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Rio+20 at a Glance: What’s Brazilian Civil Society expectation on the Rio+20 UN Conference?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 16:25

Twenty years after the Rio 92 Conference, Rio+20, held from June 20th to 23th in the city of Rio de Janeiro, aims to discuss development from the sustainability lens, given the Conference goal of eradicating poverty. However, negotiations have been showing a strong focus on the so called "Green Economy". According to several social movements and civil society organizations, there is a risk of a setback in the outcome of the negotiations.

Elisa Hugueney, ActionAid Policy Advisor, and Marcelo Montenegro, ActionAid Campaign Advisor, are closely following the discussions during the pre-conference context and tell us a little more of their expectations. 

So what is Rio+20?

E: It’s a United Nation Conference on Sustainable Development. The intention is to assess what has changed or not 20 years after the first negotiations on Sustainable Development, in 1992. There are several negotiations being undertaken by States before the Official Conference and so far the focus is mainly on Global Governance and the Green Economy as a mechanism for poverty eradication.

M: In the context of Rio 92 it was established the Rio Declaration (On Environment and Development) and Agenda 21, which covered environmental, social and economic policies for sustainable development. Everything indicates that the Rio+20 negotiations are prioritizing economic issues, disregarding the agreed principles and concepts in 1992, as the “common but differentiated responsibility”, that would benefit the poorest countries in the world. It seems to be an indication that the negotiations could lead to a setback. 

What is the Green Economy?

That’s a million dollar question - Marcelo Montenegro

E: There is a UN document with a definition, focusing on poverty eradication, but ends up giving space to the commodification of natural resources. In the Rio+20 context, there isn’t a discussion of the concept; it is already placed on the official document. The debate is on how will the countries implement it. The proposal is to create development goals based on Agenda 21, but with a universal character. These goals that must be set up in 2015 with compliance by 2030 will inform us what the green economy is, in fact.

So far, what’s Brazil’s role and position on the negotiations?

E: Brazil is the host country, so its goal is the success of the event. In the negotiation, Brazil join others countries at the G77, but with a less active role. If a final agreement fails, Brazil has the chance to propose a final document with more consensus and the maintenance, for example, of the notion of “common but differentiated responsibility”. The U.S., on the other hand, doesn’t approve amendments made ​​by countries like India, China and Russia, based on this principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”.

And where’s ActionAid in this debate?

E: ActionAid has as its focus the social development agenda. There is a team following the negotiations.

M: Civil society organizations and social movements from Brazil and around the world have chosen to build the People's Summit. The proposal is to discuss environmental issues and build a final document with the People’s position. During the Summit, there will be workshops and activities that give visibility to the new alternatives experiences that are happening in different contexts and territories in the world. At the People’s Summit, there is a consensus that reject the commodification of natural resources and the transference of responsibilities from states to the markets. 

Are the official negotiations are taking into consideration women’s role in its strategy of eradication poverty?

E: In some aspects, women’s issues are being addressed. Some countries have women’s rights in their agenda, but everything is still under negotiation. So far we don’t know if the women’s rights perspective will be presented in the final document. But several women’s movements are following the negotiations to make sure.

About two weeks ago, breaking news reported that some representatives of the European Union would not come to the Conference. What does this mean in a context where on theb one hand we have environmental crises, and on the other we have a serious economic crisis in the Eurozone? 

E: This fact indicates that our model of development is not sustainable at all. This current economic crisis shows us that the economic path doesn’t address the issues of hunger and poverty. Right now we need to reflect upon our patterns of production, consumption and distribution, since it was thought up by and serves the interests of the richest countries in the world.

M: It is an opportunity to address issues and problems of the current model and strengthen alternatives to the current disaster. It not about prohibit consumption and production, but rethink and show that our current model deplete world resources.

To Elisa and Marcelo, unfortunately, there is a risk of regression in the agreements undertaken in 1992. Goals already agreed in previous documents are being removed from the current one. These pre-negotiations are not looking after what was done or not during these 20 years, but building new goals. There is another aggravating factor: a rights-based approach is being widely questioned, such as right to food. Some countries seek to avoid using the term "right". Different organizations formulated a letter to the UN denouncing this attempt of not to mention the rights approach in the final document. Within this context, the social movements from Brazil and around the world are organizing the People's Summit. ActionAid is on. An activist network will broadcast via twitter, facebook, reports and live broadcasts, all that is happening in both the Official Rio +20 Conference and in the People’s Summit. There will be releases in Portuguese and English. Keep tuned! 

Special thanks to  Marcelo, Elisa and @carolpeterli