Developing the post 2015 agenda

worldwewantIn the year 2000, world leaders came together to establish the Millennium Development Goals – also known as the MDGs – a set of eight goals which member states and international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. The MDGs are to:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

The MDGs have been a powerful tool for sustaining global attention and bringing together international support to promote development. The strength of the MDGs is that they focuse on a limited set of concrete human development goals and have provided a target for setting national and international development policies. The specific, time-bound targets and measurable indicators provide valuable and effective benchmarks for monitoring progress and achieving concrete results.

The target today, post Rio+20, is still on achieving those goals by 2015 but the process has started to develop a framework that could succeed the MDGs in the post 2015 era. Discussions are already underway as to what these new goals and targets may look like, taking the lessons learnt from the MDGs. This includes an intergovernmental Open Working Group, a UN System Task Team as well as over 50 national consultations being led by the UN Development Group (for more information about this process visit Post 2015 site).

It was felt, in particular by civil society organizations, that there were several important issues that were not addressed in the original MDGs, issues productive employment, violence against women, social protection, inequalities, social exclusion, biodiversity, malnutrition, the rule of law, human rights that could be included this time around. In order to ensure that the important issues are not overlooked and to make the goals and targets stronger, this time civil society is being invited into the process through a wide range of consultative processes.

In conjunction with the UN task forces and governments plans for the post-2015 agenda, a consultation process is being held online via a platform called The World We Want 2015. Here, nine thematic consultations are taking place led by various UN agencies including Inequalities, Governance, Health, Sustainability, Population, WaterEmployment,  ConflictFoodEducation,  and Energy. Each theme has regular online discussions, summaries of the consultation process, and ongoing Twitter updates of the live proceedings.  Currently there is an online consultation on Sustainability and Growth that will continue until the 8th of March. There are also a series of conferences around the different topic areas happening around the world.

Individuals are also being invited to take part in the process is via My World (www.myworld2015.org), a global survey asking individuals to choose priorities in creating a better world. The results will be shared with world leaders in setting the next global development agenda.

There are also a range of hubs bringing together research, reports and information about the Post-2015 discussions, all which invite contributions. Post 2015 is a hub for ideas, debate and resources on what comes after the Millenium Development Goals. Co-ordinated by the Overseas Development Institute, which has been working on a major research project on the post-2015 agenda, the site also collects information about new research, papers and other relevant information regarding this topic.  Several movements and organizations such as Beyond 2015 and Global Call to Action Against Poverty provide a space for civil society groups to discuss what the post 2015 agenda may look like and submit their recommendations.

The first report of the UN system on the Post 2015 Development Agenda – Realizing the Future We Want for All – provides a good overview of the whole process and the issues being discussed. Moving forward there are a range of events that will bring together the public consultations into the Post 2105 edition of the MDG. For example Feb 27-28 will be the 2013 Global MDG Conference in Bogota, Columbia and the topic will be discussed at length at the upcoming 68th UN General Assembly in September of this year.

To follow other Post Rio+20 activities visit sustainabledevelopment.un.org.

–  How do you incorporate the MDGs in your research and teaching? What are your thoughts on what the post 2015 goals and targets could look like? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. –

Competition Challenges Business Students to Rethink Course in Sustainable Terms

A team from MacEwan University, School of Business in Canada recently took second place in the PRME Leaders +20 Challenge, organized by Aarhus University. For this contest, students and lecturers in the field of management education teamed up to integrate sustainability perspectives into new or existing course descriptions.

The second place team was made up of Dr. Leo Wong, Caitlin Farrell, Rory Kirkpatrick, Cam McCoy, William Pasieka and Dan Scott, all bachelor of commerce students. Their entry involved revising the core Introduction to Business course – a requirement for over 600 students a year – based on the premise that responsible leadership and effective management require multiple perspectives: an understanding of business and its substantive disciplines, as well as emerging issues in the world of sustainable business. I recently had the chance to speak to Dr. Leo Wong about their winning entry.

1. Why change the core Introduction to Business course?

The BUSN 201 course has been around for a while, but its current delivery does not include sustainability content. In fact, we have struggled to get students engaged in the course as it is a general introductory course to all things business. This contest presented the opportunity to re-imagine what a course like this could look like if we integrated sustainability and changed the approach to be about inspiring and fostering responsible leaders.

