Today, Progressio’s delegation hit the ground running at Rio+20, or rather the preparatory days leading up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which will take place from 20th – 22nd June.
To set the scene, the site of the conference can best be described as an expansive airport with its various terminals set against the backdrop of the Serra do Mar mountains. Already the site is buzzing.
There is a mood of anticipation and expectation as delegates from all over the world gather to seek agreement and action on the many environmental and developmental challenges facing the world today.
A few observations from our first day: our Brazilian hosts have made a concerted effort to ensure that this conference practices what it preaches. Rio+20 is a paperless summit, powered by biofuels and having the greenhouse gas emissions offset through the Clean Development Mechanism (the latter two will no doubt be controversial with some). Even the coffee and food served in the food court is sustainably sourced.
We’ve spent the day sussing the lie of land and getting our hands round the complexities of the UN process and the multiple, though not always easily accessible, means of influencing the negotiations.
As Derek Kim, a Progressio development worker from Yemen who works on water, reflected over dinner, ‘the sheer number of people here is daunting. Over the next ten days we need to be focused to ensure that governments hear the voices of the communities that I work along side in Yemen.’
We were reminded in the first session of the day that this is a historic moment. Never before has the green economy, Sustainable Development Goals, planetary boundaries or a social protection floor been discussed internationally. The level of civil society engagement prior to and during this summit is also unprecedented.
Yet, whilst progress is being made slowly but surely, still large swathes of the potential outcome text from the summit remain contentious. Encouragingly, governments are searching for common ground, but the ‘landing strip’ remains far off, as one delegate put it today.
At the same time, back in the UK, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg received hundreds of postcards from Progressio campaigners. Ahead of Rio+20, Progressio asked supporters in churches across the UK to tell us what they want to see the UK government pushing for at Rio.
To date, we have received over 800 moving and inspiring responses. Supporters asked for world leaders to act with vision and leadership: to look beyond short-term concerns and plan for the world we want our children and grandchildren to inherit. They told us they wanted a green and fair global economy that treats the poorest fairly; food security for all; water resources and other natural resources to be protected; tough action on climate change; an end to poverty through truly sustainable development.
Now that Nick Clegg has heard your voices in the UK, we’ll be working to ensure that both he and other leaders from around the world commit to take action ‘for the future we want’ and the future we need.
Let’s hope that when world leaders arrive in Rio next week they come equipped with the energy and the willingness required to secure an agreement that will deliver sustainable, fair and equitable development for all. Because, as a fellow delegate in the line for registration articulated, ‘our future depends on it.’
Lis Martin is Progressio’s Environment and Advocacy Officer. Apologies for the delay to this blog; we returned to a power cut at the apartment last night!