Commenting on the draft text proposed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Progressio’s Head of Delegation in Rio, Daniel Hale, says:
“We can’t settle for an agreement that lacks genuine scale, ambition and commitment to the change our world so urgently needs. For world leaders to sign this agreement as it stands this coming Friday would be a huge disappointment. We’re particularly frustrated that there is no explicit reference to the importance of involving poor communities in finding solutions to the urgent problems we face. After all, it is the poor who will continue to pay the highest price if the ambition and vision of Rio+20 fizzles out.”
As world leaders arrive today at the official UN Conference on Sustainable Development, it appears that there is pressure for an agreement for the sake of an agreement and at the expense of the vision and ambition the world needs. While everyone is in agreement that poverty, environmental degradation and climate change all require ‘concrete and urgent action’, the text is not clear on what ‘action’ might look like and is very weak when it comes to implementation, particularly regarding financing.
EU Ministers themselves have complained that the outcome as it stands is weak. Danish Environment Minister told the BBC: “The EU would have liked to see a much more concrete and ambitious outcome, so in that respect I'm not happy with it."
From the UK delegation, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman MP yesterday tweeted: ‘Not all we hoped for has been agreed and there is more to do to turn words into actions.'
Progressio campaigners urge world leaders to take up the challenge and commit to action:
“There are still three days to turn a text that reads like a compendium of past and unfulfilled promises into a game-changing roadmap to set the global community on a new tack towards the sustainable future we all say we want for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and for poor and marginalised people around the world,” says Daniel Hale.
“The ‘recognising’, ‘reaffirming’ and ‘acknowledging’ seem like retrograde steps considering how significant the agreements were 20 years ago at the 1992 Earth Summit,” says Derek Kim, a Progressio water management specialist from Yemen. “That’s not enough. Poor and marginalised people, who are most disadvantaged by unsustainable management of the world’s resources, deserve more than just empty promises. We need targets and deadlines to make sustainable development more than an aspiration.”
Progressio’s Policy Officer, Lis Martin, who is in Rio lobbying world leaders to take measures to secure fair and sustainable access to water for livelihoods, says there’s room for improvement in the agreement:
“While the acknowledgement of water’s centrality to sustainable development is welcome and the text itself is encouraging in linking water directly with development issues, there is a distinct lack of clarity on what these recognitions will mean in practical terms,” she says. “World leaders now need to commit to involving poor communities, and especially women – who play an important role in effective water management – in decisions about how to ensure scarce resources are accessible to all.”
While calling for more ambition overall, Progressio also welcomes some important steps taken in the current draft. In particular, the agreement to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals that are universally applicable is something to celebrate.
The question, as Progressio’s Head of Policy and Communications, Tim Aldred, asks is: “Can world leaders go further and make the final Rio+20 agreement something our generation can be proud of? Or will this summit be another anti-climax? Poor people around the world and Progressio campaigners in the UK are looking to world leaders for courage and vision.”
Notes to Editors:
1. Progressio’s delegation in Rio de Janeiro are available for interview. They are Daniel Hale, Head of Delegation and Progressio Campaigns Officer, Lis Martin, Progressio Environment Policy Officer, and Derek Kim, Progressio Development Worker specialising in Water Management in Yemen. To arrange an interview with Daniel, Lis or Derek in Rio please email Esther Trewinnard or call 020 7733 1195 / 07783 409045.
3. Progressio is a UK-based charity working internationally to help people gain power over their lives and overcome barriers that keep them poor.