In 2013, the United Nations will take stock of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It is inevitable that the question of what to do next will be asked. What to do after the expiry of the MDG in 2015? The goal of the Third Rencontres Internationales de Reims in Sustainability Studies is to contribute to this debate, to produce some elements to answer to this question about sustainability. Particular attention will be paid to environmental governance, regional development and social justice.

More information is available  at the conference website. A detailled programme is available for download here (pdf).

Background

The Millennium Declaration proclaimed the “collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level”. Of course, but how to go beyond lip service and do it concretely? More precisely, how to take into consideration new global phenomena such as and of the dimension of climate change, the depletion of natural resources, financial crises, demographic dynamics, migrations and mobility.

Moreover, the political, environmental and economic context has deeply changed. Emerging countries have become the center of all attentions, given that their economies make the world go around. In the meantime, disparities among developing countries and within them are still too high. Environmental performance indicators greatly suffered at the same time, particularly in developing countries. With the diffusion of the transition to sustainability, new actors have emerged, especially in the private, associative and local sphere. They joined traditional institutional actors such as states and international organizations. It is not an accident that the two major topics of Rio+20—during which the negotiations of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals were launched—were “the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” and “the institutional framework for sustainable development.”

Indeed, the institutional framework for sustainable development is not yet very stable, as shown by the Second Rencontres de Reims in Sustainability Studies last September. In particular, the recurring question of coordination mechanisms – be it at the local, regional, national or international level – is far from settled. But that’s not all: the effectiveness of sustainable policies lies largely in their acceptance, in their collective appropriation, which is indirectly related to institutional arrangements. To think about post-2015 also means—in the tercentenary of the birth of Jean-Jacques Rousseau—to define a new social contract and to include stakeholders, neighborhood communities and groups of individuals capable of forming voluntary associations among the major players of sustainable development.

To determine the conditions and forms of this new social contract is the third objective of the Third Rencontres Internationales de Reims in Sustainability Studies. This is done in the footsteps of Elinor Ostrom, who showed that communities of interest or neighborhoods could be more effective in collectively managing commons than the market or traditional organizational structures.

It is important, in fact, in order to shape truly sustainable policies, to define what constitutes a “good” environment for the societies involved: one in which the improvement of environmental conditions strictly speaking (water quality, air pollution, biodiversity, rational use of resources, soils and energy, etc.) will lead to the improvement of living conditions; one in which technical devices and technologies, deployed in spaces large enough to accommodate imported sustainability, may be appropriate through new lifestyles.