The way from Rio to Rio via Johannesburg has taken 20 years in which none of the hopes raised at the Rio Summit 1992 have been translated into substantive action as regards sustainable development and the fight against hunger in the world.
The outcome is deplorable: mindboggling losses of biodiversity, an increasingly erratic climate, endemic poverty, ravaged forests, increasing water pollution, crisis upon crisis, chronic unemployment, social security setbacks … and this list is anything but exhaustive.
Now that the lights illuminating the summit devoted to planet earth have been dimmed, we must realise with rising resentment that Rio+20 was just another summit where the rulers of the world were seeking to defend – not the environment – but their own quality of life.
The reason why Rio+20 failed to come up with the hoped-for results resides in the fact that not all the parties concerned in all the quarters of the world committed themselves to sustainable development; most prominent among them – the big powers.
The failure to set mandatory objectives, to fix a timetable and to agree on a road map, and the failure to agree on funding instruments for sustainable development testify to the inconsistency of the final document which emerged from this “celebratory High Mass”. This outcome is telling evidence of the crass discrepancy between the the decision-makers’ words and deeds.
How can the “Green Economy” that was to be the priority subject of negotiations at Rio+20 be interpreted against this background? This new concept is pure illusion considering the difficulties encountered in the attempt to reach agreement on a basic document.
As for the rest it seems designed to further widen the gap between North and South.
Whereas Europe sees it as a new approach to solving the crisis, the countries of the South are alarmed by the prospect that they would have to meet environmental standards which would make their access to the markets of the countries in the North even more difficult.
The representatives of Africa, at any rate, returned from Rio+20 just as deeply disappointed as from all previous summit meetings. What has become of all those broken promises? What has become of the funding and the technology transfer promised at COP 15 in Copenhagen? And how will matters proceed in future?
Considering the inglorious outcome of Rio+20, a final stop should be put to palavering – what we need is hands-on action. There must be an end to waiting, because otherwise people will keep dying of malnutrition and poverty year upon year, there will be recurring floods, the deserts will expand even faster, plant and animal species will continue to become extinct, education and health will become increasingly casualised.
Aware of the crucial role it will have to play in the context of social environmental justice, the African civil society of which the African Naturefriends Network (Réseau Africain des Amis de la Nature – RAFAN) is a prominent part, will need to mobilise its resources and mount concrete actions on the ground. Because the “house” we live in must not be destroyed, and “the future we hope for” should materialise tomorrow and not remain sheer fiction.
Deputy Secretary General of ASAN – Association Sénégalaise Amis Nature
Chairman of the African Naturefriends Network – RAFAN
Vice-President of Naturefriends International – NFI