Friday, 22 June 2012: Rio+20 summit - Final day
Avaaz advertisement calling on Brazil's President Rousseff to demand a timeline for the ending fossil fuel subsidies.
Yesterday, civil society organisations made a last attempt to change the text of the outcome document. Digital campaigning organisation Avaaz took out adverts in international editions of Friday's Financial Time asking for Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to reinsert a clause calling for the end of fossil fuel subsidies in the Rio+20 text.
In the morning, young people drew a red line to protest the future they don't want. Later, just before the opening of the People's Plenary, youth, activists and civilian delegates at Rio+20 came together in another protest. Their message was that Future We Want text does not represent them and it does not reflect their interests. They teared up a copy of the document and started a sit in action outside the negotiations hall. The initiators of the protests were threatened to be refused entry at the conference centre.
A description from a witness of the event: "There are around 200 people here, mostly youth activists and some representatives from indigenous groups, and the US environmentalist Bill McKibben. We've just heard a heart-breaking song called Earth Revolution Generation Now from the British Columbia indigenous group. People taking part have said the action has been declared unsanctioned, and warned participants they should stop if they don't want to have their badges taken away. But what different would that make anyway, one speaker said. McKibben started: "I'm older, I've had to watch these charades go on for longer than you. Enough is enough.""
David Nabarro of Global Food Security was impressed by the strong presence of young people at the Rio conference. Reactions were angry also during the People's Plenary and at the UN Women event.
Daniel Mittler, political director of Greenpeace, said that the outcome of the Rio+20 conference is 'nothing short of disastrous'. Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for conservation at WWF, added that two years of 'sophisticated UN diplomacy' in preparing for Rio+20 'has given us nothing more than more poverty, conflict and environmental destruction'. And Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Conference, said leaders had shown a lack of courage.
Yet, it seems that representatives of the governments did not want to listen to the voices of civil society. One of the participants of the roundtables describes that heads of state came in, made statements and then left. Roundtables seemed not to be a dialogue but, rather, a one-way street from heads of state to major groups.
Even though the outcome document is disappointing to many, there are also positive voices. A few concrete initiativeswere announced at the conference: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) unveiled its "conceptual framework" for a human sustainability index that would recognise rates of human development while also weighing up the cost of progress to future generations. The European Commission announced that it will contribute €5 million to help farmers maintain crop diversity.
FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva highlighted that the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security is part of the outcome document being negotiated. The guidelines provide a basis to recognise the ownership and access rights of poor families and communities to natural resources. The text recognises the right to food and the role of the Committee of World Food Security in global food governance, and highlights the importance of food security and sustainable management and use of forests, oceans and other natural resources, the need to shift towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns, and the need to revitalise agriculture and rural development.
Finally, Brazil, Denmark, France & South Africa joined together in an initiative to commit to corporate sustainability reporting, in support of paragraph 47 of the outcome document.
According to European Commissioner Janez Potočnik, The Future We Want text 'was the best we could get at this point in time'.
Today many asked who is to be blamed for the low ambitions of the outcome document.
Nick Clegg blamed China and other developing countries with huge reserves of coal. He said Europe can no longer take the lead in such international negotiations because power is shifting "from West to East". 'We no longer live in a neocolonial world where a small number of Governments can get together and write a text and say to the rest of the world you have to accept this,' he added. 'The developing world is much more assertive.' , Chinese delegation were happy with text of the outcome document.
Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth had another opinion concerning who is to be blamed. 'Many NGOs and civil society groups believe corporate influence has caused the UN to forget its core mission. It's time for the UN and its member states to restate that their overriding prerogative is to serve the public interest, not private profit.'
Nevertheless, signing of the outcome document is not the end but just the beginning of work. Two powerful women expressed this opinion in their speeches. Hilary Clinton: "While the outcome document contains many important principles and proposals, the most compelling products of this conference are new thinking, and models that can lead to action."
Izabella Teixeira, Brazilian Environment Minister: "We must keep the message going and promote the dialogue on sustainable development that we started in 1992. Rio+20 ends today but the journey goes on.'"
This means also much work for civil society organizations. On Monday, the Stakeholder Forum will organise an event that will bring stakeholders together for an interactive dialogue on what to do after Rio+20.
Today the Rio+20 conference officially finished. The heads of states left home but Rio de Janeiro still pulses with activities.
Text: Marta Dabrowska