Solving World Hunger Is A Good Thing. Duh.

So we just finished skimming through the 283 sections (!!!) of the Rio+20 declaration.  Click here to read it yourself.

Now we’re not saying that it’s a terrible document.  But we are acknowledging what we are hearing in the press about the declaration not being too …action oriented.

Click here for a CBC (Canadian news agency) report which pretty much sums up what we’re hearing from our sources.

In fact, one of the tricks we used here, and suggest you try for yourself is to search on the word “project” in your organization’s guiding documents.  It gives you a sense how geared an organization is to getting things done – to connecting ideas to reality – to having something done about what they’re saying.

But we digress.

Here’s what bothers us about this document – and don’t get mad at us right away, hear us out.

Of the 283 sections, section 2 says that we should “free humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency”.


Yes, solving world hunger is a good thing.  We’d have to be cruel and/or crazy people to disagree.  However, this conference has gone off track in its second of 283 sections.  It is literally- LITERALLY – trying to solve world hunger in the second bullet, less than 1% into the document.

And here’s the killer.  The word “project” occurs…well, guess how many times?  How many times do you think the word PROJECT (or its varieties) should appear in a world conference declaration about sustainable development, given that projects are the instruments of implementing strategy?  50? 100?

Try three.

Yes, the word project only occurs 3 times in the entire declaration, all 49 pages.

And when it does occur, it occurs (down there at section 265) in the context of the GlobalEnvironment Facility (GEF), which we’ve blogged about before.  This is an instrument of the UN for funding environmental projects.  It’s a good thing – why do we have to read over 94% of the document before we encounter it?

When they finally do mention projects in the sense of the single vehicle for getting things done, it seems like these folks got out their machine gun and tried every word they could think of:

“283. We welcome the commitments voluntarily entered into at Rio+20 and throughout 2012
by all stakeholders and their networks to implement concrete policies, plans, programs,
projects and actions to promote sustainable development and poverty eradication. We invite
the Secretary-General to compile these commitments and facilitate access to other registries
that have compiled commitments, in an internet-based registry. The registry should make
information about the commitments fully transparent and accessible to the public, and it
should be periodically updated.”

It seems to us that once again, project management can use more sustainability thinking, and those involved in the world of sustainability could use more project management thinking.

That is, if they can stop themselves from writing 283 sections to finally come to some action – and vague action at that.

So, back to hunger.

We think sustainable development contains 4 elements – People, Profit, Planet, and Projects.  The “People” part includes the elements of fair trade, equality, assurance of the food supply, equity in pay – all of those things.  Does sustainable development and “Triple Bottom Line”  thinking directly solve world hunger?  No.  It’s a contributing factor, of course, but it is not focused only on hunger or even poverty, per se, in our opinion.  Once again, please do not think we are trying to say that poverty and hunger aren’t valid concerns, of course they are.

But we think solving world hunger has taken the conference’s eyes off the prize here.

We welcome your comments – we’d love to hear what we missed or misinterpreted.  What do you think?  Would you have expected to see “projects” feature more prominently in this declaration?  Do you think this conference could have used a project manager or two driving these folks towards ‘implementation’?