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Systemic Mapping of Strategic Dilemmas


Prepared as a statement (see others) on the occasion of the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) for the International Facilitating Committee for the Independent Sectors in the UNCED process (Geneva). Portions of the text were published in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (1994-5, vol 2) and in the online version of its commentaries (to which links below are made) shaping the global network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues. [IFCD53]
Descriptive overview
Strategic dilemmas
Pattern of strategic dilemmas
Network of bargain arenas
Identifying the bargaining arenas
Re-interpreting the bargaining challenge
De-stressing issue-specific bargains
Catalytic imagery
Possible interpretation refinements
Limitations and further possibilities

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Descriptive overview

In a follow-up report to his involvement as Secretary-General of the Brundtland Commission, Jim MacNeill articulates for the Trilateral Commission the policy options for sustainable development in terms of "shaping global bargains" (Beyond Interdependence, 1991). In this sense a global bargain involves at least two parties and two issues, implying a trade-off between the parties on the issues. However according to this perspective the arenas to be subject to bargaining emerge haphazardly as a result of conventional political processes. There is no systemic sense of how the bargains interweave to ensure the sustainability of development as whole. There is no sensitivity to issues which can be conveniently ignored by powerful majorities. In a real sense this corresponds to the traditional paradigm of ad-hocery which has contributed so much to the emergence and maintenance of the present crisis.

The following pages provide an overview of a response to this challenge. The overview consists of the following elements:

  • Description of the approach to systemic mapping of strategic dilemmas, introducing the subsequent figures. This refers to Document E (separate) in which over 450 Earth Summit issues are itemized on the basis Agenda 21, NGO declarations, and other documents
  • Pattern of strategic dilemmas in table form (see Figure 1) designed to code and organize strategic dilemmas of sustainable development. Sustainable development is a function of the pattern as a whole rather than of its components.
  • Caricatural presentation of competing visions of global order based on traditional hierarchical thinking (see Figure 2).
  • Globally patterned network (see Figures 3A and 3B) chosen to be compatible with the set of strategic functions in Figure 1. The areas can then be used to signify issue- specific bargain arenas. The network is thus a globally organized network of local bargain arenas (where global and local are understood in a functional rather than a geographical sense).
  • The systemic coherence of the network pattern of Figure 3 becomes clear when it is seen how the 2-dimensional network may be folded around the surface of a sphere in 3 dimensions (see Figure 4). This establishes the functional "globality" of the pattern of bargain arenas and the associated strategic dilemmas
  • The bargaining arenas in Figure 3 are tentatively identified in the light of interpretations of the code combinations (see Figure 5). The significance of the code combinations is based on the clustering of issues in declarations (see Document E). The pairs of complementary triangles in Figure 3 are used to reflect the two complementary interpretations of each code in Figure 5, namely development-focused and environmentally-sensitive.
  • Further insights into how local bargains may interlock may be obtained by considering the tensegrity structures which illustrate the principles by which spherical structures can be rendered self-sustaining in practice (see Figure 6). Tensegrity structures are effectively patterns of sustainability.

The overall purpose of the inter-sectoral dialogue is to raise the level of inter-sectoral debate. The challenge is to move beyond simplistic consensus and beyond acrimonious restatement of established positions. The challenge is one of moving towards higher orders of consensus.

ablished positions. The challenge is one of moving towards higher orders of consensus.


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