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Did Rio+20 Change Anything? In the end, it’s up to Us!

26 June 2012

Friends of Nano

Mary-Ann Greaney (New Zealand) and Tamai Mafuse (Zimbabwe) represented the Friends of Nano at United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which was called Rio+20. We are deeply grateful for their willingness to travel there and to carry our hopes and dreams for a sustainable future with them to Rio.

Mary-Ann and Tamai made several reports from Rio and these were carried on our Friends of Nano Blog. The Blog has the advantage that people can respond to any of the stories on it by leaving a comment on the blog! So, if you haven’t yet signed up to the Friends of Nano Blog, why not do it now. Just click here and sign up!

The jury is still out on whether the conference will have achieved anything worthwhile, especially in light of all the energy and effort put into its organisation. Prior to the conference Mary-Ann and Tamai, as well as undertaking their own research in light of our core values, asked each of you for your ideas based on your local and national experience and they carried that feedback with them to Rio +20. Our core values of passion for the poorest and covenant with creation are very relevant to the core issue of sustainability.

The conference had over 18,000 participants and over 50,000 people travelled to Rio to take part in fringe activities around sustainable development. There was a strong Catholic presence among them as many religious have NGO status, as we do. Large numbers of people who were present are deeply committed to the Earth Charter and the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. As Christians we believe that

  • People have a fundamental right to life, food, shelter, health care, education and employment. All have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. All have a duty to respect the rights of others in society.
  • The goods of the earth are gifts from God, and are intended by God for the benefit of everyone.
  • We are one human family. Our responsibilities to each other cross national, racial, economic and ideological differences. We are called to work globally for justice.
  • All people have a right to economic initiative and to private property, but these are not unlimited rights. It is unjust to amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life.
  • The economy exists to serve people. People have the right to productive work, fair wages, and safe working conditions. They have the right to participate in decisions that affect them in the workplace.

To the extent that we had any influence on the outcome, they worked to make sure that outcomes were informed by these core principles.

Tamai and Mary-Ann spent some time attending a variety of capacity building sessions – they heard some wonderful input from world leaders in their field including people like Mary Robinson, a former President of Ireland and Julia Gillard, the Prime Minsiter of Australia..

A text was agreed from the conference but many feel that in order to please everybody, it lacks depth and real commitment. The danger is that it does nothing to hold governments accountable for those actions which contribute to unsustainable consumption of the earth’s resources by developed countries and which lead to ever increasing environmental degradation.

Tamai and Mary-Ann found that Rio+20 was successful in some ways, however. It was a success in that thousands of people came together from so many walks of life and from so many different backgrounds and life circumstances. In particular there was a large contingent of enthusiastic young people. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the generations preceding them had messed up the planet and were now failing to work together to fix it again.

Mary-Ann and Tamai came across a number of excellent youth initiatives over their time in Rio including a service to take children to school along the Amazon River, A Global Action Classroom that operates wherever the scouting movement is present and other useful initiatives.

Many Presentation schools in Ireland participate in the Presentation-led Challenge to Change Programme each year.

They were also impressed by Project Earth, an online forum fostering environmental and cultural exchange and networking schools and clubs around the world. Click here to read more on our Friends of Nano Blog.

Messages to Mary-Ann Greaney