If I were to ask you what Mali, India, the Caribbean and Brazil all had in common I suspect you might be stumped. They represent a vast spectrum of political, environmental, economic and cultural contexts. But each are exploring the meaning of a green economy in their own regional and national contexts. The processes and emerging outcomes are very revealing and I would really recommend you read through the dialogue summaries. But, in view of Rio 2012, can any conclusions be drawn across such a diverse range of economies regarding a transition to a green economy? Is it feasible to compare a resource-rich emerging giant, such as Brazil, with a small, land-locked country in West Africa? Or, would any attempt to extrapolate common themes be like comparing apples and oranges?
In fact, a fascinating synthesis commissioned by IIED, and in close collaboration with the national dialogue coordinating partners, reveals that there are some very clear cross-cutting themes and reactions to a green economy emerging from these very diverse experiences across developing countries.
Firstly, the dialogues demonstrated that the debate around green economy was initially met with a great deal of scepticism on the part of the participants and coordinators. Developing countries showed a big concern on clarifying that it is not ‘just another way to make the neo-liberal economic model work for sustainable development’. There was, therefore, a great emphasis on sovereignty and not being held hostage of developed countries' development agenda.
Secondly, most of the countries expressed a need for a deeper diagnosis of key sectors and issues, as well as the setup of an action learning platform for interchanging existing best practices. Important priorities that came up often were around supporting small entrepreneurship and informal businesses to transform the way the economy is structured; creating regional economic cooperation to reduce dependency and create economies of scale; investing in strategic actions to transform key sectors; engaging a wider range of stakeholders in debate and action, such as businesses, finance ministries and youth.
Although the definitions of a green economy, selection of key sectors and priority actions varied from country to country, common values were the backbone for all of them. Five key principles emerged across all of the dialogues:
- Sustainable Development: All countries felt that the notion of Sustainable Development (SD) cannot be forsaken. Green Economy is not a substitute for SD, but rather an element of it.
- Equity: An inequitable world cannot be moved towards a sustainable goal. Greed breeds unsustainable practices. This must be a basic premise of SD. Currently markets don't work for the poor, so a reform in market institutions is necessary in order to give opportunities for small enterprises and create jobs, helping to lift people out of poverty..
- Resilience: Eco-system resilience and economic resilience are key elements of a green economy, in order to assure environmental stability and guarantee the creation of jobs, which are particularly important in developing countries. Cultural resilience was also one of the key concepts stressed in the debate: there is a sense of community and mutual support in developing countries, which must be respected.
- Accountability: Good governance and accountable political systems are a must. This includes a private sector that is accountable to people and governments and the creation of public incentives to make companies accountable, as well as new ways to measure wealth and progress.
- Citizen empowerment: All of the principles are only sustained and legitimised when supported by a politically empowered citizenry, which has a say in issues that concern everyone's future.
It is not surprising that the visions being articulated through the dialogues are ones that can only be achieved through a fundamental transformation of the way the economy operates, both nationally and globally. And they demand a global regime in which all countries, whether large, small, rich or poor, can take advantage of and benefit from the opportunities offered by more sustainable approaches to economic development.