Making Rio 2010 work | Setting the stage for global economic, social and ecological renewal

The Rio 2012 summit on sustainable development is now one year away. Over two decades since the 1992 ‘Earth Summit’, sustainable development has not materialized: as global GDP has risen, so have greenhouse gas emissions, species loss and environmental degradation.

This failure is due to political reasons. Publics around the world remain focused on material standards of living; leaders are reluctant to expend political capital on long-term, global risk issues; multilateral ‘bandwidth’ remains low; in many cases it is unclear what solutions would look like.

With these blockages still in place, there is a real risk that Rio 2012 could be a damp squib. To avoid this fate, it needs to place unsustainability squarely at the center of larger debates about globalization and the global economy – in particular by focusing on three key areas:

  • Greening growth
  • Equity in a world of limits
  • Building resilience to shocks and stresses

Rio 2012 can take these themes forward in three key areas where the multilateral system has a key role on sustainable development:

  • Sharing ideas
  • Hard bargaining
  • Implementing change

While Rio 2012 will take place during a tough period for multilateralism, it is nonetheless a timely summit. Issues of unsustainability are rising up the global agenda, and could help to catalyze a decisive shift towards more global cooperation. With focus, determination and luck, Rio 2012 can be the pathfinding summit that sets this process in action.  

Read the full Conference Report here

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Jun 01, 2011
Alex Evans, David Steven
United Nations