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An Analysis of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) Discourse Using an Ability Expectation Lens

Author(s): Jacqueline Noga | Gregor Wolbring

Journal: Sustainability
ISSN 2071-1050

Volume: 5;
Issue: 9;
Start page: 3615;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: ability studies | ability expectations | Rio +20 | content-analysis | discourse

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) was hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 20–22, 2012, 20 years after the first Earth Summit, with the intention of creating solutions to current global environmental issues. In this paper we present the results of an analysis of academic and newspaper articles that covered the Rio +20 summit, using an ability expectation lens. Articles were collected from academic databases such as EBSCO, as well as from newspapers such as the Globe and Mail (Canada) and China Daily; the articles collected were coded for ability expectations using an extensive list of codes which has been designed to identify ability expectations. Analysis of the discourse has revealed a number of ability expectations, such as the ability to produce and consume, the ability to work, and the ability to control. These ability expectations reveal what is seen as a necessary part of development. The opportunities and challenges which occur during development may be related to the expectations of the public, academic, private and not-for-profit sectors. The authors submit that in order to move forward towards universal sustainable development, it is critical to consider the ability expectations which are both explicitly and implicitly included in the Rio +20 discourse.
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