Rio 1992 connected the environment and development. Rio+20 looks like splitting them up

Published: 18th June 2012

The Rio+20 Summit will fail if it agrees to current proposals, which risk worsening the divide between environment and development efforts, warned anti-poverty and environmental campaigners today.

Agreement on Sustainable Development Goals is expected to be one of the major outcomes from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which starts on Wednesday, 20 June in Rio de Janeiro.

The UN has already begun to deliberate on the post 2015 global development framework, starting with a review of lessons learnt from the existing Millennium Development Goals and options for after they expire in 2015. The current proposal on the table in Rio would effectively create a second process for global goals in the post-2015 period. A separate process focused on the environment will not provide the solution urgently needed to end poverty and inequality while protecting the planet, said international agency Oxfam and the international campaigns, Beyond 2015 and the Global Campaign against Poverty (GCAP).

“Ending poverty and protecting the environment are inextricably linked and cannot be addressed in isolation. The current proposals are a recipe for diluted commitment, duplicated effort, and dispersed focus,” said Antonio Hill of Oxfam. “The world’s poorest people, who still suffer a lack of quality healthcare and education, are also denied their fair share of water, land and clean air. Poor people will be the first to lose out if Rio+20 fails to aim for one set of goals for one planet. We need a single guiding framework whose purpose is to end poverty and restore the living world that sustains us all. “

The organizations believe that commitment in Rio to a single process that brings together the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 development framework could represent a landmark agreement to eradicate poverty and ensure prosperity for all by sharing the Earth’s limited resources. But the move could fail if this integration does not happen from the start.

“In the Philippines, the Millennium Development Goals are finally helping tackle poverty, but they aren’t a true measure of sustainable development. The government priority is poverty reduction, but it heavily depends on environmentally-damaging mining to pay for it,” said Nanette Antequisa, Executive Director of the Philippines NGO ECOWEB.

The groups also warn that the success of any future goals hinge on the progress made towards ending poverty through the Millennium Development Goals.

“Governments in Rio are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while 1.4 billion people still live in poverty, in a daily struggle for food, water and energy. For these people environment and development are not separate choices. We need a race to deliver the existing Millennium Development goals, and a single framework to succeed them,” said Rajiv Joshi from GCAP.

“Governments are squabbling to agree who will lead yet another international initiative the exact purpose of which remains undefined. The new set of goals must deliver positive change for  the world’s poorest people who don’t classify the food, water, energy, and clean air they depend on as either poverty or environment issues – they just want to survive and live decent lives,” said Bernadette Fischler from the Beyond 2015 campaign.

Related links

Oxfam Rio+20 media brief: Rio plus or minus 20: the record of a failing food system & what’s in store (pdf 885kb)

Oxfam Rio+20 media brief on energy and climate change (pdf 145kb)

Rio+20: Oxfam case studies on development from five emerging economies

Governments in Rio are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while 1.4 billion people still live in poverty, in a daily struggle for food, water and energy.
Rajiv Joshi
Global Call to Action Against Poverty

Contact information

For more information contact in Rio:

Tricia O’Rourke, Oxfam on +55 21 6849 2371,

Bernadette Fischler, Beyond 2015 +44 7785 515 335 and

Rajiv Joshi, GCAP +1 917 545 6101.

Roberta Caldo + 55 21 6849.2369 or + 55 61 9297.7372 (Portuguese and English)