Disappointment and resolve. Those were the general feelings in the Rio+20 debrief meeting, July 19 in The Hague. Disappointment because results had been meagre: merely the affirmation of previous agreements, without emphasis on their importance. As Kitty van der Heijden, Dutch delegation leader, put it: ‘Problems are clear, but we do not want to hear them’. And resolve to continue, nevertheless. As BothENDS’ Nathalie van Haren blogged: ‘we can’t afford to wait and see if someone will stand up and guide us to the future we want. We’ll have to get there ourselves. We have to make our future, be part of the change and above all do good.’
This sentiment reflects an international trend of decentralised sustainable development, leaving international forums aside. Countries like China, Mexico and Korea invest in sustainability and do not wait for international agreements. Local authorities were conspicuously present in Rio. And an increasing number of corporations play their part in sustainable development, as do citizens’ initiatives in many forms. And technological developments, the token of environmental pollution a mere twenty years ago, move in the right direction.
Focus was not on looking back. As Louise Fresco, the organising platform’s chairwoman put it: ‘We are here because we are the population’s representatives.’ In addressing the question ‘how to go on?’ the conference paid a lot of attention to the creation of platforms for the multitude of sustainable initiatives in society. Exactly how to do that, remained unclear at the gathering; for the Netherlands, NCDO will probably become a pivotal organisation.