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Post-Rio Sustainable Development and the Summit

Maurice F. Strong

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Fundamental change requires political will. While professionals realize the need for fundamental change, political realities mitigate against it. And the process of change is essentially a political one. We will not fail because of the lack of the ability of people to design the appropriate changes. The real task is to crystallize the kind of will to make the changes. Such a will does not exist today; there is no viable consensus to enable us to make the kinds of changes that are necessary.

Much of the desirable change in the international system can be achieved by changes in management and changes in performance. These changes can and should be made. The need for fundamental change should not be used as a screen for not doing what we can do at the level of the existing constitutional mandates. For example, the UN could operate more effectively with less than half of its present staff. It needs change now, not just for the process of change, but to reestablish confidence and the political will to make the larger changes.

There is another change which may seem sentimental to a group of professionals. In looking at the larger issues, we do have to recognize that the motive of political will, and human and social will really is based on the deepest moral, spiritual and ethical principles to which human beings of various persuasions respond. In the final analysis, we cannot wait for catastrophe to trigger the kind of fundamental changes that are necessary. Normally change responds to crisis. For example, the world cannot afford a global crisis, nor do we need to hold a postmortem to decide whether or not the science on global warming has been absolutely accurate, after all, most of the actions we have to take are good for us anyway.

So, what is going to be the trigger? A greater rediscovery of the basic moral and ethical principles that underlie human behaviour, conduct and motivation in every society provides the most hopeful prospect. And it is not a dim prospect. It is interesting that the resurgence of fundamentalism is perhaps a manifestation of that from which we can learn something.

So while it is important to try to design a new, sophisticated and promising structure for the reform of our multilateral organizations for the future, the realization of this will depend on fundamental changes in the perception, in the values, in the behaviour, and in the underlying motivations of that behaviour, on the part of peoples and societies. And until these change, we will not be able to effect the realization of that larger vision that will inspire us, and that hopefully will inspire the G7 in Halifax.

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