This is it! The official UN Conference on Sustainable Development starts today (20 June) and world leaders have just three days to set the course of the future for the Earth's population.  But will politicians listen to what civil society, small-scale farmers and some of the world's poorest and most marginalised have been saying to them in the lead up to Rio+20 proper? 

We're delighted to welcome this guest contribution to the Rio+20 blog series from Caroline Spelman MP responding to your calls for fair and sustainble access to water for livelihoods. 

From Caroline Spelman MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

“I am pleased that Progressio shares my belief that water is one of the key challenges facing us at Rio. Agriculture, water, and energy are fundamental to our economy and to the lives of so many of the world’s poorest people - they are also inseparable.

“By 2030, the world will need at least 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more clean water. All this will need to be produced without further damaging the environment. This means we face a twin challenge: to eradicate poverty and drive up living standards while living with finite resources. In my view, this can only happen by ensuring that we promote sustainable and inclusive growth.

“This is a global issue that requires global action.

“I want to come away from Rio with a tangible outcome which will drive action to put the world on a more sustainable footing, which will alleviate poverty and increase equity.

“This could be in the form of an agreement to create Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to drive forward international action on the major sustainability challenges facing the planet.

“What we need is a small number of SDGs, focused on the most critical sustainability issues, which are linked to poverty eradiation, growth and development. I would like to see them focus on food, water and energy. These themes are key – not just to our economy – but for the lives of many of the world’s poorest people.

“To take food for example – half of the world’s undernourished people and the majority of people living globally in absolute poverty are estimated to be smallholders – dependent on farming for their existence and most vulnerable to threats to the food system.

“Agriculture also uses 70 per cent of fresh water – and we need to feed an increasing population whilst ensuring that everybody has access to clean drinking water – a luxury which currently 740 million people are not afforded.

“We need global recognition of these issues and focus to drive forward change – in a coherent and coordinated way. SDGs are the means, I believe, to do this, and I am glad to know Progressio support this view.”

Caroline Spelman MP is in Brazil right now representing the UK delegation. On 23 May Progressio campaigners met with the Secretary of State for Environment, Caroline Spelman MP, urging her to put the world's poorest people at the heart of the Rio+20 negotiations on sustainable development by pushing for fair and sustainable access to water for livelihoods. And on 13 June we also took your concerns to the Deputy Prime Minister who is heading up the UK government delegation to Rio+20.

You can ask questions to Caroline Spelman MP and the UK delegation at Rio+20 using the comments function below - we'll make sure they get sent through to her.  Alternatively, you can read Caroline Spelman's daily Rio+20 diary on DEFRA's website or follow @DefraGovUK on Twitter to keep up with the what the UK delegation is doing in Rio.

Tomorrow it's back to Dan, Lis and Derek, the Progressio team in Rio. They'll be blogging about how negotiations are progressing and what we can hope for in the final outcome on Friday - but if you can't wait follow @ProgressioNews and @LlamaLola on Twitter for updates direct from #Rioplus20.   



Dear Caroline

I am loosely affiliated with a number of grass roots organisations that are acting cooperatively to protect people under threat from the key issues dominating the lives of millions here in the Britain.

With well over twenty years of experience in consulting, designing and building projects relating to water and agroforestry, I like many others have a number of innovations and projects that would both increase energy security, food production and water resource management. But alas, some of these initiatives seem to be hitting obstacles - especially bureaucratic ones.

I have even looked through some of the research produced by DEFRA that concurs with my long held view that water resources, wildlife buffers and other enhancements to the way we address drainage issues can and hopefully will eliminate problems.

Would you please contact me on the email provided in order that I can relate some of the issues directly to you.

Thank you


Thanks for your comment David. We have passed it on to Caroline Spelman's office so you can look forward to a response soon. Best wishes, Esther. 

David, I work at Defra helping manage Ministers' correspondence and I'm afraid I haven't been able to find your email address. Could you please email with the issues you'd like Caroline Spelman to address and we'll get back to you? If you mark your email "Progressio blog post response: Helen J has been dealing with this" I'll make sure it gets to the right place. Here's the contacts page on our website which shows other ways to get in touch too: Best wishes, Helen J