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Realizing early that the Rio+20 Summit was heading towards failure, The Widening Circle (TWC) went to Rio de Janeiro to join those who wanted to see beyond the summit and collectively plan our transition to the Great Transition towards a sustainable future. It is obvious that a critical social actor has been missing from the global stage. Time is ripe for a catalytic campaign to evolve a powerful and coherent movement expressing a supranational identity and building new institutions for a planetary age. Our mission was to reenergize the dispersed and frustrated civil society towards advancing a diverse popular movement of engaged citizens the world over. We came out of Rio+20 more inspired by the need and possibilities of a Global Citizens Movement.
Challenges Rising from a Failed Rio+20 Summit
The failure of the Rio+20 Summit goes beyond the lack of political willpower. It showcases the lack of institutional acumen required to address the level of consciousness needed to cultivate a sense of identity that reaches across space to embrace the whole human family, across time to recognize the rights of future generations, and across nature to acknowledge humanity’s place in the wider community of life. Rio+20 never promised to inject life into a sustainable development agenda. On the contrary, it dismissed forty years of serious attempts to place the world on a sustainable development path and tried to change the direction established twenty years ago through Agenda 21; these attempts were made by redefining sustainable development by a narrow green economy perspective, by drowning the calls for equity, by trying to ignore the rights to sustainability and by reducing the objective of global governance. The failure of Rio+20 deepens the challenges of attaining a sustainable world order. The challenge is to recognize the legitimacy of the global polity as an outer layer of a nested system of affiliations that reach across regions and places and to build processes of democratic global governance for managing our collective affairs on this planet.
Partnering with Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties within a Fragmented Civil Society at Rio+20
Rio+20 also demonstrated how fragmented global civil society has become. While many civil society groups were competing to build their own image at the side events in the official Rio Centro tents and other locations, The Peoples Summit in Flamingo Park was a chaotic demonstration that led to thousands of civil society representatives from across the world being stranded and lost without any sense of direction or coordination. Within the chaos at Rio+20, TWC joined hands with the Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties, a proactive independent initiative that brought together hundreds of organizations to produce alternative treaties to reflect global citizens’ views, aspirations and determinations. Fourteen Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties evolved through a consultative process and hundreds of civil society organizations converged at Rio+20 to launch a Manifesto on the final day of the summit. TWC activists joined the Peoples’ Sustainability Manifesto in Rio+20 to declare that another world is possible and pledged commitment to a transition toward increasingly sustainable futures on earth. Signatories to this Manifesto refused to sit idly by in the face of another failure of governments to provide hope for a sustainable future for all. They announced their own responsibility for undertaking the needed action; invited and encouraged similar actions and commitments by other rights-holders and stakeholders; communicated a vision for healthy communities and sustainable and equitable human well-being and its associated strategies; and came together in the form of a global citizens movement to shepherd the transition to a sustainable, equitable and democratic future.
The Widening Circle
A Unique Campaign for a Global Citizens Movement
A global movement that engages masses of people for a Great Transition remains latent, ready to be born. But can it crystallize with sufficient speed and scale? Awakening this movement begs for a focused and directed effort. Therefore, we have launched TWC as a new organizing initiative with the explicit aim of catalyzing the Global Citizens Movement (GCM), a sustained campaign that will spread across regions and issues in ‘widening circles.’ TWC is not the GCM itself; it is a catalyzing campaign to advance a GCM. It is a campaign to bring coherence to the global movement by fostering a shared vision, an effective strategy, and a ‘politics of trust’ that seeks to balance unity and pluralism on the road to our common future. TWC nurtures the idea and practice of global citizenship while actively promoting unified action in civil society. Corresponding to the polycentric character of the GCM, the core structure of TWC is built on an expanding set of globally-allied, semi-autonomous territorial and issue circles linked through representative global circles.
TWC 2.0 Strategy for 2013-2015
Shepherding the Transition to Sustainability
A GCM will work on all fronts, recognizing the various struggles for the environment and justice, as well as the search for meaningful and responsible ways of living in our interdependent world, as different expressions of a common project. As the campaign for a GCM, TWC has passed through two distinct phases. The Conceptual Phase (2002-2010) saw the formulation of the Great Transition scenario and identification of a GCM as the critical change agent. The Launch Phase (2010-2012)—‘TWC 1.0’—introduced and defined the campaign, established the soundness of its conceptual framework and prepared the ground for a more ambitious phase. The time is now ripe to move the campaign foward into a three-year Development Phase (‘TWC 2.0’). To significantly advance a coherent and vital GCM, TWC will decisively move the campaign to a higher level of intensity that attracts participation from all geographic and demographic groups, link with allied movements, and inspire large numbers of people the world over.
The Widening Circle’s Adaptive Strategy of Evolving Governance Architecture
Organizational restructuring of TWC meant several key decisions had to be made. A new Circle of Representatives (CoR) was also established as TWC’s representative council. They set overall policy, establish the course for new phases and make key appointments. CoR membership is largely drawn from Issues Circles and Territorial Circles, along with a small number of at-large members. Detailed mechanism representation and governance are set by the CoR in the spirit of the politics of trust and guided by the principle of constrained pluralism and recognition of the need to evolve in concert with TWC and its constituent circles. Moreover, the CoR is committed to ensuring diverse geographic and demographic representation. Within three years, the CoR will evolve into a body of 50-100 members. While the broader policy decisions and governance determinations are made by the CoR, a small empowered and committed group called the Coordinating Circle will oversee the management, programs and activities of TWC. The Coordinating Circle consists of 5-7 members selected by the CoR for a period of 1-3 years. (Nancy Roof, Kosmos, is a member of this circle.) A Coordinator for TWC was appointed (Uchita de Zoysa) as the chief executive of the organization, serving as chair of the Coordinating Circle, director of the staff, administrator of the center, manager of program, and campaigns and the primary focal point and spokesperson of the organization.
After Rio+20 and Beyond 2015
Just after Rio+20, international NGOs are quickly shifting their focus on the Beyond 2015 development agenda. I think that the next three years, 2013 to 2015, will demonstrate another attempt of UN global agenda setting and reactions from civil society and the rest of the stakeholders. While this process will provide a forum for an international conference, civil society should focus on coming together around a campaign for a Global Citizens Movement as the collective response towards transitioning to a sustainable world. All sections of society must strive to converge upon their visions and convictions and find common ground for collective action that can bring about the transformation required to ensure the wellbeing of all on the planet—humans as well as nature. Such a Global Citizens Movement would catalyze a peaceful and prosperous new world that generates widespread happiness and contentment—thus propagating practices of mindful and intentional action. For this, a new sense of ethics, values and spirituality must be seeded within current and future generations through a redesigned system of learning, education and enlightenment.
Reference Documents for TWC
• 2013-2014 Strategy of The Widening Circle
• Peoples’ Sustainability Manifesto, http://sustainabilitytreaties.org/pst-manifesto
• Synthesis Report of Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties
• Post Rio+20 World Order: The Need for Advancing A Global Citizens Movement, Uchita de Zoysa
Uchita de Zoysa is an internationally acclaimed thinker, writer and speaker who is a frontline leader and strategist for shaping policy for the global sustainability movement. He is the author of several books including the “It has to be CLIMATE SUSTAINABILITY”. He has authored several international and national reports including the ‘Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption’, contributed to many books on the environment and sustainability, and has played a leading role in the formulation of global independent sector collective agreements such as the ‘The NGO Alternative Treaties’, the “Oslo Declaration on Sustainable Consumption” and the “Peoples Sustainability Manifesto”.
Fall | Winter 2016