Rio 20+ Progress after 20 years, or still moving in circles?

As the Rio 20+ conference is set to begin, it will be interesting to see how it progresses and how sustainability has developed as a key item on the global agenda. The two main focus areas for Rio 20+ are a ‘green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.”

While these are great focal areas, the conference seems to lack the force necessary to guarantee and police commitments. Developed nations have been notorious for regressing and failing to meet the commitments, promises, and goals set out and there is little to show that this conference will be any different. Prior to the beginning of the discussions, only 37% of the draft agreement had been agreed to, with the refusals and changes made primarily by developed nations.

Nations are still wrapped up in the debate as to whether food, water, and sanitation should be considered universal rights (despite their inclusion in the millennium development goals). Come on Canada! Water is necessary for survival, so as a basic need, shouldn’t it be protected?

What is also fascinating is that all nations participating recognize that 30-100 billion dollars are needed to meet the current and prior commitments to sustainability, but none can agree as to where these funds should come from. So, everyone knows that something needs to be done, but none are willing to contribute in order to make it happen.

Talks begin on Wednesday, I’m curious to see what happens. But in the mean time, what do you think? How will the conference turn out? Will commitments be made or reaffirmed? Will we leave feeling hopeful?


10 responses

  1. Pingback: RIO+20: Suspicion or Sustainability? «

  2. Pingback: Rio+20: Suspicion or Sustainability? | finding development

  3. To be honest, and I hope I’m not being too pessimistic or ignorant here, I find international conferences and agreements to be for the most part useless. Canada does a horrible job of representing itself, but it’s far from the only one. Commitments made by countries on the global stage are mainly superficial and are rarely honoured, as you said. I do understand the importance of having these discussions with multiple countries at the table, and it does generate a lot of media attention and awareness to educate people on a lot of issues. Many productive things have been accomplished in previous conferences. However, I can’t help but feel that Rio, as well as many other similar conferences are a waste of resources (frankly, how much money is spent on organizing them and sending delegates from around the world? ). I guess I’m the Debbie Downer now! Back to your point however, about there being a lack of enforcement on the committment. Perhaps we need a new system of global commitments that uses positive reinforcement instead; where governments are incentivized to carry through. I’m not sure how something like this could be implemented on an international scale.

    • So far we all seem pretty pessimistic, do you think the horrible representation of Canada is because of Harper, or do you think another government or leader would result in a different representation? Or is that just the legacy we’re left with?

      How would you like to see the enforcement happening? Is that something that should fall into the scope of the UN? (Or would that even work with their current power/veto structure?)

      • Well this article ( definitely alludes to a change in leadership as a main reason for this. It recalls 20 years ago when Canada was a big leader in the summit. I don’t want to go on a rant about our current domestic political situation here, so I’ll leave it at that. I should note that there was a conservative government at that time as well. It makes me wonder if there is more at play that makes Canada and other countries difficult players at this year’s summit.

        • I think there has to be more at play. Not to mention that in past years our economic advisors have told our leadership that Canada must align itself more fully with the interests of other nations, in international conferences, development, military, policies, etc. in order to succeed. So it’s interesting to see that in aligning ourselves we lose the middle ground and neutral element that we’ve been praised on for so many years.

  4. We’ve already learned the hard way that we cannot depend on Canada to make any sort of long term commitment. I do not want to be ‘Debby Downer’ here but I feel like this is just going to have people’s hopes raised for a little while only to be disappointed again. Saying that, I challenge them to prove me wrong! To your paragraph on universal rights, nations deny these rights and resources as rights simply out of fear that if they do not, they will have to lend it to people who actually need it for survival, not for recreation and water parks. This way they can put a price on these resources and make money. Back to the conference before I go on an angry rant stating things I’m sure you already know…. Of course everyone will leave this conference hopeful. There will most likely be tons of media coverage on all the wonderful things they agreed on and committed to but give it a bit, the public will forget about it, and nations will start drifting away from the commitments they made. Lessons for us to learn when the power gets placed in our hands.

    • True, and how would you tackle these problems? I can’t wait to see any positive media on it! So far its all negative because everyone seems to be disillusioned by now.. I mean it has been 20 years with limited to no progress..

  5. I would love to be optimistic about this round of talks – but I’m not, especially where Canada is concerned. The Harper Government is way too focused on blocking environmental legislation (Bill C-38 anyone?) in our own country to even begin considering others.

    But, while Canada is arguably benefiting from climate change, most countries are suffering. Unfortunately I think that these countries (especially low- and middle- income countries) will go unheard once again.

    My prediction: any commitments made will be half-assed and broken anyways.

    • Sadly, I have to agree. I feel as though the G20 discussions underway right now in Mexico are almost a forecast of how Rio 20+ will go and it leaves me a little hopeless. If some of the richest and most able governments in the world are unwilling to make the commitments necessary to save their own economies and environments, what hope can there be that they would intervene when and in the ways needed to help the economies and environments of other nations?

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