The main advantage is that you introduce the topic early on, when students are starting to learn other business concepts. This helps them integrate a framework of sustainability into other concepts at the same time, instead of as an after-thought. You also expose all students to the topic, not just those who have self-selected into an elective. Some students, who may never have thought about sustainability or cared about it, now have an opportunity to assess whether it applies to their own careers and personal lives.

2. What are some of the changes that you are proposing?

We want to make the course much more student-driven. The students will be engaged in discussions about pertinent sustainability topics throughout the course, with a bit less emphasis on ‘lecturing’ material from a textbook (which was how the course ran previously). We also want to introduce a community service campaign, where all the students have the opportunity to apply basic business concepts by organizing themselves around innovative ideas to address community needs. Lastly, we want to bring in more local speakers who have first-hand experience with integrating sustainability into their businesses, and possibly even focusing on a few of them as live case studies, for the students to really get familiar with.

3. How did you go about putting together the proposal and how was it received?

I was able to recruit some students in one of my classes, Introduction to Nonprofit Management, as well as students from a group on campus called Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) to join the team for this competition. Fortunately, those students also had a nice complement of skills – such as in video and audio production and connections to resources like a local composer who created original music – that made our entry to the competition higher quality. The students also ranged from 1st to 4th year students, so their perspectives were duly represented throughout the proposal. It truly became a passion for the students to submit something that we felt could win the competition and inspire people within and outside our school.

Engaging them was easy… they were so motivated to begin with. All I needed to do was create the space and opportunity for them to come together, and provide the necessary resources so they wouldn’t get slowed down. After putting the video together, we received a lot of online support for our proposal. Students who saw the video were often moved and inspired and looked forward to what this course would look like. Other staff and faculty were also very supportive of our work and, though some were a bit worried about the scale of the changes we proposed, I think the concern was from a well-intentioned place. It is an ambitious task, but everyone who has seen our video and heard about our proposal, has been very supportive in wanting to see these changes happen.

4. What are the challenges that you are encountering in making this happen and how are you dealing with them?

The main challenge is trying to strike the right balance between content and outcomes. We want to provide enough content for students to develop a basic understanding of introductory business concepts, but enough space for them to follow a path of self-discovery about sustainability issues. We do not plan to preach sustainability, but rather present it as a business option and let the students decide how it relates to their career path. We hope that as an outcome, they will take ownership over their time in this course and take advantage of the opportunity to become more engaged. As a result, their learning and practical application of concepts will increase.

We also need to coordinate the changes we make to this course and how it flows into other courses. Being the initial core course students take, they start with little background knowledge of business, but leave it to go into other courses. So we need to ensure the content they learn in this course transitions well into other courses, particularly how we address sustainability issues. These changes may eventually lead to a cascade of changes in other courses, which is something that should be discussed sooner, rather than later.

The other challenges relate to patience. I would love to make all the changes to the course right away, but some changes will take more time than others. For example, we want to reschedule how the various sections of the course are offered so we can accommodate high profile speakers coming in to address all the students.

5. So what’s next and what advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing a similar change?

Changing a course as dramatically as we are proposing will take a few years. We intend to make the easier changes regarding course content this coming school year. These focus on adding sustainability content (lecture materials, exercises, guest speakers) and encouraging our instructors to focus on facilitating discussion and exploration of issues over direct lecturing. We will then work on other structural changes to the course, which include scheduling and organizing students in classrooms to maximize their ability to learn collaboratively. Also, we are trying to integrate the course with senior students and student groups in order to provide mentoring and extra-curricular opportunities that will enhance what they learn in the classroom.

I would encourage schools to start that discussion now about how to do it. It is a much more difficult challenge to carry out than I thought originally, particularly since it involves other courses  and how they might potentially embed sustainability content. To be honest, we have not had that discussion from a strategic point of view. We are experimenting a little here. Having students involved in this process was vital to giving the proposal credibility. I can go and share these plans with other instructors and say that students were behind this and this is how they felt the course should be designed. That goes a long way to making these changes adoptable.

To see the full entry visit Introduction to Sustainable Business.

Promoting Research around Sustainability: Examples from the UK, France, Belgium and Canada

During the 3rd PRME Global Forum at Rio+20 in June, one of the discussion topics revolved around research and how to promote research on sustainability topics. How can we facilitate faculty need for research publications on sustainability? What type of change strategy can be developed that will shift the emphasis in research toward rigorous, yet practical, theoretically informed research?

An Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education, which launched at the 3rd Global Forum, provides answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning how to move forward in embedding sustainability into management education. In putting together the Guide, many schools shared projects and initiatives around promoting sustainability research on campus. Here are some examples from the UK, France, Belgium and Canada.

