The recent, rapid acceleration of multiple, interconnected, global issues – climate change, deforestation, desertification, food shortages, etc. – is overwhelming the world’s organizational and institutional capacity to address them. In fact, we appear to be confronted today not with a single crisis, but with a crisis of multiple crises – not just a financial crisis, a climate crisis, a forests crisis, a food crisis, an ecological crisis, a developmental crisis – all of these, and maybe even more. The international community has agreed, since the Rio Summit in 1992, that Sustainable Development should be the road all nations should travel as we navigate out of these crises. So we need to meet the current generations’ needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, as the Brundtland commission pointed out in 1987. This statement implies both intra- and intergenerational equity as well as the maintenance of the carrying capacity of the earth. Yet governments alone are not capable of engaging in the negotiations of diplomacy and creating the institutions of governance that are required to move towards these objectives. New ways of diplomacy and new innovative governance arrangements seem needed to better attain these goals.
Yet the first contours of such a new diplomacy are emerging. Non-state actors are now allowed to play their roles in international diplomacy (think about environmental NGOs and their impact on international treaties), whereas private instruments to address sustainability issues are emerging (e.g. certification schemes for sustainable forest management). We call this Sustainable Development Diplomacy (SDD).