June 23, 2012

Rio +20 notes

Dirt Digger's Digest - Rio +20 is following what is now a familiar pattern in which governments drag their feet while major companies try to give the impression that they are the vanguard of environmental reform. The extent to which the United Nations has embraced this dynamic can be seen on the website Business.UN.org, whose tagline is “Partnering for a Better World.” Corporations can post their sustainability goals on the site under the misleading category of Commitments. Whether the various goals are timid or ambitious, they are all, of course, voluntary in nature and thus unenforceable by the UN or any other body.

According to a report issued for Rio +20 by Friends of the Earth International, large corporations and business associations have in effect hijacked the UN’s policy making process: “There is increased business influence over the positions of national governments in multilateral negotiations; business representatives dominate certain UN discussion spaces and some UN bodies; business groups are given a privileged advisory role.”

Guardian, UK - Civil society groups and scientists were scathing about the outcome. Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo called the summit a failure of epic proportions. "We didn't get the Future We Want in Rio, because we do not have the leaders we need. The leaders of the most powerful countries supported business as usual, shamefully putting private profit before people and the planet."

..The main outcome of the conference is a plan to set sustainable development goals, which Brazil described as the "crown jewels" of the conference. But the gems have not yet been chosen, let alone cut, polished and set. Negotiators at Rio were unable to agree on themes, which will now be left to an "open working group" of 30 nations to decide upon by September 2013. Two years later, they will be blended with Millennium Development Goals.

The weak leadership shown in the conference halls has prompted many in civil society to rethink their strategies. Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said a "red/green alliance was the only way forward". If the current development model doesn't change, "we are going to see economic dislocation greater than we're facing now," she said. "There will be more wars around water and energy, so we need labor and environment walking hand in hand."

Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch - These conferences have always been pretty fraudulent affairs, lofted on excited green rhetoric  and larded with ominous advisories that “this time we cannot afford to fail” and that “the tipping point” is finally here.  But failure has been a loyal companion, and many a tipping point has tipped without amiss. There is no such thing as a world “community.”  There are rich nations and poor nations, all with differing national interests and the former will never accede willingly  to the agendas of the latter, however intricate the language of the final  windy “declaration”. Since Gro Bruntland lofted it to glory in 1987, the word “sustainable” has long been drained of all meaning.

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