Ashridge Business Schoolwanted to understand the proportion of faculty engaged in research that related in some way to sustainability. The thinking was that, if a member of faculty was researching how sustainability related to their core area of expertise, then that could be a good indicator as to whether new thinking on sustainable business might also be coming into his/her educational work. As a result, the school measured, over an 18 month period, that 25% of faculty had either published some kind of research or thought leadership, or had spoken or played a facilitative role in an event where there was a connection with the theme of sustainable business.

At Euromed Management, over 30% of academic activities and publications are linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability issues, and the number of publications continues to rise. These results are due to various initiatives, including the creation of projects, networks and research chairs. However, the deciding factor lies in the school’s decision to structure research into five priority groups, one of which is dedicated to the CSR.

Louvain School of Managementorganises the CSR Research Seminar, which aims to bring together researchers, PhD candidates and prominent professors from around the world to discuss their respective research projects. Participants come from various disciplines and fields, including, but not limited to, management, law, sociology, philosophy, economics, political science, and social psychology, but sharing a common interest for CSR and business and society issues. The goal is to explore the diverse dimensions of these questions, and special attention is given to research projects that involve strong linkages with industry participants.

The University of Western Ontario Richard Ivey School of Business’s Building Sustainable Value Research Center has a Research Network for Sustainability that connects researchers, teachers and practitioners to better facilitate the creation and dissemination of evidence-based research in business sustainability. The network, which includes more than 2,700 managers, academics and students, maintains a website with an online database. There is a section specifically for researchers that includes both recent articles focused on sustainability in a range of academic journals as well as journals that are looking for contributions for special sustainability editions.

The Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education, is available online at http://www.gseresearch.com/about/prme.htm.

Creating new courses around sustainability – 5 questions with the winning team of the PRME Leaders +20 competition

A team from the University of Auckland has recently been chosen as the winning team in the PRME Leaders +20  Challenge organised by Aarhus University. The challenge asked students and lecturers within management related education to team up to integrate sustainability perspectives into new or existing course descriptions.

The winning course was created by Dr Ross McDonald, Sian Coleman (masters student) and Daniel Cullum (undergraduate student) from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. I had the chance to speak to Ross, Daniel and Sian, who attended the Rio+20 PRME Global Forum as part of the prize, about their winning entry.

1. Tell us a little bit about your winning entry.

The course is called “Managing Change for a better world” and is designed for undergraduate students in their third year of study. It is designed as a collaborative learning experience, emphasizing open-discussion, practical engagement and reflective enquiry as modes of critical learning. The course is divided into three parts. The first part is about managing personal change where students learn about self-management and the impact that they can have as an individual. The second part looks at managing local change by engaging in small groups with projects in the community. The third part of the course looks at managing global change where students see how these issues are affecting the country and the world. The assessment of the course is based on reflective journals, a practical local project and an innovation social business plan where their ideas are judges by a panel of mentors from the community.

2. Why did you develop the course?

Ross: Expertise lies in looking over our shoulders to the way things have been, and hardly any time is spent looking forward to how things will change and how they will have to change. At the moment it seems that we have forgotten that business is not an end in itself but part of a larger system of mutual obligations. With this course, it was interesting to be able to think openly about what could be done without being limited by existing regulations and bureaucracy. In essence, the course is about empowering people to build a better world by challenging themselves to become more responsible in their daily lives, asking them to work with and local community groups and challenging them to design positive impact social businesses.

Daniel: A really key concept is viewing the course and its parts as building blocks on top of one another. How the personal reflection component is essential before tangible community involvement, and tackling global issues can be undertaken. Business schools desperately need to change their approaches to educating students for the future, a future that is shifting and changing in ways that we are struggling to measure and keep up with.

Sian: The course aims to address these issues from a very practical and experiential perspective. It aims to literally get students’ hands dirty with real life experiences. We want students to feel empowered and inspired that what little action they may engage in during their lifetimes really can make a positive impact to those around them.

3. What parts of the course excite you the most?

Ross: The community engagement part. My feeling is that if we get students involved in making these critical decisions and give them the responsibility to make projects work, they will more than adequately rise to the occasion.

Daniel: I love the fact that the course is one complete journey. I see it this way: when we travel we are so conscious of the landscapes and cities that change around us, but sometimes miss the change that also happens inwardly.

