20 Years Later, Will Anything Change?
- Image from flickr user: Qtea
In 1992, more than 178 governments came together in Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit. The Earth Summit was created as a response to the growing impact of humans on the environment. This summit resulted in Agenda 21, which contained a comprehensive plan of action for all countries under the United Nations organisation to implement.
Under Agenda 21 the Rio declaration was created pertaining 27 principles ranging from topics such as the rights of indigenous peoples to the protection of resources all in the name of sustainability. This declaration was adopted by more that 178 governments, and 20 years later they will reconvene for Rio+20, a sequel to the Earth Summit of 1992.
On the 22nd of June this year, Rio+20 will take place once again in Rio de Janeiro. There, the establishment of new sustainable development goals (SDG) will take place.The goals will focus on the impact of higher education on areas such as: decent green jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security, sustainable agriculture and disaster readiness. In conjunction with the SDG’s the conference will also focus on two major themes – a green economy and poverty eradication. These new sustainable development goals will be somewhat similar to the previous principles from the Rio declaration. 20 years on, there has been little global change since the implementation of the declaration. We are no closer at achieving a sustainable world where poverty has been close to eradicated (Principle 5) and nor have we achieved a global partnership to conserve and protect the integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem (Principle 7) as well as many more. The articles of the Rio Declaration have remained an idea, with no meaningful progress towards their fulfillment.
Now in 2012, the United Nations is reconvening to discuss the exact same issues at which they aimed to resolve in 1992. Their justification for another conference according to the United Nations is to confront:
- The exponential global population growth
- One in five people living in poverty
- Lack of basic necessities for a billion and half people
- Greenhouse gasses and the threat of climate change
- The task of solving poverty and minimising environmental degradation for the future generation
- The task of being able to work together on a global scale
These are things that were already discussed and solutions adopted 20 years ago. Instead of creating progress the governments around the world are repeating themselves. With little awareness and global media attention to the progress of the Rio Declaration, or this new conference we are at risk once again at another failed conference. The issues that the United Nations wishes to confront this coming June are all the major issues that world is talking about now, especially the younger generations. There are global movements by the hundreds created by organisations such as 350, Greenpeace, The Sea Shepherd, Youth Coalitions and more that are trying to make governments confront these issues and make change.
As one of the biggest UN conferences in years, for youth, this may be the most important. Many youth around the world today are concerned with the burden that they will be receiving as leaders from the older generations begin stepping down. They will inherit a world facing climate change, man made environmental degradation and humanitarian issues such as poverty that have still not been resolved conference after conference by the UN.
From all the various COP conferences over the years, the UN has not achieved anything but meaningless accords and agreements. Many of which have faced fierce debate among governments who have built their economic power on industrialisation and unsustainable methods. Just last year at COP17 after two weeks of negotiations there were great fears that nothing at all would be achieved. The only progress made from COP17 was an extension for the Kyoto Protocol, somewhat minor in retrospect to the myriad of issues needing attention now.
As we draw closer to Rio+20 bearing in mind the fallibility of the United Nations, we can only hope that the new surge in interest for the environment will be enough to push for substantial change and policies. Mass awareness needs to be created now in order to assure the success of Rio+20 and to notify governments that the world is watching.
The urgency for the success of the earth summit 20 years ago as captured by Severn Suzuki then is just as true today if not more.
(Edited by Barton Liang)