UN Conferences and Summits
The international conferences and summits convened by the United Nations generate intense mobilization around issues of global interest. On the current agenda are two major gatherings, one about sustainable development, the other about the information society.
These meetings, which draw diverse participants ranging from activists of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to heads of state, reached a peak in the 1990s, but continue in the 21st century: at the end of August 2002 begins the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg, and slated for 2003 is the World Summit on the Information Society.
The UN, which informs the world about some of these gatherings on its web site "conferences and events", defends the importance of such conferences for their capacity to bring attention to crucial socio-economic issues, guide national policies, generate debate and the search for consensus on global issues, and to establish goals that governments commit themselves to achieving.
The main criticisms about these events are based precisely on the fact that often the promises go ignored, and the scant number of commitments made at the outset.
These conferences have their own customs: they are preceded by a preparatory process to establish some level of consensus among governments. The process includes the active participation of NGOs, the presentation of an enormous number of documents and intense logistical efforts to handle the thousands of participants. In the end, the governments sign political declarations and plans of action.
In 1990, the importance of these meetings came to light with the World Summit for Children, in which 71 heads of state participated, an unprecedented number, until the 1992 Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, which drew 108 national leaders and delegations from 170 countries.
The achievements made since the 1992 Earth Summit will be studied at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+10. A decade on, the degree of government compliance with the commitments made is not very encouraging.
But there are those who put a positive spin on it: the Rio Summit 10 years ago laid out a concept that since then has permeated the international debates on the future of our society, about sustainable development. In reality, the greatest doubts surround the results of the Rio+10 Summit itself, because the preparatory process did not produce the expected consensus.
The Internet holds information bout these and other conferences, including lists that give an idea of the events organized in recent years, and summaries about their outcomes.