Brazilian officials have circulated a new draft text for “The Future We Want”, the Rio+20 manifesto for a greener, more sustainable world. Many have been busy downloading the new draft and poring over details, looking for their particular area of interest.

Meanwhile, close to 1,000 business and civil society participants, registered at the Hotel Windsor Barra, have been mingling and networking at the Corporate Sustainability Forum and taking part in panels and workshops on the sustainable development challenge. There is a tangible buzz in the air.

By contrast, an hour away by bus at the RioCentro, government officials are huddled in groups discussing and reacting to the new draft text. The atmosphere is noticeably different. We are together, but separate. And therein lies the challenge.

This separation helps no one. We need to bring everyone together in collaboration – governments, business and civil society – if we are to solve our sustainable development problem

The Government of Brazil is trying to address this through its Sustainable Development Dialogues. It has set up 10 discussion panels made up of a variety of non-governmental experts tasked with providing three practical suggestions to help the heads of state in their discussions.

As I write, we are in the RioCentro Plenary Hall where the heads of state discussions will take place. We are listening to the Food Security Multistakeholder Panel, consisting of former prime ministers and presidents, global experts, and our own new vice-chairman and former head of the World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran. Representatives from governments and the United Nations are also listening

This is an entirely new approach for global UN summits and a bold move by the Brazilian organizers. And it seems to be bearing fruit.

The audience – about 600 strong – votes via hand-held devices on what they think are the best ideas from the panel. They also contribute from the floor. And the panel itself has been fed the results of 10 Web-based dialogues, one for each panel theme. Over a million people worldwide contributed to these online discussions in the run-up to Rio+20.

This multistakeholder approach is unprecedented. We were delighted to help the Government of Brazil in this process, mobilizing experts from across our Global Agenda Councils to provide briefing papers for the Web-based dialogues. We advised Brazilian officials on effective ways to stage these debates, based on our experience of running such multistakeholder events.

Could we be witnessing the beginnings of a new multistakeholder approach to summits like these?

It’s possible. Most interested parties recognize that the current model isn’t working well enough. We need new models to achieve transformation.

And transformation is what we really need.

Author: Dominic Waughray is a Senior Director and Head of Environmental Initiatives at the World Economic Forum

Image: Delegates watch a performance during the opening of the Brazil Pavilion for the Rio+20 United Nations sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes