Promoting Leadership on Sustainability

Overview

One important CitNet aim is to promote leadership on sustainability, to highlight and celebrate the efforts of citizens and organizations putting the principles of sustainability into practice in daily life, community development, business and public policy.

To realize this aim, CitNet members have over the years identified a number of key objectives and have been developing an approach to achieving these, an approach which continues to evolve over time.

Objectives

  • Raise public awareness and understanding of sustainability.
  • Identify examples of leadership for sustainability.
  • Help make sustainability a policy priority and principle of governance at national, state and local levels.
  • Promote national, state and local sustainability strategies.
  • Encourage alliances among citizen groups working for sustainability.

Approach

The main approach to Promoting Leadership for Sustainability is through the celebration and support of a wide range of citizen campaigns and initiatives taking place around the countries. Key elements of this approach are:

Vision. Key to promoting Leadership for Sustainability is the vision of sustainability as an alternative to the increasingly obsolete industrial models of development of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Highlighting initiatives, campaigns, policies and practices other examples of leadership for sustainability, CitNet seeks out and welcomes public interest activists, educators, politicans, business leaders, artists, planners, scientists and others with a long-range vision of the United States as a just and sustainable society. In contrast to repeating the standard ideological mantra of "economic growth" as an automatic answer to citizens' many concerns and needs, we ask: What is the vision(s) of sustainability which different Americans are working to develop, communicate and apply as a viable choice for improving America's future?

Commitment. At the national level, one of the strongest expressions of a commitment to turning the vision of a sustainable society into reality is through a carefully considered sustainable development strategy and plan. In 1992, world leaders at the Earth Summit each agreed to develop and implement National Sustainable Development Strategies in their respective countries. In turn, National Sustainable Development Councils were to be instituted to support that development and implementation.

Today many countries have or are in the process of developing those strategies and institutions. The United States, along with many other countries, has been taking far too long in meeting this commitment. However, attitudes towards sustainable developing have gradually become more positive over the years, with the European Union making major strides in encouraging and establishing sustainability plans, priorities and criteria among its member countries. While adopting several sustainable development principles and approaches, the US government has yet to take the final necessary steps to adopt a national sustainability strategy.

The brief life of the now disbanded President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) represented a positive step forward, but this was followed after the 1999 National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America by inaction. Despite claims of its commitment to sustainable development, the US lags increasingly behind the other industrialized countries who are taking this commitment to and need for a national sustainability strategy seriously.

Thus, for CitNet members, a key political objective is

  • for our federal government to develop a national sustainability strategy, with
  • an Office of Sustainable Development to implement and monitor progress of that strategy.

Likewise, CitNet members and affiliates will continue to push their state and local governments to develop and institute state, municipal and regional sustainability strategies and policies.

In turn, households, businesses, schools, and other institutions express their commitment to sustainability through their choices and decisions and daily behavior. When we see ourselves less as individual consumers in a competitive race with each other for status and prizes, and more as part of an interdependent living community based on mutual respect, we are more likely to choose actions that cause the least harm to those around us, or to those yet born. This commitment is shown in the way one lives each day.

Citizen initiatives. One of the most important elements of Promoting Leadership on Sustainability is to encourage, support and promote the initiatives, campaigns and actions of citizens moving their communities and country towards sustainability. One of the defining qualities of CitNet members is their commitment, involvement and support of these citizen initiatives.

As a Network we will highlight these actions through the website, newsletter, email lists, public consultations and issue forums, workshops, as well as briefings and meetings with members of Congress, federal and local administrations. CitNet members provide a voice for citizen advocacy in community and state fora as well as the nation's capitol and United Nations. Regionally and through working groups, CitNet members, affiliates and friends work at the state and grassroot levels.

Citizen initiatives and campaigns are both individual in their specific target issues (e.g., sustainable food systems, fresh water, human rights) and interdependent. We can also think of these initiatives in relation to the three overarching objectives of sustainable development, as identified by heads of state at the World Summit on Sustainable Development):

  • protect the environment,
  • eradicate poverty, and
  • change our production and consumption patterns

In turn, the aims of CitNet are not simply to promote environmental sustainability but also to promote economic security and justice for everyone, and to transform the economic system to one providing for the public good as well as the flow of goods and services.

Building capacity. CitNet continues to do its part building capacity of members and fellow citizens in understanding and moving towards what is needed to achieve sustainability. This may, for example, take the form of workshops, public issue forums, opportunities for citizen consultations and exchanges with policymakers, participation in policy discussions, joint fundraising efforts, access to legal, information, media and other resources.

CitNet and our friends and allies will continue to support and contribute to on-going efforts develop a "citizens toolbox" identifying methods, strategies, information and other resources needed to better communicate the message about sustainability to policymakers and our fellow citizens.

Some examples of CitNet capacity-building include the annual CitNet Delegation to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, the US Citizens Preparatory Committee and Citizens Guide to the World Summit on Sustainable Development; the Citizens Guide to Sustainable Energy, launched in conjunction with the Earth Charter community summits on climate change, and also this website.