A 20 Years Journey

TERI’s global presence is enhanced by a wide range of activitiesof geographical relevance that the institution engages in every year. Symbolic of this fact is its annual flagship event–World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS)–which focuses on sustainable development, environmental protection, and energy and assessment of worldwide progress in these critical areas. Organized annually since 2001, the platform facilitates the exchange of knowledge on all aspects of sustainable development. Over the past twenty years, it has emerged as one of the foremost fora on issues of global sustainability. This flagship event brings together various heads of state and government, policymakers, and leaders from several industries and academia to deliberate on myriad issues.

About World Sustainable Development Summit

Since the global exchange of knowledge, ideas, and technological innovations is central to all aspects of sustainable development, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) hosted the first edition of the World Sustainable Development Summit(WSDS) from 5 to 8 October 2016, at the India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

Following the landmark Paris Agreement and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) by the global community, TERI’s annual flagship event, the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) evolved into the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) to carry forwarda legacy of fifteen years.

WSDS 2016 was among the first global platforms that discussed the new agenda post the adoption of the SDGs. The attempt was to initiate discussions on methodologies to be adopted to chalk out a path to realize the SDGs beyond 2015. The platform, in its new manifestation, promoted ‘advocacy for implementation’ with a primary focus on sharing regional experiences, i.e., local solutions for global challenges.

In 2001, TERI launched DSDS as a precursor to WSDS under the patronage and inspiration of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. Fifteen years hence, the occasion was opportune for the incumbent Prime Minister to initiate a new chapter in this series.

With a new global development agenda in place and articulated in the form of the SDGs, WSDS envisioned a platform, which would attract great talent and expertise to disseminate messages of collective and constructive action and efforts. The WSDS was also poised as an Indian-international-independent platform for the government of the day to share with a diverse audience India’s plans, policies, and priorities on sustainable development and climate change. WSDS was the sole platform in the region of its scale and content.

Keeping with the times

Year 2015 marked the culmination of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Debates on the future course of development were ripe and wide. DSDS 2015 was among the first international platformsto discuss the post-2015 development agenda. Thus, DSDS moved ahead with a clear opportunity to influence and shape opinion and contribute handsomely to the processes of coining the SDGs. The formative years were identified to be crucial, which would eventually go a long way in deciding the making or the marring of the SDGs. The editions of the platform beginning 2015–2020 aimed at contributing, in the best possible manner, to ensure that the demands and the needs of the SDGs are met in the earnest.

The Summit in its future editions from 2015 proposed the following:
  • To continue to engage participants in a discussion encouraging independent voicing of opinions and thoughts on the SDGs. This further would contribute to developing a concrete set of actionable next steps to the Summit proceedings
  • Identifying and addressing concerns and priorities related to businesses, environmental management, and social responsibility in relation to the SDGs
  • Furthering the G2G, G2B, and B2B interactions over the subjects of sustainable development
  • Introducing a diverse range of interventions that will facilitate the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and solutions both globally and at the subnational levels
  • Assessing impact of the Summit deliberations by employing myriad mechanisms
  • Employing tools and means that will maximize the outreach of the Summit through new age media – webinars, Twitter chats,and other modes. Not only does this make the Summit ‘green’ but it also helps reaching out to millions across the globe.

Fifteen years of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit

The journey of the Summit series began in 2001 as the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS).

With the aim of renewing the resolve that began essentially with the 1992 Rio Summit and concrete targets set in Johannesburg, DSDS synthesized and provided knowledge, helped shared experiences and information, and spread the message of sustainable development as a critical need for ensuring welfare of humankind and Planet Earth.

Over the span of fifteen years (2001–2015), DSDS emerged as the foremost forum that brought together various heads of state and government, thought leaders, policy makers, and the crème de la crème of various industries and academia to deliberate on myriad issues of sustainability.

The Summit was an epitome of Track 2 diplomacy providing an enabling atmosphere that encouraged people-to-people dialogue, fostered understanding, cooperation and collective action to achieve the goals of sustainable development.

Stakeholders involved

The Summit provided a platform to stakeholders from all walks of life – polity, economy, academia, and civil society. Members from all these sectors engaged in discussions calling attention to the pressing needs of the times. Independent voices and opinions were encouraged which gave shape to a concrete set of actionable next steps for the global community as a whole. A special focus, as part of the Summit proceedings,was about furthering the G2B and B2B interactions. Members of the civil society participated in large numbers to ensure that the members of polity and industry benefit from the wisdom and experiences that they brought from the grassroots.

Corporate exclusives were designed as platforms for industry captains to brainstorm ideas for conducting business while protecting the environment. Importantly, not only do corporate leaders and executives got to interact with government officials and corporate colleagues, they werealso able to exchange and imbibe ideas with government and corporate representatives from countries across the world. This guaranteed a holistic approach to corporate sustainability and subsequently enhanced the value of the deliberations.

Youngsters also participated in the Summit including enthusiastic entrepreneurs and university graduates. The Summit provided a platform to youth, where the wisdom of the experienced could harmoniously blend with the zealof the young, thus, creating a dynamic force, which is well-informed to act constructively and efficiently in favour of sustainability and its corresponding goals.

The intent

The Summit proceedings allowed for a significant business-to-business and government-to-business interaction and exchange, which was extremely beneficial for all the participants who otherwise do not have easy access to many senior officials. With a primary focus on encouraging sustainability in businesses, the Summit enabled corporate voices to be heard by various stakeholders and viceversa –from government institutions tobilateral and multilateral organizations.

The platform also facilitated the exchange of ideas, in particular among those who do not usually get to voice their opinions in discussions revolving around suchissues. Voices from the margins were heard and paid heed to at the Summit.

Since the platform was not related to any specific government organization, the Summit offered an unrestricted platform allowing independent discussions as compared to many other similar events where representatives have to stick to their briefs. For instance, the stakeholders had the liberty to borrowseveral ideas beingformulated and discussedat the platform, and later apply them directly within their organizations and countries,thus making the process to measure the total impact of the Summit even more challenging.

Outcomes from various editions of the Summit have been disseminated widely. Filtering through government policies, these outcomes have been successful inenhancing the process througha wide set of best practices that have been replicated in and adopted by significant quarters of the global community.