Progressio members and supporters have been making their voices heard by supporting the Waterproof campaign. It’s easy to wonder whether this sort of action really makes a difference. Well, yes it does. On the morning of the Queen’s Speech I was invited to put your concerns in person to the Deputy Prime Minister who is going to lead the UK delegation to the Rio+20 conference.
As a result I found myself sitting at a table not just with other larger development agencies, but also representatives of huge businesses like Marks and Spencer, PWC (UK), Kraft, Aviva. We were invited by Nick Clegg to brief him, Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State at DEFRA, and Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, who will make up the UK Government’s delegation to the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development.
Sitting there was a testimony to hard work by Progressio over many years in policy development – all of which is rooted in the practical experience of our partners around the world and the development workers that have supported them. Progressio has clear, coherent and constructive policy requirements that have been recognised by the UK Government as important. Our policy position on water – water security as being central to food production and development (and not just about provision of clean drinking water) – is the UK Government’s second priority on their list for Rio. My voice – your voice – was very much heard round that table. Even being invited to sit round the table was a great achievement.
Of course we haven’t achieved this on our own – we’ve been working with others, but that too is the strength of Progressio.
Around the table there was a great and inspiring level of consensus about the importance of fair and sustainable models of growth and the need to address consumption patterns. There was also a real desire for a greater engagement of ordinary people. The issues on the table at Rio are not some academic exercise – they are the real, lived concerns of millions of people whose voice is rarely heard. They are also the concerns of those billions of future generations whose perspective political leaders so often fail to recognise.
So I sat at the table yesterday and felt very proud that I was bringing the views and concerns of people in the global South. We also want to bring the messages and concerns from people here in the UK – you have the opportunity to tell Nick Clegg what your concerns are using our “the future we want” postcard.
It’s easy to be sceptical, but the challenge facing politicians at Rio is to begin to think what is normally unthinkable in political terms – to think for the long term, for a low-carbon future, for less consumption here in the rich world, and to tackle poverty in a sustainable way. When the long-term usually means just the next Parliament, for politicians to be considering the futures of generations to come is pretty brave stuff, and we need our voices to engage and to keep them focused.
Read the latest on our Waterproof Rio! campaign in Daniel Hale's Road to Rio Blog 1 - Giant Leaps!
Photo: Marina Paterson from the West Indian Chaplaincy in Birmingham - one of hundreds of Progressio supporters who took action to Waterproof Rio!