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An age of reflection ...

'There is evidence of a compelling desire and demand among people everywhere for action to address the social, economic and environmental concerns affecting many regions of the world.'

Some of these exchanges take place in formal government arenas. Others, partly prompted by pressures from shareholders, employees and customers, are happening in industry, both within and among firms. Similarly, NGOs (including many that have a multinational presence) are reflecting upon their roles and missions. There are also fresh attempts to collaborate across the governmental, industrial and NGO sectors. In total, however, these efforts pale by comparison with the myriad dialogues between individuals and small groups of interested citizens within and across regions.

Much of this desire for remedial action is expressed in and around the lobbies of international activities, including the WSSD and other United Nations conferences, meetings of the G7/G8 group of nations, at the negotiations of the WTO and multilateral environmental agreements, and at meetings on specific social and environmental issues, such as climate change and HIV/AIDS.

At times, the formal events are overshadowed by parallel gatherings. For the most part, the mood of these gatherings is peaceable, akin to that of the Global Forum linked to the 1992 Earth Summit. Less in evidence are the anti-globalization protests seen at the meetings of the WTO in Seattle in 1999 and the G8 in Genoa in 2001. Their goal is to highlight the advances that are being made and to shape the agenda of the governmental meetings. There is greater emphasis on presenting the positive aspects of a societal transformation rather than the negative consequences of inaction. Over time, increasing numbers of representatives from industry and governments participate in these encounters, making them more successful in achieving this goal.