Rio’s Roadmap Falls Flat, Civil Society Groups Say

Jun 25th, 2012 | By | Category: Advocacy, Environment, Financing, Governance, News, Opinion, Rio+20, Vulnerability

IPS: RIO DE JANEIRO,  Jun 19 (TerraViva) – “Very disappointing.” That was the term business and non-governmental organisations used to describe the formal intergovernmental negotiations at the Rio+20 Earth Summit Tuesday.

With overwhelming scientific evidence showing that the Earth’s ability to support human life is at serious risk, the Rio+20 summit is being held to help chart a safe course that will steer away from disaster and bring a better future people around the globe.

After two years, negotiators from more than 190 nations agreed Tuesday to a 49-page “The Future We Want” document intended to be the roadmap for this transformation. This document will be presented to heads of state in Rio de Janeiro at the opening of the high-level portion of the Summit on Wednesday. They will review and discuss how they will implement the agreement until the summit’s conclusion on Friday.

U.N. officials said it was highly unlikely any changes will be made.

Yet the document leaves out a 30-billion-dollar fund proposed by a group of developing countries known as the G77 to finance the transition to a green economy. Nor does it define tangible Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be substituted for the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015.

A poster on a wall at Rio Centro. Civil society groups say they are “very disappointed” with formal negotiations at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Credit: Stephen Leahy/IPS

“This is extremely disappointing….There is no vision, no money and really no commitments here,” said Lasse Gustavsson, head of the Rio+20 delegation from WWF International, which works to stop environmental degradation worldwide.

“Rio+20 should have been about life, about the future of our children, of our grandchildren. It should have been about forest, rivers, lakes, oceans that we are all depending on for our food, water and energy security,” Gustavsson told TerraViva.

Instead, two years of work have resulted in merely a long document that commits to virtually nothing but more meetings, he said.

Rio+20 has been a stark contrast to the exciting “we will change the world” atmosphere at the first Earth Summit in 1992, said Robert Engleman of the Worldwatch Institute, an international environmental think tank.

However, Rio+20 introduces the concept of Sustainable Development Goals that could be significant if they are turned into real actionable goals with timetables. While the document is mostly re-confirming past commitments in a very passive way, there is  new confirmation of the importance of traditional seed saving, and to consider strengthening  the U.N Environment Programme, Engleman told TerraViva.

“This document is a great disappointment. There’s no ambition and little reference to the planetary boundaries we face,” said Kiara Worth, representing the U.N.’s Major Group on Children and Youth at Rio+20.

“The voices of civil society and future generations is going unheard. We ought to call this Rio minus 20 because we are going backwards,” Worth told TerraViva.

“The scientific evidence is clear. We are going to need a major effort global in science and technology to meet the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced,” said Steven Wilson of the International Council for Science, a non-governmental organisation representing national scientific bodies and international scientific unions.

“I don’t understand why there is no section in the document on science – this sends a very unfortunate message.”

“We have a fundamentally flawed economic system, and we in civil society had hoped governments of the world would recognise this reality, but they haven’t,” said Jeffery Huffines of Civicus, World Alliance for Citizen Participation, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Civil society is looking for a balanced economy that respects planetary boundaries and seeks to expand the welfare of all people within a safe operating space for the planet, Huffines told TerraViva.

Instead, there are 49 pages of concepts without any commitments or means of going forward with these concepts. The role of civil society participation has been limited. “We need more democratic decision-making, not less,” he added.

“Speaking personally, as an American citizen, it is quite clear our electoral system has been bought by the corporate sector, by Wall Street. And that’s why our elected politicians are not going to challenge the current economic system. It’s up to civil society to challenge this,” said Huffines.

Others were more cautious in their criticism, such as Meena Raman, a negotiation expert with Third World Network, an international network of organisations and individuals involved environment and development issues.

“The outcome document does not have the ambition needed to save the planet or the poor, but it has not taken us backwards, particularly given our initial fears that Rio+20 might be Rio-40,” Raman said.

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