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What is Rio+20?

12 February 2012


Rio+20 Conference is a major summit of all time as stated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon.  It is hoped that it will bring the world leaders together for the triple agenda - poverty eradication, new model of economic growth and human wellbeing as the subject of Rio.  There is a lot of anxiety around the growing struggles in the Arab world.  In the US, it is a question of solidarity between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.   

Rio 2012 Conference is taking place after 20 years of Rio Conference in 1992 and after 40 years of Stockholm Conference.  Rio+20 Conference is not a celebration of anniversary but rather to look forward to 20 years ahead as to where the world will be in 2032, to get its act together towards progress for humanity.  Rio+20 Conference is an intergovernmental process for consensus on deliberations and for renewing commitments. 

Discussions have begun on the 19-paged zero draft of the Rio+20 Conference Outcome Document that had been drafted drawing wisdom from the 6,000 pages of input by all the stakeholders.   

One of the two major themes of the conference is ‘Green Economy in the context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development’. 

There is a lot of debate around green economy.  The Latin American countries fear that in the name of green economy the natural resources will be exploited.  They fight against green capitalism and merchandising of nature.

In the non-political world, the conversation is about the kind of economy that 

  • is inclusive and job intensive
  • ventures into renewable energy in a world of hike in oil price
  • creates system of sanitation for 9 billion people not using much water 
  • uses less water for better agriculture 
  • moves away from oil driven industry to a new industrial revolution, e.g.  producing home grown foods rather than exporting and importing foods
  • measures human wellbeing as the index for  progress and not  by economic growth/GDP e.g. Bhutan uses happiness index as the measure for progress.

The other theme for Rio+20 Conference is ‘Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development’.

 There is a lot of discussion on 

  • reforming the UN for sustainable development  having sustainable development as the main policy tool
  • creating a strong environmental pillar - Plan to strengthen UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) as the world environmental agency; 110 countries are in support of this.
  • using  UN  Trusteeship Council (an UN body that enabled self-governance for those countries under colonial rule and is sleepy at the moment since it has done its task) to create a senate of voice for  the Planet

Activities in preparation for Rio+20 Conference

Some of the activities on the ground in preparation for Rio+20 Conference

  • Global Sustainability Report is a political report and has been widely disseminated 
  • There is huge movement for Mayors to come together for a global town hall meeting 
  • At regional level people summit is taking place.
  • Church groups are organizing programmes in Europe
  • Corporate sustainability Conference will take place
  • Brazilians are planning for organizing dialogue days between the two UN Conferences in Rio. 
Expected outcome of Rio+20 conference
  • Sustainable Development Goals:  An initiative has been moved forward by Colombia, Guatemala and Peru to have a set of universal goals – Sustainable Development Goals
  • Post MDGs agenda for the UN:  to begin a process for taking forward discussions on the subjects such as –sustainable cities, energy, water, food security, avoiding disasters
  • Registry / Compendium of commitments:  Providing space for monitoring governments and other stakeholders for their commitments.  Social media to be used as one of the tools to call to accountability.
Role of civil society
  • Civil society is part of the game;  need to put strong pressure on the governments all over the world.  There is not much civil society pressure in the US.
  • Urge the leaders to generate medium and long term vision towards sustainable living keeping in mind the future generation 
  • Many groups have proposed ‘Charter of Responsibility’ with the ethical perspective. Civil Society to join in campaigning for same.
  • To be consistent with the advocacy on particular issues and not to be all over - e.g. World Bank to be reformed as the International Bank for Sustainable Development!

[Submitted by Sr. Fatima Rodrigo, IPA]