Rio Dialogues Part I: WHY Should I Even Care?

In the big lead up to Rio+20, the community concerned about sustainable development is all a-buzz. There is talk of PrepCom, side-events and dialogues at the Rio+20 conference. Despite all the momentum, critics note that the level of civil society input lacks luster. There must be more than the same networks of people talking about the significance of sustainable development.

There must be more done than presenting pie-in-the-sky ideologies as staples for resolving world challenges. If reasonable to implement, action oriented plans are the overarching goals of Rio+20, then all sectors of society should be consulted to make the achievement of these overarching goals our shared reality.

What’s ado about Rio+20? Allow me to break down the mystery: the U.N. Conference is the largest platform that will gather world Heads of State together with civil society, public and private sectors, the scientific community and even special interest groups in Rio de Janeiro to make a resolution for the future of our planet. By future, I mean the standards for how to interact within our communities, build a thriving global economy and have more responsible use of environmental resources. To grasp the scope of Rio+20, let us examine the significance of the abbreviations for the U.N. Conference for Sustainable Development:

Rio = abbreviation for Rio de Janeiro, the capital city of Brazil and the location where the conference will be held.

+20 = the amount of years since the original U.N. Earth Summit discussed sustainable development and forged blueprints for what we should do as an international community in 1992.

Since 1992, increased strain on the Earth, people and economy have intensified. With 7 billion people crowding our planet and finite resources, it is a no-brainer that we should ensure a viable system that we all can implement to make smarter, healthier choices about what we collectively consume and waste. Clearly, creating a better world system requires the leverage of an international body, and this is where the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or CSD) creates a beacon of hope. The UNCSD coordinates the international process currently in use to establish a renewed blueprint for sustainability.

For the first time in U.N. history, the process is widely open to all sectors of civil society in an attempt to foster a realistic medium to address world challenges. The U.N. and its individual member-states are generally aware of our deteriorating planet and some of the man-made blunders that are causing them. However, member-states cannot be solely relied upon to create solutions that do not further cause harm to people, the planet and the world economy. The role for creating solutions that are adaptable world-wide rests on all of our shoulders.

Recognizing the need to expand world-wide participation of people that do not ordinarily have access to the U.N. and its often complicated processes, the Brazilian government has taken the initiative to crowdsource online participation. In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the online crowd source platform is known as the Rio Dialogues. The dialogues are open to anyone, wherever they are in the world, to join in and make their recommendations on how to address the topics that are being discussed during the UNCSD process.

There are ten topics within the dialogues: oceans, sustainable energy for all, forests, food and nutrition security, sustainable cities and innovation, sustainable development for fighting poverty, unemployment, decent work and migrations, sustainable development as an answer to the economic and financial crisis, water, and the economics for sustainable development, including patterns of production and consumption. From now until June 3rd, the public can make and vote on recommendations. A few of the most popular recommendations will then be gathered from each topic and crowdsourced again to select the best recommendations from each topic. Final recommendations will be delivered to the Heads of State at Rio+20.

The Rio Dialogues aim to strongly influence the final decisions Heads of State will make while at Rio+20. Whereas participatory action is important, many people that I talk to that are not familiar with “sustainable development” as a label, still do not see a reason to care. Admittedly, I can identify with the sentiment that decision makers can sometimes ignore public opinion. I can also identify with the sentiment that the average person does not have the “luxury” to dream philosophies about what to do with our world when he or she has bills to pay and mouths to feed.

To those of you struggling but want a better world, I see your disgust and raise you a challenge! For sure, nothing will change for the better if you are not present in a process extended to you. Use the dialogues to your advantage to get your action oriented ideas in the spotlight, or to strengthen others. Challenge the factors that affect your income, access to jobs, land preservation, access to clean water, the right to safe forms of energy and raise food prices.

Original article published on Huffington Post.

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