Universités itinérantes 2011-2012 Rio Twenty Years After – Itinerant Seminars


The process “Rio: 20 years after” begins in Dijon – the region of Bourgogne – in June 2011 under the scientific chairmanship of Edgar Morin. It is designed to explore the question of uncertainty as a basis for scientific thinking open to alternatives. Different personalities are invited to speak and mainly to promoting a debate based on the willingness of citizenship. The plenary sessions have mostly a sense as they are nurtured by “reflection circles”. This small working group is intended to promote collective proposals, which will be later presented to all participants.

This seminar will be followed by four other events in the world, Poitiers Niort September 2011, October 2011 Brasilia, Lome December 2011, Reykjavik 2012, before Rio 4-6 June 2012.


RIO TWENTY YEARS AFTER. Seminar 2011-2012

  • DIJON, June 2011
  • POITIERS/NIORT, September 2011
  • BRASILIA, October 2011
  • LOME, December 2011
  • REYKJAVIK, February 2012
  • RIO DE JANEIRO, June 2012


Scientific Coordination


  • Alfredo Pena-Vega, EHESS – IIRPC, France
  • Elimar Pinheiro do Nascimento, University of Brasilia , Brasil
  • Jean Marc Salmon – IIRPC, France
  • Cristovam Buarque, Professor, Senator of the Republic of Brasilia




The 1992 Rio Conference was a diplomatic and legal success: two conventions were ratified (Climate Change and Biological Diversity), soon to be supplemented by a third one (Convention to combat Desertification); a new tool for world governance (United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)); local action programmes (Agenda 21); all of which was fraught with novel concepts (common / differentiated responsibility, etc.)


The key word of the Conference was ‘sustainable / durable development’, which turned out to be oxymoronic in the face of history. Indeed, ever since the warnings issued by the Club of Rome (The Limits to Growth, 1972), beyond the imperfections of prospective science, a feeling of certainty had come to stay: the Western mode of development was not sustainable, least of all if it were to spread to the whole planet.


In spite of all that – witness the skyscrapers of Sao Paulo as well as those of Shanghai – living like the Americans, or even better, seems to be the watchword. In a nutshell, the 1992 may have been a success, but what followed was indeed a qualified failure.


Admittedly, the growth of greenhouse gases has been slowed down, biological diversity is receiving more attention, scientific knowledge has been accumulating, and awareness of a ‘Mother Earth’ has progressed. It is no doubt to this new concept that we owe the convening of a new Rio Conference, twenty years later.


Yet, the accelerating economic development of Latin America, India and the Far East, which hadn’t quite been predicted back then, has little to do with the guidelines defined by the 1992 Rio Conference. Yet the USA has reneged on its signature of the protocol that was to implement the Convention on Climate Change. The failure of the Copenhagen Conference paved the way for unprecedented legal regression in the field of the environment: the Convention on Climate Change might well revert to the status of impracticable text.


What is left of the Rio Summit twenty years later? Our purpose will be to take stock of the evolution of the environmental situation and identify the failures of the political and economic sustainable development ‘model’ that could be implemented on a global scale.


Changing paths?


What alternative paths could be taken? How those dead ends could be avoided. How could mistakes be identified? How can we appraise five of the texts adopted during the Summit, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21 (for the 21st century), the Statement of Principles on the Management of Forests, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change? Could it be the case that a theoretical, legal and practical framework predicated on the 1992 world is still relevant in the world of 2012 and beyond? A world power reshuffle took place during the 2008 financial crisis.


One pages turning, that of the historical cycle initiated in the 15th century, which made Europe and, subsequently, the USA the centre of the world.


In Rio 2012, Northern and Southern powers will meet as equals. This may be a golden opportunity, endowing Brazil, the host country, with special accountability (??).


Political and scientific context


The very failure of the Copenhagen Conference is an invitation to take a hard look at the relations between science, power and conscience. In 2012, the diplomatic framework of the Kyoto protocol will lapse. There is considerable risk that no new framework might take over in the meantime.


There had been a long-standing consensus that a scientific diagnosis, when shared worldwide, made it possible to address issues worldwide. This statement is now challenged.


It was back in 1988 that world governments entrusted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with a mission to address analytical issues related to climate change. The group has already issued four analytical reports on world research on the topic, and related synthetic documents useful to national policy makers, Heads of State and Government. The latest such report recently triggered heated debate in international media.


