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Food for Thought - The structure of a document

Food for Thought 

The Structure of a document  

By Felix Dodds 

I am a huge fan of Agenda 21, but what I don’t understand is why no one else is!!! Well that’s not completely true everyone says they are a fan, but a real fan gets into appreciating what an amazingly well structure document it is. A real fan uses a agenda 21 as a screen saver, a real fan……sorry I am a little obsessed here…looks with hope each passing year that the Bureau of the CSD might look back at that structure and go ‘wow’ lets use that to structure the CSD outcome.  Sometimes as the days move to the nights towards the end of a CSD, as the text looks increasingly unstructured and issues aren’t being addressed effectively, some of us ‘fans’ can be found in the Vienna café discussing if only, if only we could have a well structured document…all would be well. Of course this discussion also went on around the preparations fo rJohannesburg. Another document, that could have done with a proper structure. I remember some of us at Prepcom two having a long discussion with an un-named European delegate about the text. We were saying sort out the structure  and it will sort out the conversations that you need to have. They didn’t agree and look what happened. South Africa tried to in Prepcom 3 through an excellent ‘non paper’ to get us back to a proper structured document but with no success. You can get a copy from Amazon of a book we did with the Commonwealth Secretariat called ‘The Plain language Guide to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Our attempt to help anyone to understand the JPoI. Stakeholder Forum’s policy coordinator during Johannesburg, Rosalie Callway did attempt to update the Agenda 21 structure way  The structure of a document can be critical on a number of fronts. A good structured document:  

  1. Enables gaps to be clearly identified.
  2. Identifies problem areas to be focused on.
  3. Allows for principles and mainstreaming to be integrated.
 Working with Stakeholder Forum’s international advisory board she tabled  this suggested approachGeneral Outline Each section of the agreement should set Poverty Eradication as an overarching theme. Furthermore the sections should mainstream the following aims: 1        Rio Principles 2        Sustainable Production and Consumption3        Enhancing Globalisation 4        Millennium Development Goals5        Human Rights6        Gender Equity7        Good Governance  Each section will be organised under the following structure: Introduction to the overarching topic: Outline general issues/problems.Programme areas: Identify priority issues, e.g. renewable energy. A.     Basis for action: Chapters in Agenda 21, CSD decisions, Millennium Development Goals, setting of additional targets.B.     Objectives: For each priority issue outline aims and purpose for action, e.g. to improve access to renewable energy, improve trade policy for energy provision.C.    Activities at all levels: International to local action, touching on priorities for existing institutions, roles of stakeholders, and outlining new institutional areas.D.    Means of implementation: including capacity building, technology sharing, education and training (targeting sustainable development). E.     Financial resources: Public (domestic and foreign, aid and investment), Private (business, foundations, NGOs and other).F.     Timetable and targets: 5, 10, 15 years.G.    Information for decision-making: Monitoring and assessing progress, Indicators, data management and provision. 

Perhaps the next Bureau might like to think of this an approach.

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