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The Marrakech Process Stories

When governments at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development called for the creation of a global economic framework that would help countries both stimulate growth and minimize the negative impacts of that growth on the environment and local communities, the first in a series of biennial International Expert Meetings was held a year later in Marrakech, Morocco, to determine a course of action.

That meeting set in motion what today is called the Marrakech Process, a series of global initiatives through which countries are working towards the development of a draft 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) by 2010. The challenge is to determine which key programmes to include in the Framework, and provide the means for their implementation: financial support, capacity building, and technical assistance.

The United Nations Department of Economic Affairs (UNDESA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are the lead UN agencies in this global process, facilitating the active participation of national governments, development agencies, companies, and civil society, among other participants.

This work comes at a critical time, against the backdrop of widening economic and social imbalances among countries and regions, exacerbated, in large part, by the damaging effects of climate change and increased levels of man-made CO2 emissions, particularly in expanding consumer economies. The call to action is as urgent as ever to preserve the world’s natural resource base, and improve living conditions for the billions of people who depend on it to meet their most rudimentary needs. Changing our collective future will mean taking a “less is best” approach to our individual daily living today.

From the beginning, the Marrakech Process has been developing various instruments to help countries articulate that vision. Seven government-led Task Forces were created to carry out activities at national or regional levels to help accelerate a shift to more sustainable consumption and production patterns throughout the world. These voluntary teams of experts from government ministries, regional organizations, academic research institutes, technical agencies and UN bodies tackle pressing problems in innovative ways. They focus their work in seven specific areas: sustainable products, lifestyles, education, building and construction, tourism, public procurement and cooperation with Africa.

These stories showcase Task Force efforts, and highlight how these agile partnerships are helping to find solutions to common challenges in ways that can be tailored to meet specific national and regional priorities. Through these “no one size fits all” initiatives, African governments are investigating a regional ecolabelling scheme to improve the competitiveness of their exports, particularly in booming markets for environmentally preferable products.

Young people in Abu Dhabi are re-thinking how they can buy everything from food to fashion, and integrate sustainable lifestyle messages into their faith. Indigenous Indian communities in the Brazilian town of Paraty are taking an active role in creating a sustainable tourism strategy, as part the town’s involvement in a global Green Passport Campaign. Elsewhere, officials in Argentina are discovering how to integrate sustainable practices into their public procurement systems.

The Marrakech Process mosaic is made up of these and numerous other activities that are prompting consumers and producers in developed and developing countries to consider the environmental and social ripple effects of their economic decision-making.