The past fifty years witnessed the establishment of a foundation for sustainable development, green solutions and frameworks for action and increased awareness of the interrelatedness of all life on earth. Key reports have been published such as the Club of Rome's report ‘Limits to Growth’ (1972) and Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland's 'Our Common Future' report (1987) calling to include social and environmental integrity within the sustainability agenda that powerfully impacted the development discourse on a global scale. Crucial measures and action were taken internationally culminating in the establishment of important events such as the UN Earth Summit 1992 held in Rio de Janeiro and the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol a few years later by 191 countries with the objective to face global warming more jointly and effectively.
We have reached a new stage with the historic UN Rio+20 Earth Summit (United Nations Conference onSustainable Development), which took place recently on June 2012, twenty years after the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992. As one of the largest global gatherings of all times in Rio de Janeiro, representatives and observers from 191 UN Member States including 79 Heads of State and Government and around 50,000 people representing communities, businesses and organizations were present. Rio+20 initiated an intergovernmental negotiation-process and worked towards a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) after the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be reached by 2015. The MDGs have been adopted in regulations prominent in global and national development aiming to clarify priorities for development. Many participants at Rio+20 or followers of the negotiations stated that the negotiations did not reflect the ‘Future We Want’ that the outcome document is named after. Particularly youth and civil society stated that the developments in Rio do not respond to our hopes and dreams for the future during such a critical point in time. Almost every segment of society was represented - governance, business (social entrepreneurs), civil society, indigenous communities, interfaith leaders, artists and journalists. Yet there remained an enormous gap between these constellations of representation.
It has become clear that no ‘reinvention of the wheel’ is needed for there is already a profound wealth of wisdom, legacies, expertise, experiences, collections of facts and bodies of knowledge at hand, as well as sustainable and innovative technologies accumulated from across generations upon which we can build. An urgent need emerged to identify, understand and build upon the enormous wealth that is in our reach; there are missing links between existing aligned capacities for social and earth justice on multiple levels. Particularly after the historical year of 2012 and the current process of defining the Post-2015 Development Agenda, together we are able to look back at the richness of knowledge and experiences we have gathered so far. It is time to build upon the existing work of past and present generations - towards the future we envision and can create together if we decide to do so in a timely manner.