Sian: One of the most exciting aspects of this course is the engagement with the wider community. It takes learning out of the confines of the four walls of a class room, gets students working in real-life, practical situations where they reflect on their practice and their interactions with others

4. Is sustainability becoming the norm at the University of Auckland?

Ross: Yes, but slowly. As with most business schools, old ideas adapt slowly and many in the middle realms of our teaching structures are still operating largely oblivious to the need to adapt. With the changes coming from above and below, and with an increasing number of staff actively researching and teaching around issues of sustainability and justice, the norms are shifting, but it needs to be accelerated.

Daniel: Yes, because it has to! But we have a lot of opportunities to improve on. My heart is for it not to become the norm, but rather the culture. Where people don’t just grudgingly oblige to sustainability education or practice, but rather are passionate about engaging with why it is so important.

Sian: I feel there are pockets of action dotted around the university but there does not seem to be an all-prevailing attitude throughout the campus towards more sustainable outcomes. On saying this though, there is generally a good push from students whose eyes have been opened to issues of broader significance to humankind who are demanding more courses that center on sustainability issues. However, this tends to fall on rather deaf ears, typically.

5. So what’s next?

Ross: The next thing is to apply this whole course. The wonderful thing about winning this competition is that it is as much a beginning for us as an end. The first thing Dan said to me when we had a moment to say things beyond a stunned ‘unbelievable’ was, ‘So when are we going to do this course?’ We would like to collaborate with others interested in the practicalities of changing curriculum and class processes to ensure a better form of education for management students.

Daniel: This course has to happen. We’ve designed it as a very open and adaptable model, which will hopefully be taken and replicated by other universities. If other institutions wish to take on board the idea, we would love to give them our resources and experience to make it happen.

Sian: As Dan said, this course needs to be established in our university first and foremost. It is this kind of dialogue between teachers, learners, and stakeholders that is needed to widen the sustainability agenda and improve consciousness and action regarding the issues.

To see the full winning entry, visit Managing Change for a Better World. To see the other 21 entries submitted, visit the PRME Leaders +20.

 

Why Rio+20 was still a success – the contribution of the private sector and academic institutions in support of sustainable development and the Rio+20 process by Jonas Haertle

On my first day after returning from the Rio+20 conference – officially, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development which took place 20 years after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit – I spoke to a group of MBA students at Fordham University in New York. Admittedly, the instructor had asked the class to read about the Rio+20 outcomes prior to the session, but I sensed there was a genuine interest to hear what I thought about the outcomes of the weeklong series of events in Rio de Janeiro.

Quite obviously, the main headlines and media stories about Rio+20 focused on the outcomes of the negotiations by governments. In the opinion of many stakeholders, foremost NGOs and the media, but this was also voiced by some government representatives, the official outcomes document The Future We Want fell short of the expectations in light of the environmental and social challenges we face. Many stakeholders had expected or hoped for more concrete and ambitious decisions by governments. And although the outcomes document includes some important decisions (for example, to launch the process to create Sustainable Development Goals which are supposed to come into effect in 2015 when the Millennium Development Goals expire; the decision to take action on ocean acidification, fishing subsidies and overfishing to reverse the decline of oceans; and the decision to strengthen the UN Environmental Programme), many observers criticized that the 193 United Nations member states had missed an important opportunity to agree on a more ambitious plan of actions.

However, apart from the government negotiations there were a lot of other stakeholder groups who met at Rio+20 and who, in fact, committed to far-reaching actions in support of Rio+20’s objectives. Here are some of the outcomes which you might not have read or heard about:

Prior to the arrival of heads of states and governments for the official part of Rio+20, close to 50.000 people representing NGOs, farmers, youth, scientists, business, academia and other sectors convened for numerous action-oriented meetings.

For example, the UN Global Compact, in cooperation with the Rio+20 Secretariat, the UN System and the Global Compact Local Network Brazil, convened over 2,500 participants for the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum. In over 100 sessions participants discussed how business representing all sectors and based in all parts of the world can help to make sustainable development a reality through their own actions. While business was at the sidelines of the original Rio 1992 Earth Summit, the 2012 Rio meeting clearly showed that businesses are committed to sustainable development. More than 200 concrete commitments for sustainable development were made by companies. Obviously, it is necessary that governments, in light of these commitments, also take further steps to incentivize the right behavior, for example through embedding environmental and social considerations into legal frameworks. One government that did so was the UK’s which announced that it would require all publicly listed companies in the UK to report on their carbon footprint as of next year. This is a step into the right direction.

