Sorting Out an Irresponsible Generation...Ideas for Rio+20

'We are increasingly becoming the most irresponsible generation our planet has seen. The principal goal of our economy should be to improve the lives of the entire world's people and to free them from want and ignorance - without compromising the planet itself'.


In this interview Felix Dodds, Executive Director of Multistakeholder Forum and chair of the 64th Annual UN Conference for Non Governmental Organisations (Bonn, Sept 3-5), speaks about the latest proposals and achievements of civil society towards Rio Plus 20, introduces the Sustainable Development Goals, and suggests five key challenges ahead of us towards a more sustainable future.


How is the preparatory process going on and which are your expectations about the Earth Summit?

The preparatory process is going ok. For the first time in this arena the NGOs got together well in advance and 1500 met in Bonn on 3-5 September under the UN DPI NGO Conference and agreed unanimously in Bonn a 15 page declaration with a set of sustainable development governance reforms and sustainable development goals. Click here to download.

Governments have been preparing through governance sponsored meetings in Indonesia, India and China so far which have played a key role in helping to solidify a narrative for the Summit. We are all inputting to the UN by November 1st when the UN will prepare a zero draft text for the process which will start being more focused from mid-December when the preparatory process starts to work with text.

In addition many stakeholders are working though different coalitions on Rio+20: for governance issues, the Sustainable Development Governance Network has been producing think pieces (see On the area of the green economy there are two stakeholder groups - the Green Economy Coalition hosted at IIED and the Global Transition 2012 hosted jointly at Stakeholder Forum and New Economics Foundation, again producing† think pieces on the green economy.

There are three conventions being promoted for Rio+20: one on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration (Access to Information, Public? Participation and Environmental Justice), one on Corporate Sustainability and the final one on New Technologies. The UN family is also engaged: UNEP have produced the Green Economy Report and UNDP Human Development Report 2011 will be on Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. The World Bank Developemnt Report is on Conflict Security and Development and of course the High Level Panel on Global Sustainability will also come out by January 2012 to help frame Rio+20.


Could you tell us more about the 'Sustainable Development Goals'?

Colombia tabled the idea of Sustainable Development Goals in June and this has been picked up by many governments, the global sustainability panel and the NGOs. In Bonn 17 goals which covered issues such as energy, consumption, water, blue economy, food security, public participation and information access, forests, climate, biodiversity, livelihoods and health, were picked up and developed. This would then form the basis of the sustainable development worlds continuation to the MDGs review in 2015.


'Business as usual' and/or 'governace as usual'...Which are the major challenges ahead of us towards a more sustainable future?

We face huge challenges on a number of fronts and I want to highlight five:

  1. Human societies are living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet;
  2. Climate change has emerged as an out-of-control driver;
  3. There is now becoming an increasing link between environment and security;
  4. Governments have still not given the UN the mandate, the resources or the institutional capacities required to monitor and enforce international agreements;
  5. The current consumption economic model, which has brought unprecedented prosperity to the more developed countries, has only deepened the disparity between them and most developing countries.


The parallels of the ecological problems with the financial crisis are clear. The banks and financial institutions privatized the gains and socialized the losses. We are doing the same with the planet natural capital. Our present lifestyles are drawing down the ecological capital from other parts of the world and from future generations.

We are increasingly becoming the most irresponsible generation our planet has seen. The principal goal of our economy should be to improve the lives of the entire world's people and to free them from want and ignorance - without compromising the planet itself.


Felix Dodds is the Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future. He has been active at the UN since 1990 attending the World Summits of Rio Earth Summit, Habitat II, Rio+5, Beijing+5, Copenhagen+5, World Summit on Sustainable Development. From 1997-2001 he co-chaired the UN Commission on Sustainable Development NGO Steering Committee and has been a part of the Green Globe Task Force that advised the UK Foreign Minister on sustainable development issues from 1996-2005. He has just chaired the 64th UN DPI NGO Conference on Sustainable Societies Responsive Citizens feeding into Rio+20.


Interview by Angela Zarro, SID

Cover photo: mickeysucks/flickr