The North-South dimension of Local Agenda 21
This chapter affirms that the challenge of finding creative and practical responses to the process and direction of global development, now dubbed globalisation, needs to be a basic element of our working towards more sustainable development in the coming years. At the same time, it emphasises the dynamics of the credibility gap in view of Agenda 21’s (A21’s) incongruous status within the context of the dominant Northern vision of the future currently driving the overall agenda of international policy-making and its outcomes. It then goes on to identify some characteristics of a range of responses and initiatives predating and coinciding with Agenda 21, which emphasise alternative, Southern perspectives, and address this context of globalisation by contributing to an alternative, citizens’ agenda for communities and their environments in the twenty-first century. It is a manifest contradiction that the strategic Agenda 21 document of the UN summit in Rio which comprises no less than 40 sections, should be a statement of intent, the ultimate ‘Blueprint to Save the Planet’, by the signatory governments professing commitment to a cleaner, fairer and safer world. The text belies the real agenda to which the signatories are, de facto and ever-increasingly, dedicated; namely, an overarching allegiance to unsustainable international development priorities premised on the imperatives of economic growth, market liberalisation, and the propagation of the pseudo-political consumerist culture of freedom of choice. From within this edifice are heard the relentless mantras of
continually discredited rhetorical solutions to the ills of societies the world over; namely, deregulation, privatisation, efficiency, flexible human resources and so on. It is an agenda that has been usefully compared to a universalist creed, or Gospel of Competition, promulgated by an alliance of international institutions (e.g. World Bank, World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund), global conglomerates and government. Its economic and social tenets; trickle-down, austerity and competition, are held to be beyond dispute, leaving a hopeless exclusion for all those deemed unorthodox or unworthy to enter the inner sanctums of global decision-making (Petrella 1997; Group of Lisbon 1995; George and Sabelli 1994).