Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

10. Consensus building in the modern world

This includes forms of partnerships, agreements, conventions to link places with cultural forms that can be sustained over time

Although consensus is at first sight a weak measure of international co-operation, the degree to which values such as of democracy and thereby ‘rule of the law’ are respected, the world is committed equally to measurable results.

At the institutional level of the United Nations and other world organizations this would mean agreement on ‘world indicators’ in relation to commitments made, to ensure that all measures introduced are observed by staying within the safe borders of these measurements.

Naturally such agreements are substantiated by a variety of policy tools, including treaties, co-operation forms, funding means, monitoring and evaluation procedures. But this is only one part of the cultural dimension at world level in need of being examined.

Quite another is the cultural vision by which people come together and relate to pressing issues. As part of the agendas being set over time by various forces, interest groups and primarily at world level by the member nations, these visions express a desire to find just solutions to the world’s most pressing problems and issues confronted at all times by humanity and the governing world bodies.

However, there prevails a very different agenda, if unity needs to be shown in the ‘fight against terrorism and rogue states due to them possessing weapons of mass destruction’ – a terminology introduced into the world community especially since 11th of September.

Still, if the European Union and its constitutional treaty can be taken as orientation, there needs to be reached international consensus on such matters as

These may be but first reflections of the most crucial international value premises. Basically they need to be brought into interrelationship in terms of political freedom, development and quality of life experienced at daily that is local level.

Diary notes:

New York, 18 July 2002

Prior to the World Summit the United Nations Press Release stated: Countries Edge Closer to a Meeting of Minds on Outcome for World Summit on Sustainable Development
” Countries moved significantly closer toward agreement on the most difficult issues that have blocked consensus on the outcome document for next month's World Summit on Sustainable Development at a special meeting convened here yesterday by South African President Thabo
Mbeki as Chairman of the Summit.”

Since then (Bali meeting, WSSD in Johannesburg) what indications are there, that such convergences of agreements have prompted positive actions with regards to:

South African Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was at that time most optimistic to get an agreement in Johannesburg.

Equally United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged countries not to renegotiate prior agreements, particularly those reached at the World Trade Organization meeting in Doha last November, and at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey last March. He called for countries to focus on achieving results in the five key areas of water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.

At that time, there was articulated the need to confront serious and growing threats to human well-being. These issues can be translated into targets and time tables, that is concrete measures as orientation marks for all governments in the world:

From this list alone it can be easily established how little has been achieved by 2003! The outcome of Johannesburg was most disappointing in the sense of not expressing any commitment to measurable indicators by which future policies and their process of implementation could be evaluated by.

Thus what is a possible departure point for information on commitments being kept or not:

The World Resources Institute held at the WSSD in Johannesburg a meeting on 27 August 2002 with the theme: “CLOSING THE GAP: Information, Participation, and Justice in Decision-Making for the Environment”. Discussions in that meeting were based on the findings of The Access Initiative. Following abstract gives a first introduction into a topic in need of being followed up.


”In 1992, 178 governments agreed that public access to information, participation, and justice makes decisions more fair, environmentally sound, and sustainable. They committed to implement these norms in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. 

Ten years later, how are they doing?

CLOSING THE GAP draws on recent assessments of public participation systems in Chile, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, and the United States to answer this question.  The report identifies common achievements and gaps in the implementation of Principle 10 in those nine diverse countries.  Despite their diverse geographies, political traditions, institutional arrangements, and levels of income and education, the nine countries studied in the report have been introducing new policies and building institutions for public access to information, participation, and justice. Yet much work remains to be done:  For example, information about pollution from industrial facilities is often difficult or impossible to obtain; the public is seldom consulted about policies and projects that have profound environmental impacts; and most citizens do not have access to affordable avenues of redress. 

CLOSING THE GAP calls for reforms in the policies and practices of governments, donors, and international organizations to truly implement the Rio commitments and to ensure that citizens are guaranteed access to information, participation, and justice in decisions that affect their lives.” 

For further information, contact address were:
gretchen@wri.org or at (202) 729-7768.


Elena Petkova
Director, Access Initiative
Institutions and Governance Program
World Resources Institute
10 G St., NE
Washington, DC 20002

tel:  (202) 729 7767
fax  (202) 729 7759

"Charest, Helene" <chareshe@oag-bvg.gc.ca >



It should be noted that the WSSD ended in near failure due to politicians not able to commit themselves to measurable indicators. Also the agenda was co-opted by business interests. Since then there has been added the failure of Copenhagen (2009) with the next meeting planned for Cancun, Mexico (in late 2010), but where already many are warning not to attend due to the ongoing drug war in Mexico. Also the BP oil spill demonstrates not only failure, but what severe damage to the environment uncontrolled exploitation of resources can have just one accident like the explosion on the rig. It leaves the environment completely exposed to the oil. Estimates say 1 Million Gallons of oil are released by the leaky well.

Issues identified so far are:

- regulatory body was in too cozy relationship with the oil company BP (Barack Obama)

- workers on the rig were not all professionally trained

- early warning signs were not heeded due to BP management overriding concerns of workers on the rig

The way the oil has been treated is equally controversial i.e. use of chemicals, burning of oil, keeping it out of wetlands by booms etc. since the environmental damage is immense.

Critical questions come naturally in the aftermath but there is evidence that the US government does not have the technical expertise to deal with such accidents. The depth is an additional factor. What safety and environmental protection clauses were ignored or would have to be in place for future, similar exploitation efforts? What alternatives exist compared to the containment and clean-up efforts undertaken and were not used due to circumstances (BP, political response, all adding up to a late response due to not anticipating the degree of calamity).

The drive to do more deep sea drilling has intensified as of late with oil companies seeking ever more new sources. Controversial is the permission about to be granted to Shell in the Artic. The decision is pending right now with Barack Obama having established a six month study group to deal with the oil spill in the Golf of Mexico.  The New York Times argues no such permission should be granted until that study has been completed. There is now clear evidence of severe environmental damage being created by uncontrollable methods of exploitation (27.5.2010).

The crucial question is if all this could have been prevented if the WSSD in 2002 would have reached a world wide consensus to undertake every effort to alter economic development e.g. over dependency upon the car and therefore the consumption of oil. Instead alone the increase of car sales in China and the subsequent environmental damages e.g. pollution with climate change more and more the top problem to indicate things are more than just out of control, leaves individual countries and their economies with hardly any choice to ensure sustainable development. An exception seems to be New Zealand with a policy favoring walking or use of bicycles while discouraging as much as possible use of cars or motorbikes. The clearest indicator is a clean sky and a nature intact so that man's activities have no negative overspill upon nature.

HF 28.5.2010

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