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Inter-Sectoral Dialogue and Sustainable Development: Conveying Earth Summit Insights


Inter-Sectoral Dialogue and Sustainable Development

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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. [IFCD55]


Information overload: One of the characteristics of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro will be the quantity of information, whether governmental or nongovernmental -- and whether in the form of position papers, background documents, handouts, reports or declarations. Both policy-makers and the media will be subject to an unusual degree of information overload. Much of the information will be underused, both at the event and in its aftermath.

Shifting awareness: The real test of the Earth Summit, as many have suggested, will however lie in its ability to "shift the level of awareness". Without a doubt, information is necessary to this process. But the shift will be anchored and given credibility by those few images which can give coherence to the complex insights that emerge to interrelate fruitfully the many powerfully conflicting interests.

Beyond consensus: Much hope is being placed in the emergence of a new consensus at the Earth Summit. It is readily forgotten that consensus is easiest when it is superficial. Beyond such consensus there is the continuing reality of the tensions between groups with incompatible goals and mind-sets. It is the imagery that reconfigures that reality which will open opportunities for appropriate action.

Penetrating power of imagery: It is the few key images -- "worth a thousand words" -- which will focus an imaginative approach to the wealth of information. It is around them that the media can build stories meaningful to a wider audience. It is these images which ensure that the insights are carried where information cannot penetrate -- whether into the interstices of industrialized societies or to the far corners of the Earth. It is the images which will be remembered

long after the Earth Summit is forgotten by all but its participants.