Another group of actors which was clearly more visible at this year’s Rio+20 conference was the academic sector.

Similar to the businesses, academic institutions were all but absent from the original Rio 1992 Earth Summit. At Rio+20, the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education of the PRME initiative was convened as the official meeting for management-related Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). While the PRME initiative provides an ongoing platform for dialog and action for the growing community of academic institutions and stakeholders committed to sustainable development, this year’s 3rd Global Forum clearly marked a new stage in PRME’s evolution. Five years after the initiative’s launch, participants at the 3rd Global Forum agreed on a concrete strategic outcomes plan to help develop the initiative further for the years to come. Apart from individual steps which each PRME signatory school committed to take, some of the main recommendations for PRME as an initiative are to form a leadership group to incentivize the most engaged PRME signatory schools to go further in their implementation of sustainability principles while keeping the initiative open to institutions at all levels of engagement; to delist those signatories that fail to regularly share information on progress made in implementing PRME in order to increase the accountability of the commitment to the Principles; and to launch PRME chapters to better engage management education communities on a local and regional level. One of the objectives of the Global Forum was to give voice to PRME signatory schools. The agreement by participants on the Rio Declaration on the Contribution of Higher Education Institutions and Management Schools to The Future We Want: A Roadmap for Management Education to 2020 showed that the Global Forum successfully provided this opportunity.

Further, based on the discussions of last year’s PRME Summit in Brussels, another objective of this year’s Global Forum was to highlight the role of external stakeholders on management education. In that regard, I was encouraged to see the frank discussion among representatives of accreditation bodies, namely AACSB, EFMD and AMBA, about the ways they are planning to embed sustainability criteria into accreditation. Also, the statement by Della Bradshaw who is responsible for the Financial Time’s business school ranking made clear that we have to encourage more schools to put greater emphasis on sustainability issues in curriculum and research so that the FT’s and other ranking systems gradually adapt to reflect responsible education and research in the ranking criteria for business schools.

Finally, the majority of participants I spoke to after the Global Forum said that they had gained some new insights as to how to further enable responsible management and leadership education as well as research in their institutions. Many told me about the new insights they had gained during coffee breaks and at the round table discussions with other participants. It is good to hear that the meeting method, which was based on a pragmatic inquiry, was so well received. Going forward, on behalf of the PRME Secretariat, we are committed to support and to work with many people in the PRME community to make the promising proposals at the Global Forum a reality.

While the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education was not the only forum at Rio+20 for academic institutions, the presence of the over 300 leaders and representatives of Higher Education Institutions and business schools contributed to the fact that the UN’s leadership clearly took notice of the role that educational institutions have in enabling sustainable development. One of the other driving forces for this was the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative. Together with UN organizations dedicated to educations for sustainable development (UNESCO, UNEP, and UNU) as well as the technical support by Euromed Marseille, the UN Global Compact and the PRME Secretariat had invited Higher education institutions to sign up to a declaration on higher education and sustainable development and to make concrete commitments in support of Rio+20. At the close of Rio+20 almost one third of all voluntary commitments at Rio+20 were received through this initiative, i.e. from academic institutions. I will probably never forget the moment, while already in Rio, when the office of the Rio+20 Executive Coordinators called me to ask if we could provide on a very short notice a speaker from one of the academic institutions which had signed the declaration for the official Rio+20 closing press conference. It was fitting that Antonio Freitas of FGV Rio, one of the leading business schools in Brazil, participated in this press conference on behalf of the initiative, as he, in his previous role as a member of Brazil’s National Commission for Higher Education (CNE), had successfully advised the Government of Brazil to pass a law that will require the entry level exams for all university students in Brazil to include questions on sustainability. The law had been passed a few days prior to Rio+20 and had been announced in presence of Brazil’s Secretary of Education at the PRME Global Forum. Also, and as another direct outcome of the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative, UNESCO agreed with the Global Compact Office and the PRME Secretariat to continue to collaborate on this initiative.

What did Governments agree on regarding the role of education?

The official outcomes document stresses the important role of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to enable the necessary transition to sustainable development. Further, Governments agreed to advocate ESD beyond 2014 which is when the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development will officially expire. My hope is that ESD will be an important building block of the Sustainable Development Goals which governments agreed to develop by 2015. For academic institutions engaged in PRME this would mean that their actions are directly aligned with the UN’s goals on Education for Sustainable Development.

