Millennium Development Goals Postcards

Why has it become so important in the recent past that humanity has to define the kind of future it would like to live in?  Because if we don’t take the time to define the future we want, we then ought to be prepared with any kind of future handed to us – and looking at the current growth, extractive, consumptive economies, the new future doesn’t look all that exciting…unless we define it and work towards it.

It turns out some people have been working for years in defining our futures – laying down concrete goals and plans in place to get to the “promised land”.

1987 saw the Brundtland Report called ‘Our Common Future” come out. The World Commission on Environment and Development in this report stated that our (earth’s and humanity’s) future is threatened. It laid down common areas of concern, common challenges and common endeavours.

Our Common Concerns:

  • Threatened Future
  • Sustainable Development
  • Role of International Economy

Our Common Challenges:

  • Increasing Population
  • Food Security
  • Dwindling Species and Eco-systems
  • Increasing Energy Demand
  • Urbanization
  • Increasing Industrial Growth

Our Common Endeavours:

  • Managing the Common Space, Oceans and Antartica
  • Peace, Security, Development and Environment
  • Institutional and Legal Change

Download the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future

Then in 2012, Rio+20 defined a massive list of 283 items in the kind of “Future We Want”. It included the UNDP’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), gender rights, equality, welfare for all, education etc. It also identified seven key areas requiring priority attention –  jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security, water, oceans and disaster readiness.

Download the Future We Want – Outcome Document at Rio+20

Roughly our common future revolves around the above. But we can in our own ways define the future we want. For example, I can describe a huge list of the kind of future I would like to live in…a world where there are no wars, a world where there are no hungry people going to sleep, a world where love for human life is greater than love for money, a world where there’s equity and equality, a world that has a level playing field, a world that doesn’t destroy other species and natural habitats in their quest for more stuff, a world powered only be renewable sources of energy…and on and on.

But the question is how do we get there. Defining the future is easy, it is the implementation where we get stuck.

I read John Elkington’s article “Enter the Triple Bottom Line (TBL)” where he lays down the seven drivers for TBL to seep into the business world. But I think those seven drivers are exactly what we desire in our future and how we can get there. Let’s have a look:

  1. Markets: We want businesses to operate in markets that are more open to competition without any monopolies
  2. Values: We want a societal shift in human values to take place – from crass capitalism to enlightened capitalism
  3. Transparency: We want businesses to be fair and transparent in their thinking, commitments and activities (voluntary disclosures)
  4. Life-cycle Technology: We want companies taking the responsibility of their products from cradle to grave and then expanding it to cradle to cradle life-cycle thinking, thus eliminating the dumping of the toxic waste into the earth
  5. Partners: We want groups and people that were at extreme ends, partner together to work for common challenges (NGO’s with private sector etc.)
  6. Time: We want the short-term thinking to shift focus to long-term horizons and thinking…the emerging future requires thinking across decades, generations and even centuries in some cases.
  7.  Corporate Governance: We want the Corporate Board to be responsible in defining the kind of companies that will exist in future – to think “What is business for?” Because better the governance, better the chances of moving towards sustainable capitalism

The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2013 has two sessions on ‘Defining the Future We Want”. I would be privy to the deliberations happening among the world leaders. Sure do hope that this summit shows us the various ways, sets timelines and course correctors towards the new future.

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