Beyond UNCED: an introduction
Environmental Politics, 2, (4), . (doi:10.1080/09644019308414099).
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It is doubtful whether the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and its output were appropriate for averting global environmental and developmental catastrophe. At the most fundamental level, the causes of environmental degradation have not been addressed, and without this, efforts to tackle the crisis are bound to fail. The crisis is rooted in the process of globalisation under way. Powerful entrenched interests impede progress in understanding the crisis and in addressing it. They marginalise rival interpretations of its origins and thereby block the discovery of possible ways forward. The intellectual debate inside and outside UNCED has been dominated by these entrenched interests. This monopoly on respectable knowledge determines the allocation of responsibility and consequent remedial action. The result is that the crisis is to be tackled by a continuation of the very policies that have largely caused it in the first place.
The interstate system is incapable of dealing with the crisis. The state itself is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy and a crisis of capacity. In some ways it is too small for dealing with the crisis, which has global aspects; in other ways it is too big, given the local aspects. These crises pose opportunities for, as well as obstacles to, the emergence from the outmoded structure of the interstate system of a global society based on fundamental human rights. The crisis of the state is stimulating discussion about political identity, human rights, democracy and accountability. It opens up space for real discussion of a new world order and the role of democratic participation below and between states, and on which the whole sustainability process ultimately depends.
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