To sum up, while I think that the criticism about the relatively low level of ambition in the outcomes document of governments at Rio+20 is justified, I also believe that one equally important aspect of Rio+20 were the discussions and agreements by the many non-governmental stakeholders. In a way, Rio+20 made clear that the world’s most pressing challenges can only be solved through better cooperation and collaboration between governments and non-governmental stakeholders and by giving a greater role to the later in upcoming UN conferences on global issues. Governments clearly have an important role to play, most importantly by agreeing on global governance frameworks. However, as Rio+20 made clear, currently there is little to no political will to agree on far-reaching decisions on a global level between governments.  Yet, if we take the many non-governmental stakeholders into account who participated in Rio+20 and who committed to clear actions for sustainable development in their own spheres of influence, I believe that Rio+20 actually had a positive effect.

Jonas Haertle is Head of the PRME Secretariat at the UN Global Compact Office.

P.S. At this stage I would also like to thank everybody who contributed much time and efforts to the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education. The list of individuals is too long for this post but I would like to let everybody, including the Discussion Leaders, the core group, the speakers, the many people who worked on preparing the valuable reports and deliverables which were launched at the Global Forum (http://www.unprme.org/news/index.php?newsid=221), and of course all participants as well as the PRME Steering Committee know that your work and dedication is much appreciated! We look forward to continuing to work with you.

 

 

Getting ready for Rio+20 – The Nine Major Groups (Part 2)

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by government action alone. It requires the participation of all sectors of societies. At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, a document called Agenda 21 was released that, among other things, formalized groups whose contribution is crucial to making sustainable development a reality. Since then, these nine groups have represented the voice of their respective constituencies within UN meetings, including all subsequent Earth Summits.

With Rio+20 fast approaching, here is a brief overview of some of the activities that the different groups have planned (for more on Business and Industry, check out an earlier blog).

  • NGOs:  Because this is such a big group, a matrix has been developed of the wide range Rio+20 priority areas (24 in total), and facilitators have been assigned to each. Each of these groups also has events organised throughout June in Rio. NGOs are coordinating a lot of their projects and statements online through a variety of platforms, including NGORIOplus20 and a Ning site called Rio+20 NGO. The overall group is coordinated by CIVICUS, Northern Alliance for Sustainability and Consumers International.
  • Women: The women’s major group statement (which has been signed by a wide range of groups internationally online) focuses on gender equality in all spheres in our society, respect for human rights and social justice, and environmental conservation and protection of human health. During the Summit, the Good Practice Award will be given out by members of the Network of Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment. UN Women has been collecting the views and gender perspectives on sustainability and what that means for women around the world through the Rio+20 gender survey, which will be shared at the Summit. The group is coordinated by Women in Europe for a Common Future and Voices of African Mothers. You can also follow their activities by twitter (@Women_Rio20).

Getting ready for Rio+20 – The Nine Major Groups (Part 1)

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by government action alone. It requires the participation of all sectors of societies. At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, a document called Agenda 21 was released that, among other things, formalized groups whose contribution is crucial to making sustainable development a reality. Since then, these nine groups have represented the voice of their respective constituencies within UN meetings, including all subsequent Earth Summits.

Each of the nine major groups (Business and Industry, Children and Youth, Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Women, Local Authorities, NGOs, Workers and Trade Unions and the Scientific and Technological Community) has submitted position papers leading up to the Summit as well as commented on drafts of the prospective outcome document. These documents are all available via the websites below. The groups will be involved in a wide range of side events, workshops, presentations, exhibitions, etc., including the People’s Summit, and, of course, the official events of Rio+20.

With Rio+20 fast approaching, here is a brief overview of some of the activities that the different groups have planned (for more on Business and Industry, check out an earlier blog).

  • Children and Youth: Youth comprise nearly 30 per cent of the world’s population, which means that their involvement in environmental and development decision-making is critical. Youth are always very active in the Summits, and many official government delegations send a youth representative. Youth from around the world will come together at the Conference of Youth for Rio+20 (aka Youth Blast), taking place from 7-12 June in Rio. The group is coordinated by Rio+twenties.
  • Farmers: Since agriculture occupies one third of the land surface of the Earth and is a central activity for much of the world’s population, farmers play a crucial role in sustainable development. Their calls for action include increasing the proportion of overseas development assistance focused on agriculture and rural development, increasing support for participatory approaches to farmer to farmer training, developing new approaches to reward farmers for ecosystem services, and securing land tenure for rural women (to see the full list read their statement online). The group is coordinated by La Via Campesina – International Peasant Movement.
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