06/03/2012 04:34 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2012

Rio Dialogues Part II: Gaining Perspective

Now in full swing, the Rio Dialogues continue to provide an opportunity for the civil, scientific, public and private communities to take their ideas center stage. Among the ten topics, recommendations were viewed and voted on by the platform community on June 3rd. The next round of crowdsourcing is on June 6th. Below are some brief overviews of a few of the hot topics that were debated within the online dialogue space.


Hot topics within this dialogue included solutions to ocean decimation by adopting zero waste policies. Participants fleshed out proposals that called for a UN charter for universal responsibilities. The charter would incorporate creating sustainable fishing chains to combat the detriments of over-fishing.


Participants in this dialogue debated renewable energy as part of a green economy. Concepts of renewable energy sources as fully environmentally sound, including the use of biofuels, were steadily challenged. Mary Menton, a scientist from the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia explains, "What may be seen as a renewable energy source may not necessarily be sustainable if other resources used in the process are threatened, such as water and forested lands." One solution dialogue participants pushed for is agroforestry (combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock). Agroforestry is considered as a promising alternative to balance the growing need for food and fuelwood while reducing pressure on natural forests.

Sustainable Energy for all

Topics that gained momentum in this category included ensuring effective participation of women throughout all levels of decision making and enforcing a concrete action plan to accomplish goals. Sustainable energy was also debated in terms of creating ecological justice. A partial solution proposed was to create an international public research fund to help distribute and develop technologies to reverse dependence on fossil fuels.

Unemployment, Decent work and Migration

According to the ILO, 200 million people are unemployed, including 75 million young people. 1.52 billion workers are in precarious employment, many of them women. Almost 60% of the world's workers have no secure employment contract and 75% of the world's people have no social safety net to protect the loss of jobs. Contributors for this dialogue called for policies and programs to reverse income inequality, improve productivity, and ensure social justice while emphasizing gender equality and migrant rights. Solutions included skills-based courses for youth, entrepreneurial capacity building, vocational training, and apprenticeships. Social protection policies, such as unemployment insurance, were also advocated.

Sustainable Cities and Innovation

This dialogue is made headway with a few recommendations. Proposals revolved around a blueprint for sustainable cities as well as providing incentives toward more sustainability. One particular proposal suggested an effective template measuring where a city is along an eco evolution via milestones to achieve in becoming more sustainable.


Water is essential to meet multiple demands such as municipal use and human consumption, agriculture, and energy production. It is estimated that globally, 884 million people lack decent access to water. The World Commission on Water estimates that water use will increase by about 50 percent in the next 30 years and by then more than half the world population (approximately 5 billion people) will live in severe water stress. Dialogue participants offered practical recommendations including wastewater treatment, the protection of ecosystems and safe disposal of used water. Other proposals called for the integration of water, energy and land-use planning.

The Economics of Sustainable Development

Dialogue participants suggested proposals that overlapped with other dialogue topics. One proposal offered that halophyte crops can create a stable sustainable economy and positively affect the growing water crisis. Other talks steered toward having a universal quality assurance system to inform people that what they are purchasing is grown in sustainable ways. Additional proposals called for comprehensive capacity building for local farmers to shift toward sustainable agriculture.

Food and Nutrition Security

Food insecurity consists of under-nutrition and excessive consumption. Whereas millions suffer from hunger, another billion are affected by excess weight or obesity. Dialogue participants focused on ways to induce long-term changes both in food production and consumption patterns. Professor and dialogue Facilitator Elisabete Salay from the Universidade de Campinas asserts, "policies for enhancing food and nutrition security should indeed promote the consumption of correct amounts of food that are safe, nutritious, culturally accepted and produced and marketed in a sustainable way." Dr. John Ingram of Oxford University and co-facilitator of the dialogue posits,"a transition to healthier diets as societies grow richer is needed to reduce both environmental and public health burdens."

Sustainable Development as an answer to the Financial and Economic Crises

Participants for this dialogue weighed popular proposals that included banning the GDP as a measure for social progress as well as how to use a UN Global Compact for sustainable businesses. Other varieties of perspectives included developing curricula to integrate in schools to teach children how to live with less consumption and production. The objectives of education, as was presented in this dialogue, is expected to challenge all levels of society.

Sustainable Development for Fighting Poverty

Although the framework for reducing poverty has grounding in the MDGs, participants in this dialogue focused on how sustainable education and leadership can be the solution to poverty. Facilitator of the dialogue Professor Eun Mee Kim from Ewha Womens University shared that she has personally been "learning a lot by reading the postings and recommendations, which represent the diversity of obstacles to poverty reduction." Kim's co-facilitator Professor Matthew Lockwood, further reflects that "what strikes [him about the dialogue are the] strong voices coming through about the importance of education, which in a way is about opening up the debate on sustainable development to more and more people in the wider world."

Of the recommendations above, which do you think made it to the top of the list by receiving the most votes to reach the Heads of State at Rio+20? Seize the opportunity to affect the future you want by following the next round of crowdsourcing on June 6th here.