So this is it. Things are heating up in Rio. The Preparatory Committee Consultations have concluded. Ministers from the world over are here at the Conference location, and the Heads of State will start arriving tomorrow. Outside, June rains have ceded and the weather in Rio is warming up; almost as if to compliment the atmosphere inside the Rio Centro.
There is a general sense of disappointment at the conference location: an understanding that the text lacks ambition and commitment. A growing sense of frustration is in the air at the acceptance of the scrawny text by member states with no hesitation.
Brazil is not making a warm, cordial host; they are playing a rather tyrannical role: forcing states to accept and adopt the watered down draft document before the heads of state arrive.
As if to quantify the substance echoed in the outcome document; a simple ‘cntrl+f’ search in the pdf version of the text ironically titled ‘the Future We Want’ gave the following results. The term ‘recognizes’ is used 147 times in the document, ‘reaffirm’-59 times, and the word ‘encourages’ 49 times. On the other hand, more impactful and prescriptive words are seen hardly ever. [The search found only 6 matches for the word ‘adopt’ and only 5 for ‘decides’.]
Is there anything in it at all?
1) Sustainable Development Goals
The text reads: “we resolve to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on SDGs that is open to all stakeholders with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the United Nations General Assembly”
The text has basically, laid the foundation, to lay the foundation of the SDGs, this is a far cry from the adoption of SDGs.
2) High Level Forum
It has been decided that “a universal intergovernmental high level political forum [with universal membership], building on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development” is to be created.
3) UNEP upgraded
The UNEP is to be reinforced with universal membership and guaranteed funding. But, the reforms appear to stop short of upgrading the programme to the same level as more powerful UN bodies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO). The call by certain African States to amend the draft do as to adopt the name ‘World Environmental Organization’, replacing the existing UNEP has gone unheard.
4. Registry of Commitments
‘There will be a Registry of Commitments voluntarily entered into at Rio +20 and throughout 2012 by all stakeholders and their networks to implement concrete policies, plans, programs, projects and actions to promote sustainable development and poverty eradication’.
The draft calls for the promotion of “transparency and implementation through further enhancing the consultative role and participation of Major Groups and other relevant stakeholders”. This is rather ironic as only yesterday was the language related to a proposal for an ombudsperson or a United Nations High Commissioner for Future Generations was deleted.
World leaders should be able to make decisions in the interests of their people.
A successful twitterstorm and a flashmob later, the issue that reigned in the number one position of the Rio Dialogues list of recommendations voted by the people: i.e. eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, was struck off the text.
‘’We recognize the need for further action to rationalize and phase out harmful and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and undermine sustainable development, taking fully into account the specific conditions and different levels of development of individual countries, and in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities.’’
The text has “only” been approved “ad ref” in plenary this morning. This means that it has been provisionally agreed to without any remaining brackets. It is still possible to reopen an agreed ad ref paragraph or text as the text will only become the official outcome document after it has been agreed to by heads of state and/or governments during the high-level meetings. If one or more countries insist on blocking the text, it will not be approved. Leaders should fight for their people, even if it means fighting alone.
This is not the future I want, it is nowhere close. What we have seen is a failure on the part of leaders to take decisions on the best interest of their people. The silence is deafening; the failure to act: unforgivable.
About the authorSenel Wanniarachchi
Senel is a Sri Lankan activist tracking climate issues in South Asia and beyond. He's a trained journalist, columnist, radio news reporter, editor, student, and a Rio+20 Fellow.