April 23, 2012


Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Flickr: eflon, 2009)
The twentieth anniversary of the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1992) is being celebrated at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in June 2012. More than 120 heads of the state have already committed to participate in the meeting and it is going to be a watershed event for sustainable development. 

A consultation on “Sustainable Development: National and Global Priorities for Rio+20” is taking place on April 28th in New Delhi. The Consultation seeks to generate an informed debate on how sustainable development has fared in the global governance and in India since Rio 1992. Additionally, the conference will address what priorities the current circumstances dictates, and, in view of the opportunity that Rio +20 provides, how do we revisit the sustainable development policies, at national and global levels. 

The world has witnessed enormous change since the UNCED in 1992. While poverty was concentrated in the third world in the 1990s, it is all pervasive now and the world is in the throes of multiple crises - economic, food, fuel and environmental. Free trade and market driven strategies have created unprecedented inequalities and unsustainability of eco-systems. The financial and governance architecture of the world has increased poverty and hunger, forced displacement of indigenous and local communities, violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the right to water and sanitation. People on the margins have no voice and participation in the policymaking and governance, and continue to suffer and pay for the crises they had least contributed to. India too faces strong challenges of attacking extreme poverty, harmonizing growth with nature and environment and ensuring human rights to food, water and sanitation, and energy and development. 

In these circumstances, renewed political commitment to sustainable development, improved integration of three pillars of sustainable (development, economic, social and environmental), and technical and financial assistance for poverty eradication and urgent reforms in the global financial architecture and trade are more relevant than ever. Rio+20 can give the desired direction to economic growth, which has till now failed to reflect environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness. 

However, the Rio+20 process till now has been quite disappointing. It has been taken complete hostage to the domination of northern industrialized countries and has little space to offer to developing and poor countries to bring and seek genuine redressal of their concerns. The themes of the Rio+20 “Green Economy in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication (GESDPE)” and Institutional Infrastructure for Sustainable Development (IFSD),” do not address the root cause of the problem. The draft outcome document, Zero Draft titled “
The Future We Want” is a highly compromised document with low ambition, frivolous treatment to big challenges of day like food security, water, energy, livelihoods, cities, forests, bio-diversity, oceans, and mountains. Additionally, the document has no credible framework for action. It aims to green the business and profits, commercialize ecosystem services, and devise a road map for green economy and sustainable development goals, which further allows developed countries in collusion with business and international financial institutions to use them as tools to put new conditionalities in trade and aid. The three intersessionals, which held negotiations on the zero draft till March 2012 have further ripped the draft of the rights, sustainability, development, and social and economic aspects. The direction of the negotiations seems highly leveraged in favour of the developed countries. This needs to be reversed through solidarity among the developing and least developed countries and civil society. 

More disappointing is the lack of discussion and debate on the issue of such extreme importance in the civil society, media or state. It is important to underline that until and unless fundamental problems of extremely unequal and highly unjustified financial architecture, aid and trade, systems and institutions, which perpetuate profit at the cost of people, nature, environment and earth, and disempowers huge majority of humanity from accessing and exercising rights and their participation in policymaking in the global governance are challenged, cosmetic changes cannot extricate the world from the crises that it faces. At the same time it is also important that we revisit our own national and sub national policies to ensure that we reverse the growth path that we have charted blindly following the north, which has been responsible for bringing the crisis of unsustainability.

With these objectives, a collective of civil society organizations is convening this Consultation, where people from different walks of life including policymakers, experts, farmers, media and academia discuss the priorities at national and global levels and explore their own roles. Prof. V S Vyas has kindly consented to deliver the key note speech on “Historical Perspective on Rio +20.”

To attend the consultation or for more information, please email:
For updates on the Rio+20 process, follow Beyond Copenhagen on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/BeyondCPH and Twitter: @BeyondCPH

Organizers: Beyond Copenhagen, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jathha, CECOEDECON, IDS, Jaipur, PAIRVI, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, SADED, SANSAD.


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