The building up of such an expert body has taken up the energies of scholars and researchers all over the world. Inequality between countries, however, is indeed reflected in the very unbalanced extent of their participation in IPCC. Conversely, the group has succeeded in bringing together experts from numerous fields, thus building up a transdisciplinary forum, currently organized in 3 Working Groups (Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Mitigation of Climate Change). Modelling plays a major role in a conceptual apparatus that largely borrows from the findings of systemic, cybernetic and information theories (e.g. uncertainties, non-linearity, systems and sub-systems, etc.)



Itinerant Seminars


Itinerant seminars are meant as a continuation of the International Summer Universities that were offshoots of the cooperation within the international network of the International Research Institute On Civilization Policy, held in recent years in Santiago (Chile) and Palma (Tocantins, Brazil) with support from the Presidency of the Republic, the Chilie21 Foundation in Chile, the Center for Sustainable Development of the University of Brasilia, the Federal University of Tocantins, the Tocantins government in Brazil.


These itinerant seminars welcomed some forty researchers within the network, representing a diversity of disciplines, so as to facilitate exchanges with scholars, practitioners, political actors, to raise questions on model change and to define the perspectives for an alternative path. These exchanges focussed on how to deal with a once-dominant model gone barren, and on the major challenges of politics, ethics, the environment, education and world governance.


Rationale for itinerant seminars


To explore situations within a regional context on the basis of critical and interdisciplinary approaches;

To analyze the complexity of practices and the obstacles to a change in them;

To contextualize, theoretically as well as methodologically, the concept of Civilization Policy;


Contents of seminars


Theoretical and methodological;

Thematic and practical data allowing for the devising of innovative experiments in the field of Civilization Policy;

Brainstorming workshops for research-action.


Itinerant schedule


The two-year programme will be made up of 4 to 5, 2- to 3-day seminars together with parallel brainstorming workshops, supported by a methodological framework of moderation and capitalization of results.


Capitalising the findings of Itinerant seminars


The need to reinforce a transversal / global approach, anthropolitical as well as civilizational, capable of addressing the issues faced by our societies and to lay the groundwork for a civilizational New Deal.


Pursuant to the conclusions of the September 2010 International University, Itinerant Seminars have been planned in 4 or 5 different areas of the world, with a view to debating and elaborating proposals in preparation of the International Conference Rio+20, to be held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 2012.


These Itinerant Seminars, in the spirit of the 2010 Poitiers seminar as well as those of Tocantins (Brazil) and Santiago (Chile), are scheduled as follows: June 2011 in Dijon (France), September 2011 in Niort (France), October 2011 in Brasilia (Brazil), December 2011 in Reykjavik (Iceland), and also in Africa (Nairobi, Kenya).


The meetings, meant to express and voice the expertise accrued at IIRPC since 2007, will have the following objectives:

  • investigating new avenues for development in non-European contexts, by bringing together scholars and policymakers;
  • analyzing, for each of these contexts, what hindrances to sustainable development there may have cropped up, in order to identify recommendations;
  • contextualizing and conceptualizing the idea of the building up of a civilization policy, within a rigorous theoretical and methodological framework, and identify courses of action;
  • Fostering and highlighting local ongoing experiments linked to such civilization policies.


For this trans-cultural, trans-disciplinary, multi-thematic and multi-partner dialogue to come off, it is necessary to build up an easy-access Web platform with the capacity to complement the whole process in a dynamic, structured, pedagogical way.


The building up of the platform will itself be the subject of a Virtual Brainstorming Workshop that will pick up from the work started in Poitiers in 2010, with the following objectives:


Acting as the virtual showcase for the whole process. On dynamic display: all the actors involved in the meetings, their productions, interviews with key actors, the contributions or working documents submitted, synthetic summaries of meetings and any resource that may reflect the contents of debates and participants.


Fostering dialogue between all active participants in universities as well as with all citizens who might be interested in the debate on four continents. This dialogue may take the form of virtual debates around questions that emerge from accrued resources or from their continuous synthesis. The general idea being to link the outcome and debates of each seminar with those of the next one.


Highlighting the transversal nature of resources and debates for a better comprehension of global stakes. This transversality will contribute to a dynamic linking of challenges, proposals, and issues under discussion, thus paving the way to the problematization of key concepts and topics that will emerge from seminars.

Details of the initiative