which provided the most commonly used definition of SD as development which meets the needs of current generations with compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. It was the perhaps the most brilliant political consensus ever achieved in the UN, between northern pre-occupations with increasing environmental concerns and southern concerns with increasing poverty. It was not that ecological degradation was not present in the south; it was just that their over-riding preoccupation was with poverty. Since the achievement of this consensus the world has been constantly reminded that a political consensus is not necessarily a formula that lends itself to easy public policy making either in content or in process. In terms of process SD has been subject to more public consultations than any other development concept, from international and global forums through regional, national, sub-regional, to village and community levels. It has acquired the highest levels of ownership” becoming a household word