Sustainable Development: Strange New Alliances

Informal partnerships may be one of the most significant outcomes of the Johannesburg summit. They are politically attractive as they have the potential to enable governments to work together on implementing the sustainable development projects they have signed up to, without requiring them to enter into detailed formal agreements.

The World Today Published 1 August 2002 Updated 23 October 2020 3 minute READ

Fanny Calder

The difficulties of negotiating formal commitments for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) confirm what we already know – that there is a serious crisis facing the multilateral politics of sustainable development. This crisis has been caused by many factors, but three stand out: the United States’ current reluctance to sign up to formal joint agreements; developing countries’ resentment over the international community’s failure to honour the commitments made at the Rio summit in 1992; and the perception that the UN system lacks the capacity to tackle the multidimensional challenges of globalisation.

However, while formal WSSD negotiations have been mired in controversy, there has been growing interest in an informal, parallel process of developing partnerships for the implementation of commitments that will be made at Johannesburg.

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