Summary of IFC Pre-Rio Preparatory Processes
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Prepared as a 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
A number of
procedures and processes have been explored as possibilities to facilitate the
inter-sectoral dialogue in Rio de Janeiro. Most of these were approved in
principle by IFC, others emerged during the course of interaction with contacts
interested in the challenge of inter-sectoral dialogue. Some procedures have
been provisionally abandoned for lack of time or resources, others have been
adapted within the resource and time constraints into a form of immediate value
nature of higher orders of consensus
A draft proposal was produced
for a methodology to clarify possibilities in the light of recent insights from
disciplines and conceptual explorations concerned with this issue ("Higher
Orders of Inter-Sectoral Consensus", 22 January 1992). The intention was
to highlight the possibilities of structures based on "contention"
between irreconcilable differences, rather than relying on consensus or the
emergence of dominant perspectives. This envisaged several complementary
initiatives included amongst those identified below. Elements of this proposal
were included in the final project proposal (approved March 1992). The
processes and tangible products considered are as follows:
A. Initiatives undertaken
declaration processing: Analysis of sectoral declarations was seen as one approach to
establishing the commonality and differences between sectoral positions.
The possibility of undertaking both a critical and a comparative analysis was
considered, notably by developing a typology of statements made in
declarations. Consideration was given to the possibility of building a database
of declaration statements to facilitate comparative analysis. Pre-Rio
declarations were reviewed, including the extensive Compendium of declarations
prepared by ELCI for the Roots of the Future Conference (Paris, December 1991).
It was decided that the formal comparability of the declarations did not
facilitate this type of approach and that the kind of analysis possible would
not justify this approach within the time available.
An alternative approach was finally undertaken based on the identification of
key issues mentioned in declarations. These were coded in terms of strategic
dilemmas (see point 2).
mapping of strategic dilemmas: This approach emerged from the
work on polarizing issues (see point 7) in relation to the work on declaration
processing (see point 1). It indicated the possibility of exploring patterns of
strategic dilemmas, relating them to concrete issues, and representing them on
new forms of imagery in two and three-dimensions.
3. Call for
conceptual insights: Initially it was hoped to convene one or more workshops to clarify
current understanding amongst specialists of new forms of inter-sectoral
dialogue and higher orders of consensus. This proved impractical because of
time and resource constraints. It was finally decided to initiate by mail a
"call for insights" to a wide range of groups and individuals with
specialized knowledge relevant to the challenges of inter-sectoral dialogue.
The original intent was to process the results into a common format accompanied
by a brief analysis. It was finally decided that wider distribution could be
achieved by formatting them as earlier inputs to the participant messaging
process (see point 4).
messaging (Da Zi Bao): This process, recommended to IFC for the Global Forum as a whole in
June 1991, was tested in Paris in December 1991 and at PrepCom IV in New York.
Its use was approved to facilitate participant interaction during the
inter-sectoral dialogue and as a means of initiating the flow of messages for
the Global Forum.
5. Metaphors of
inter-sectoral dialogue and sustainable development: Some texts
were prepared to highlight the challenge in terms of metaphors. This can be
seen as an outcome of the original initiative on catalytic imagery (see point
B. Initiatives re-formulated or abandoned
analysis: This approach was originally envisaged as a complement to the
computer-based analysis of sectoral declarations (see point 1). On reviewing
the declarations it was however decided that they did not readily lend
themselves to this type of approach.
issues and strategic dilemmas: The identification of such
issues or dilemmas was seen as a way of clarifying the positions of the sectors
in relationship to one another. The intent was to explore ways of building on
irreconcilable differences rather than attempting to avoid them. An initial set
of Earth Summit "polarizing issues and euphemisms" was prepared but
was finally considered unhelpful in terms of the underlying objective of
raising the level of debate. However
this approach did serve to focus attention on the need for a more systemic
approach based on strategic dilemmas (see point 2).
8. Call for
sectoral insights: In an effort to sharpen understanding of sectoral positions (beyond
that supplied by sectoral declarations), both in terms of common positions and
fundamental differences, the possibility of a pre-Rio questionnaire was
considered as a basis for a meta-conferencing procedure (see point 9). The most
systematic approach to this was to be based on a set of polarizing issues (see
point 7). This approach was finally limited to an invitation for pre-Rio inputs
to the Da Zi Bao (see point 4).
Meta-conferencing: The intention was to use an approach pioneered by Stafford Beer based
on questions designed to polarize the pattern of sectors along different
dimensions -- preferably on the basis of questions formulated by the sectors
themselves (see points 7 and 8). The statistical possibilities of manipulating
any data, in order to generate maps of the networks of issue connections and
sectoral connections, seemed less helpful than envisaged with the resources
immediately available -- especially in the light of late confirmation that the
approach had been further developed by Stafford Beer.
facilitation: Consideration was given to a number of different approaches to
facilitating the inter-sectoral dialogue meeting. Two main difficulties
inhibited any major breakthroughs on this front. Skilled facilitators tend to
be closely identified with particular cultures, especially North American, and
their use therefore raised political and cultural issues in a context which was
already sufficiently problematic. Many processes which might have been used
normally require consensus amongst participants to engage in the process.
However the nature of these processes is sufficiently controversial in a
multi-cultural setting that no such prior consensus can be assumed. Engaging in
such a process could then be seen as an unwarranted imposition. Several
promising possibilities were rejected: Open Space Technology,
"Syntegrity" process, Metaplan, ZOP. Time and resources were also
Computer-assisted dialogue monitoring: As a variant of the
questionnaire possibility (see point 9), consideration was given to the use of
a system whereby each participant could indicate via a set of push-buttons
reactions to questions. Answers were fed directly into a computer which
provided on screen a statistical breakdown of the responses, clustered in
various ways. The system considered was rejected in part because of the
invasive nature of the technology and in part because of the simplistic
methodology which did not cluster participants in a sufficiently useful way.
imagery: As a complement to various other initiatives, Network 92 was used as a
vehicle for a "call for catalytic imagery" as a means of conveying
Earth Summit insights. The intention was to obtain suggestions for
inter-sectoral images which could best capture the Earth Summit insights and
empower people to move forward in new ways. The number and quality of replies
was not sufficient to proceed further with the initiative in the time
available. The network map in two-dimensions, and its three-dimensional
version, can be seen as one response to this search for new imagery (see
separate document). The documents produced on metaphors could be seen as
another (see point 5).
visualization: There was a concern to move beyond the traditional text representation
of the challenges of inter-sectoral dialogue and to endeavour to open up new
possibilities by portraying sectoral and issue relationships in two and
three-dimensions. This could have been one output from the meta-conferencing
initiative (see point 9) or from the call for catalytic imagery (see point 12).
Examples of this approach finally emerged from the work on strategic dilemmas
(see point 2). Consideration was briefly given to the possibility of adapting
an existing software package to provide a "structural outliner" as a
means of capturing and reconfiguring patterns of sectors and issues.