How to Mobilize Support for Development

11/22/2002

Sustainable development is by now a recognized goal, uncontested in international gatherings. A recent Johannesburg Summit was intended to create a sense of urgency about the problems of the environment and development that have worsened since the Earth Summit in Rio 10 years ago.

The anticipation was to instigate a global action among a wide range of actors that would put the world on a path that reduces poverty while protecting the environment -- a path that works for all peoples, rich and poor, today and tomorrow. What did this conference accomplish and what are the challenges that lie ahead?

Much of the conceptural progress over the last decade was overseen by Nitin Desai, UN Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, a key figure in Rio and Secretary General of the Johannesburg conference. Upon the invitation of Joanne Meyers, Director of Programs in Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, Desai spoke to an influential group of internationalists on his vision of what happens next. A positive development was the increasing involvement of the private business sector, he said, stressing also wider participation by non-governmental organizations. The main challenge remains how to influence decision-makers and mobilize public support for development. What should be done is known. The task ahead is how to do it, with what tools, and whose partnership. Desai, an open and engaging speaker, recognized the need to strengthen the public information component in order to reach out to everyday people in everyday language.