Sunday, 11 February 2007

Global Sustainable Consumption and Production Opportunities: Doors are Closing!

by Uchita de Zoysa

(The following article is based on the presentation to the SPACES Dialogue on “Linking knowledge & action for Sustainable Production & Consumption Systems” (23 and 27 January 2007, Chiang Mai, Thailand) at the session on “International Initiatives & Cooperation Opportunities on SCP”)

International actors in the sustainable consumption and production debate are now sending clear signals to governments and the United Nations Organizations that the 10 Year Framework of Programmes of the Marrakech process is failing; failing due to a lack of clear vision and exclusion of relevant national, regional and global actors. Most governments especially in the South are not aware of the process, United States of America is not interested in regulating their grossly unsustainable consumption patterns, European Union is dominating the agenda and the multi-nationals continue to expand their profit making through white washing tack-ticks. The result is that the poor continue to consume inadequately while the rich suffer from over consumption.

World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 clearly placed on the global agenda the need to regulate unsustainable consumption and production patterns on earth. However, the initiative should be credited to the Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. Some may say that the ball really started rolling with the UN Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 in Stockholm). Well those are the conventional or close historical landmarks that we now in the international circuit celebrate.

Tracking further down history, it is interesting to note what Mahatma Gandhi embarked on doing a century ago in his search of “truth” for a simple way of life. Then, many centuries prior to Mahatma, essence of the “Arya Ashtangika Marga” or the “Eight Fold Noble Path” professed by Gauthama Buddha in his search of the “middle path toward eternal happiness” even today continues to inspire millions of Buddhists in exercising sustainable livelihood.

During 2004-5, I had the opportunity of intimately engaging with hundreds of Asians minds representing over 100 organizations that had some relationship in their work on sustainable consumption and production. That was my search for the reality on Asian perceptions on sustainable consumption. At the end of the Asian review in 11 countries, the conclusion was that sustainable consumption (and production) meant “ensuring better quality of life for all”.

The challenge today is not only achieving better quality of life for all, but also to figure out what is a better quality of life. Unfortunately the current international process that is in search of a framework to regulate unsustainable consumption and production patterns appears to be creating greater distortion rather than providing a clearer path towards sustainability. Hence, international initiatives and cooperating opportunities on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) has to be critically analyzed and observed with greater caution, rather than merely following as in a pipe-pipers dance.

This article is meant to provide some inside information to the government officials across the world, global civil society, scientists and researcher, and decision makers of the United Nations to take note and act upon. Therefore it will focus on four main aspects of international initiatives for SCP; official process, supplementary and complimentary processes, knowledge to policy networking processes, and reality to action processes. The article will also highlight core deficiencies in these programmes and will propose broad recommendations for the consideration of international and national SC actors.

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