There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. That idea is with us today. That time is now.
Many of the recommendations that were submitted to the Zero Draft process are not really new. Many have been developing for years, decades even. Often the best ideas do not come to fruition straight away, but instead require time to develop until – having matured in their quality – they become ripe for the picking.
But as it currently stands, the Zero Draft remains a collection of very good ideas that still need to be brought together in a coherent and integrated manner. The text needs a unifying vision that will serve as a rallying point and act as an illuminator to steer the talks onto the right track when the threat of derailing looms large. It needs more than just a few paragraphs to do this, it needs a deeper understanding of the vision of ‘our common future.’
Agreeing to such a thing, many could argue, will be difficult: Member States are used to negotiating from a position of their national interests based on today. The Rio +20 negotiations will require them to look ahead and to recognise that such a common future is much greater than the sum of their individual parts.
The four words – The Future We Want – are excitedly dancing off everyone’s lips here in New York, because people here get it. They get that the discussions in the negotiating rooms can impact on the future for the better – but only if we grasp this opportunity with both hands. The alternative is that we squander it away until another day; though that day may never come.
We are steps closer to institutionalising the principle of intergenerational equity (thanks to paragraph 57) in the form of either a UN High Commissioner for Future Generations or national equivalents (or both) such as an ombudsman. But there is more to it than agreeing to a document, or even creating a new institution (important though they are). The future is about to be written, both metaphorically and literally.
And whilst the pens scrawl across the page and the keys tap away determining the colour, shape, and feel of that future, we must remember that this is not our future. It is unlikely that many of the people in that negotiating room will see it, taste it or touch it.
In reality, this process is not only about articulating the future we want, or even describing a future worth choosing: we will need to understand that above all, the Rio +20 process is about the future that we bequeath.