The Vienna Café Trilogy on Sustainable Development

If you are new to the wonderful world of international negotiations on sustainable development or want to understand how it all developed from its early days in the 1960s, to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 then this is the trilogy for you.

Like the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy inFive Parts – this trilogy may have future books but for now this is your guide to what was agreed when it was agreed, why it was agreed and why it was or was not implemented. These books I wrote with a set of different authors who brought their own perspectives to the book and with mine we hopefully gave you some answers.
The first book of the Vienna Cafe Trilogy is “Only One Earth: The LongRoad via Rio to Sustainable Development” written with Maurice Strong the father of sustainable development and Michael Strauss a well-known journalist and press adviser.
The book covers the forty years from the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, the goal of sustainable development continues to the preparations for the Rio+20 conference in 2012. This book will enable a broad readership to understand what has been achieved in the past forty years and what hasn’t. It shows the continuing threat of our present way of living to the planet. It looks to the challenges that we face twenty years from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, "The Earth Summit," in Rio, in particular in the areas of economics and governance and the role of stakeholders.
The book puts forward a set of recommendations that the international community must address now and in the future. It reminds us of the planetary boundaries we must all live within and what needs to be addressed in the next twenty years for democracy, equity and fairness to survive. Finally, it proposes through the survival agenda a bare minimum of what needs to be done, arguing for a series of absolute minimum policy changes we need to move forward.
"Felix Dodds, Michael Strauss and Maurice Strong uses their intimate experience of UN processes to detail the long and sometimes painful journey from the Stockholm summit of 1972 towards Rio +20 in 2012. The distillation of history would be useful to anyone new to the issues. But more important is the dissection of the various forces at play, including trade, competitive development, aid and environmental awareness. Those forces are still here, and will play a major role in shaping the path towards global sustainability - or not - well beyond Rio." 
– Richard Black, BBC Environment Correspondent
The second book in the Trilogy is “From Rio+20 to a New Development Agenda: Building a Bridge to aSustainable Future” written with Liz Thompson one of the Assistant Secretary Generals for Rio+20 and Jorge Laguna-Celis one of the key Mexican government negotiators.
The book takes up the story from where Only One Earth finishes and explains how the decision to have Rio+20 happened in the backdrop of one of the worst financial crisis we had seen. Twenty years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, "The Earth Summit", the Rio+20 conference in 2012 brought life back to sustainable development by putting it at the centre of a new global development partnership, one in which sustainable development is the basis for eradicating poverty, upholding human development and transforming economies.
Written by practitioners and participants involved in the multilateral process of negotiations, this book presents a unique insider analysis of not only what happened and why, but also where the outcomes might impact in the future, particularly in the UN development agenda beyond 2015.
The book throws light on the changing nature of multilateralism and questions frequent assumptions on how policy is defined within the UN. It shows that Rio+20 was more than an international meeting; it represented a culminating point of decades of successes and failures and a watershed moment for seminal concepts, ideas and partnerships including the Green Economy, zero tolerance on land degradation, the introduction of Sustainable Development Goals, the creation of national measurements of consumption, production and well-being that are intended to go beyond GDP, the introduction of national green accounting and the commitment of billions of dollars for sustainable development partnerships, including Sustainable Energy for All.
The authors conclude by mapping out a new agenda for development in 2015, when the current Millennium Development Goals framework is due to expire. An agenda that will restore faith in the UN and inspire a global response to the demographic, economic and environmental challenges that will define our future in the decades to come.
"This book is a decisive contribution to a better understanding of the Rio+20 negotiations which in many ways were the genesis of the Post-2015 process. The negotiations were dauntingly complex given the range of issues covered, and this book is both timely and seminal as it will enable those who did not participate in the process, for the first time, to fully appreciate the scope of the negotiations. This will be a vital referent for the discussions under the Post-2015 process which need to be widely participatory. This book will contribute to facilitating informed and substantive participation by a wide range of stakeholders."
– Paula Caballero Gomez, Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombia
The final (at this point) book in the Trilogy is “Negotiatingthe Sustainable Development Goals: A transformational agenda for an insecureworld” written with one of the co-chairs of the negotiations Ambassador David Donoghue and one of the key Guatemalan negotiator Jimena Leiva Roesch.
This book picks up the story after Rio+20 and explains how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a universal set of seventeen goals and 169 targets, with accompanying indicators, were agreed by UN member states to frame their policy agendas for the fifteen-year period from 2015 to 2030.
Written by three authors who have been engaged in the development of the SDGs from the beginning, this book offers an insider view of the process and a unique entry into what will be seen as one of the most significant negotiations and global policy agendas of the twenty-first century.
The book reviews how the SDGs were developed, what happened in key meetings and how this transformational agenda, which took more than three years to negotiate, came together in September 2015. It dissects and analyzes the meetings, organizations and individuals that played key roles in their development. It provides fascinating insights into the subtleties and challenges of high-level negotiation processes of governments and stakeholders, and into how the SDGs were debated, formulated and agreed. It is essential reading for all interested in the UN, sustainable development and the future of the planet and humankind.
"Learning from the process that engaged so many stakeholders at national and international level is important for future multilateral negotiations. This contribution from three actors intimately involved in the process offers rare insights into a long, challenging and ultimately fruitful process. I hope many readers will enjoy the insights presented in this book and be inspired to realise that the impossible is possible through compromise, partnership and leadership."
– from the foreword by Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation: Climate Justice, Former President of Ireland (1990–1997) and Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997–2002)
You can watch the launch of the book here.
Ill leave the final word to an old friend former Russian government negotiator and fellow author  of Nixon's Comrades: A Kremlin Note TakerRemembers (a great book).
“Felix Dodds has been a welcome fixture of the sustainable development process since the 1992 Earth Summit and Agenda 21. No author I know has the capacity and talent for analyzing the agonizing negotiations over decades. His insight, contacts and ability to conceptualize made him the person to truthfully record the SDG history and intricate negotiations leading to the hopeful 2030s. In this latest coauthored book, he transcends the stakeholder’s perspective and delves, as he always did, into the background of what governments decided, and why. I highly recommend this book for all those interested in following the process.”
- Andrey Vavilov, Ph.D., formerly with the IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin


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