A Manifesto we all want, but where Business has no business

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates

I got my invitation the other day to the House of Commons launch of "Enabling the future we want: education for sustainable development in the UK – a manifesto for dialogue, collaboration and action post Rio+20".

This is the first of a number of posts this week focused on the manifesto.  It looks at what the document is setting out to do – and who is to do it.

It begins ...

The intergovernmental agreements coming out of Rio +20 (‘The Future We Want’) included commitments to quality education, to improve quality of life, to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and to embark on a process toward Sustainable Development Goals.  One year on it appears that the Post 2015 Development Agenda is expected to incorporate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  How this unified Global Development programme, aimed at poverty alleviation in the context of sustainable development is realised, is yet to be decided, but timings are crucial and the role of education is recognised as being pivotal.  Principles like universality, listening to outcomes of stakeholder participation, a foundation in human rights and the need for prioritisation at the national level are emerging.  This consultation into the future of education for sustainability and the manifesto both act on our UK Rio+20 commitments and takes account of the global context.

When I saw the early drafts of the paper, I commented that it needed to be written more clearly if it was to communicate its ideas effectively, but even a quick glance at this opening paragraph shows that this opportunity was not taken.  My head shakes of its own accord whenever I look at it.

The document continues ...

This manifesto calls on governments, education sectors, NGOs and civil society in the United Kingdom to work closely together to strengthen the role of education as an enabler of sustainable development.

Well, that's just about everyone – apart from business, of course, the NHS and the military, the first of which (at least) you might have thought might have warranted a specific mention given its significance in the economy.  I wonder, has business (industry, commerce, etc) really have no part to play in the future we want?   I suspect that this says more about the authors' blind spots, than the future.

Ultimately, it is never actually quite clear whose manifesto this is.  It seems to be everybody's (apart, of course, from business, …) which will probably mean it is nobody's.  Funny things, manifestos; they are prominently (but, of course, not exclusively) associated with political parties and promises, often honoured in the breach, which is not a happy image for something which sets out such an ambitious agenda for everybody – apart from business.

Note: In the UN's listing of Civil Society Organisations, the vast majority are NGOs (22,711) with only 472 classified as 'private sector'.

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response