As world economies become more integrated, economic growth has created environmental problems that demand global solutions. At the same time, policies and politics remain, for the most part, nation-based. Though the international community has launched ambitious agendas in the Doha, Monterrey, Johannesburg and UN Millennium and Framework Convention on Climate Change processes to react to these challenges, it continues to struggle to develop global solutions in a timely and transparent way.
The Round Table on Sustainable Development was established in 1998 to provide an informal setting through which ministers can engage one another and key international business and civil society leaders without prejudice to negotiating positions on cross-cutting issues.
In May 2001, OECD Ministers formally endorsed the role of the Round Table "as a forum for international dialogue among stakeholders". The following year, OECD Ministers again singled out the Round Table and requested that it continue to "generate policy ideas and build consensus for action" to assist them in achieving their "sustainable development objectives".
No other ministerial-level forum gathers such a diverse group. Preparation of the subject matter is intensive and includes an independent paper written specifically for each meeting. By keeping participation limited and exclusive to the topic, following the Chatham House rule and not allowing bureaucrats to substitute for politicians, the Round Table provides a rare opportunity for high-level attendees to engage on a direct and in-depth basis. As a result, they are free to test out their thinking and spontaneously promote future action.