"Business-as-usual" won’t do at Rio+20 summit

Published: 4th May 2012

Leading civil society groups unite in warning following latest negotiations

A group of leading international humanitarian, development, social justice, environmental, and workers’ organizations today warned that next month’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) looks set to add almost nothing to global efforts to deliver sustainable development. The group also warns that too many governments are using or allowing the talks undermine established human rights and agreed principles such as equity, precaution, and ‘polluter pays.’

The warning from Development Alternatives, Greenpeace, the Forum of Brazilian NGOs and Social Movements for Environment and Development (FBOMS), International Trades Union Confederation (ITUC), Oxfam, the Slow Food Movement and Vitae Civilis comes at the end of two weeks of negotiations between governments on the conference outcomes, with less than 50 days before the summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20 - 22 June.

The conference marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, at which international treaties to tackle climate change and conserve the Earth’s diversity of plants, animals, and other life forms were agreed. Rio+20 is charged with coming up with ways to ensure a safer, more equitable, cleaner, green and more prosperous world for all.

“After four months of talks on the so-called ‘zero draft’ outcome document, the Rio+20 talks are stuck at zero. Little or nothing has emerged that will deliver on what governments agreed was needed 20 years ago at the Earth Summit,” said Antonio Hill of Oxfam.

“The 1992 Earth Summit was a milestone that united development and environment efforts. The challenge set then – to provide prosperity for all without exceeding ecological limits – is even more urgent today. Now’s the time to end deforestation, achieve high seas protection, and deliver the energy revolution – that is a future worth choosing,” said Daniel Mittler of Greenpeace.

The group argues that the current financial crises, growing inequalities, broken food system, global climate change and shrinking natural resources require a new approach to economic development but the current negotiating text offers just more of the same. Together with workers, citizens, producers and consumers around the world, these organizations are working to delivering well-being, economic equality, and a prosperity that restores the natural environment upon which we all depend.

“We hear the voices of citizens everywhere calling for a better future. Millions of people are demanding their rights and expecting fair and green solutions to poverty and suffering now. The message is clear: it’s time to change course and put the future of people and the planet first,” said Alison Tate of ITUC.

As a benchmark against which to assess what governments achieve in Rio+20, the organisations have set out a 10-point agenda for the global transformation urgently needed to deliver sustainable development. They jointly call on governments to:

  1. Agree an ambitious set of global goals for sustainable development, designed to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, and realise justice and human rights while respecting the finite limits of Earth’s natural resources.
  2. Provide new and additional resources for sustainable development, including innovative sources of public finance such as financial transaction taxes to tackle poverty and climate change, and commit to far-reaching budget reforms, including re-directing money from harmful subsidies towards sustainable fishing, renewable energy access, and smallholder agriculture.
  3. Enact reforms of the system of global governance to ensure strong institutions with real power to enforce international rules and commitments on environment and development, and launch talks on a global treaty to realise rights of public access to information, greater participation, and access to justice, in order to strengthen accountability and citizen monitoring of environmental and development performance at the national, regional, and global levels.
  4. Commit to invest a share of national income in green and decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods, ensuring social equity, gender equality, trade union rights, democracy, and a just transition from today’s economies.
  5. Establish a universal Social Protection Floor to realize human rights and support decent living standards worldwide, including allocating resources to establish an adequate level of social protection in the least developed countries.
  6. Agree a plan to move quickly towards sustainable patterns of production and consumption, including greater investment in small- and medium-scale enterprises, producer cooperatives, and informal sectors, as well as public procurement policies and incentives for fair and green products and services.
  7. Agree a global framework of rules to strengthen corporate reporting on social and environmental impacts worldwide, consistent with the Rio Principles, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and encompassing the full range of impacts associated with corporate activities.
  8. Kick-off a major shift towards adequate, nutritious, and healthy food for all, including policies and investments to support small farms, women producers, and secure access to (and protection of) the water, land, soils, biodiversity, and other resources upon which our food security depends.
  9. Take decisive action to recover healthy, productive and sustainable oceans – launch a new agreement to protect high seas marine life under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and take steps to reverse over-exploitation, enable sustainable, marine-based livelihoods, and guarantee abundant marine life for the future.
  10. Provide fair and lasting energy solutions that put poor people first and help cut greenhouse gas pollution, including new financial and technical support to developing countries that focuses on providing the full range of energy services needed to help pull people out of poverty.

“Nobody is clamoring for another business-as-usual summit of leaders. To the presidents and prime ministers of nations responsible for changing course we say: ‘You can start to deliver sustainable development today or face the anger and disappointment of millions of citizens in the years and generations to come,'” said Rubens Born of the Forum of Brazilian NGOs and Social Movements for Environment and Development (FBOMS).
Ashok Khosla, Chairman of Development Alternatives, said: "Given the many crises threatening our life support systems and civilization, it is time for negotiators to look beyond their hackneyed words and outdated ideologies, and urgently commit their nations to the actions needed to eradicate poverty and regenerate the natural environment."

Read more

Blog: Fit for the future? The rocky road to a new set of development goals

Blog: Reviving Rio? Global Sustainability Panel Report throws a life-ring

You can start to deliver sustainable development today or face the anger and disappointment of millions of citizens in the years and generations to come.
Rubens Born
Forum of Brazilian NGOs and Social Movements for Environment and Development

Contact information

For media enquires please contact:

Antonio Hill, Oxfam, ahill@oxfam.org.uk Mobile +1 917 775 1279

Contact details for other participating organizations:

Alison Tate, International Trades Union Confederation (ITUC -- www.ituc-csi.org), Mobile: +32.473.834.254, alison.tate@ituc-csi.org  

Zeenat Niazi, Development Alternatives http://www.devalt.org, Tel. +91 (11) 26134103 or +91 (11) 26134103 zniazi@devalt.org

Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International http://www.greenpeace.org, Mobile +49 160 946 76589, or dmittler@greenpeace.org  

Rubens Harry Born, Forum of Brazilian NGOs and Social Movements for Environment and Development (FBOMS -- http://www.fboms.org.br) and Vitae Civilis
www.vitaecivilis.org.br  Mobile +1 917 215 6232 or rubens@vitaecivilis.org