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Premises for an Inter-Sectoral Dialogue

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Prepared as a contextual statement (see others) on the occasion of the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) for the International Facilitating Committee for the Independent Sectors in the UNCED process (Geneva). Portions of the text were published in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (1994-5, vol 2) and in the online version of its commentaries (to which links below are made) shaping the global network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues. [IFCD51A ]


1. Meaning of "the way forward": There is a need to articulate understanding of what could be meant by "the way forward" in an inter-sectoral context.

2. Seeing things whole: There is a need to explore new ways of seeing things as a whole -- without losing sight of the parts for which each sector is responsible. Agenda 21 does not contain a single visual aid reflecting new systemic understanding of sustainability.

3. Inter-sectoral maps: There is a need to come to an understanding of where each sectoral concern is located on a map of the functions essential to sustainability -- functions which, when pursued to excess, result in unsustainability.

4. Overall pattern: The complex of issues under discussion should preferably be viewed as forming some meaningful overall pattern. Individual issues can usefully be seen as pieces of a systemic "jig-saw puzzle" that we do not as yet fully understand how to put together -- or what the completed "picture" might look like. It would clearly be a mistake to limit the focus to the "laundry list" schema of Agenda 21 -- whatever the priorities or validity of the points therein.

5. Beyond isolated bargains: There is a need to move beyond isolated bargains -- often only achieved at the price of unsustainable compromise in other areas. In this sense "local" (namely sector-specific) agreements tend to be achieved at the price of "global" disagreement.

6. Function of differences: There is a need to acknowledge the function of differences between sectors. This contrasts with the hope that the differences can be rendered insignificant within a global consensus -- thus making any such consensus a competitive exercise in tokenism.

7. New patterns of communication: There is a need to struggle with the challenge of understanding and articulating new patterns of inter-sectoral activity, namely new patterns of communication to sustain sustainability -- conceptual "ley lines". These need to enhance understanding of the whole rather then focusing exclusively on links between selected and privileged parts.

8. Necessary sectoral constraints: Unless each sector recognizes the conditions under which its action should be constrained, a culture of sectoral self-righteousness prevails. This imperils the emergence of any sustainable global pattern of new significance.

9. Challenge to comprehension: Unless a sector can recognize how it is part of the problem, it must necessarily be unable to understand the nature of the sustainable solution required.

10. Collective learning: The inter-sectoral challenge may be seen as a challenge of designing a collective learning process.

Think functionally, act strategically
Configure globally, challenge locally

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