Dispatch from Rio+20: The Future We Want?
by Sofia Plagakis
Jun 22, 2012
In the lead up to Rio+20, the three-day international environmental conference being held this week in Rio de Janeiro, many doubted that government officials would finalize an outcome document on how to embrace sustainable development in the next decade. However, after intense talks, negotiators finalized a document and presented it to high-level officials on June 20. The outcome document, titled “The Future We Want,” focuses on market growth and offers few advances in protecting the planet and its people in the process.
One good and hopeful element of the document is that it contains some language on advancing access to environmental information, public participation, and justice in environmental decision making. But in reality, many countries still lack the tools to enforce the rule of law and continue to block public access to information. Low-income, minority and indigenous communities, for example, are all too often left out of environmental decisions that impact their lives and their health.
The shortcomings of the inaptly named “The Future We Want” outcome document are significant. The document fails to: 1) lay out clear goals and deadlines on how and when governments will promote sustainable development; 2) provide oversight mechanisms for monitoring countries’ progress; and 3) provide funding to implement the goals. The first draft of the document did include a sustainable development fund with a $30 billion annual budget beginning in 2013, increasing to $100 billion annually by 2018. Unfortunately, the United States and other industrialized countries (Canada, Australia, and Japan) refused to include any language on funding, using the economy and upcoming elections as excuses. Without including the three elements above in the document, history will repeat itself (these same problems hindered any progress after the 1992 Rio Conference on environment and sustainability).
The outcome document is the result of several rounds of negotiations among representatives of more than 190 countries, non-governmental organizations, industries, indigenous peoples, and social movements that began in January. Non-governmental organizations around the world have expressed intense frustration over the outcome document, refusing to endorse it. In fact, more than 1,000 organizations and individuals have signed a petition called “The Future We Don’t Want” that criticizes the outcome document.
Though Rio+20 ends today, it is not too late. World leaders should step up and show true leadership.back to Blog