Sustainability agenda ignores democracy at its peril

News, 20 March 2013
World’s first people’s manifesto for democracy and sustainability sets out a global agenda for action.

World leaders have failed to make democracy fit for purpose to tackle the major environmental and social threats facing humanity.

Climate change, population shifts, natural resource scarcity and the rapid extinction of species will put major pressures on democracy and on democratic institutions unless immediate action is taken.

If implemented now, a Manifesto for Democracy and Sustainability -- which launches today with the support of a diverse group of founder signatories that includes IIED --  could set a course for change. Its six Principles focus on areas where democracy as a political system most urgently needs to change if it is to deliver a healthy environment and fairness for everyone, now and in the future.

“Democracy and sustainability are the two vital elements of what we will pass on to future generations, but their crucial inter-dependence has been neglected.  This Manifesto sets out to change that and to inspire creative action worldwide. Putting the Manifesto together was itself an example of such action, with hundreds of people participating, from diverse backgrounds and from every region of the world”,  says John Lotherington, Chair of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development Foundation (FDSD), the organisation behind the international process that created the Manifesto.

The Manifesto is the heart of the Democracy and Sustainability Platform, an online space which invites members to share ideas and actions to get democracy working better for sustainability.

Endorsing the Manifesto, founder members of the Platform stressed the importance of action on this neglected agenda.

Irah Ruth Borinaga, Philippines, Director IV, Office of the Senate Secretary General, Senate of the Philippines: "[without democracy]...  those who are born in less fortunate circumstances are condemned to live a life bereft of choices and opportunities. Politicians and bureaucrats should recognize that there is a fundamental connection between democracy and sustainability."  

Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development: "All of us in the environment and development community recognise that there has been a strong dominant push for short term thinking throughout the political and business world and that we urgently need to group together and make a collective noise, a collective cry.. to say that we want a different relationship with the future."

Richard Ingwe, Nigeria, Executive Director, Centre for Research and Action on Developing Locales, Regions and the Environment (CRADLE), Nigeria: "In the current age, scarred by enormous ecological, political and social crises, a manifesto that addresses democracy and environment is most urgent, welcome, and overdue. It deserves the support of all mankind."

Sharan Burrow, Australia/Belgium, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation: “We are all part of a global democratic movement for change. This is an important initiative. Political democracy and democracy in our workplaces, through the exercise of workers’ rights, are inseparable."


For further information or for interviews with founder signatories, contact Gabriela Flores, FDSD’s media and communications advisor, at or on +44 (0) 7931924934, or Halina Ward, Director of FDSD and coordinator of the Democracy and Sustainability Platform, at or +44 (0) 7825 164 996.

Notes to editors

Members of the Democracy and Sustainability Platform are individuals, organisations, alliances and networks that have chosen to associate themselves with the overall direction of change reflected in the Manifesto for Democracy and Sustainability. Members agree to share at least one example of their efforts to implement the Manifesto with other signatories at least once a year.

Founder members include current and former politicians, experts, educators and activists, as well as concerned individuals and international national and grassroots networks and alliances. Founder members come from 25 countries. They also include networks with global reach. A full list can be found here.

The text of the Manifesto on Democracy and Sustainability draws on around 330 consultation responses from people in over 35 countries, as well as advice and feedback from an international group of participants at a workshop hosted by Salzburg Global Seminar in December 2012. Further information about the consultation process is available here.

The Manifesto is available for download in English, Spanish, Welsh, German and Chinese via

The Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development (FDSD) led the international process that created the Manifesto. FDSD also coordinates the Democracy and Sustainability Platform.


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