From June 20th – June 22nd this year, world leaders, along with representatives from NGOs, the private sector and other groups, will gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The first Earth summit for 20 years, the conference will tackle the issues that surround finding a crucial balance between economic development and environmental sustainability.
Deemed necessary due to the continued degradation of the environment since the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, also held in Rio, the event will see representatives from over 190 countries take part in formal talks, with the aim of agreeing on a shared set of goals and principles by which nations can stand in the ongoing drive for global sustainability.
The two main themes for the conference are a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development, with a further seven main priorities identified as energy, disaster readiness, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and decent jobs.
The overall goal is enabling sustainable development, which is defined by the UN as development which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Seen as the guiding principle for long-term global development, sustainable development consists of three pillars: economic development, social development and environmental protection.” In practical terms, this means working towards a world in which a billion people no longer go hungry every day; everyone has access to safe drinking water, electricity, and fair wages; and the rapidly expanding global population can be accommodated without environmental deterioration continuing to increase along with it. Also, crucially, solutions must be found to the climate change problem, which threatens the survival of around a third of known species if left unchecked.
With so much at stake, there is fear that the aims of the conference are too vague, and that representatives will be unable to agree on strong courses of action; or that the agreed pathways to sustainable development will not translate into action on the ground when the differing priorities of so many stakeholders come into play. We can only hope that the representatives at the conference can engage and inspire the people they work with and represent at home, and that a stable foundation for sustainable development and the security of future generations can be put in place.
The following resources provide more information on the background and aims of Rio+20, and will allow you to follow the conference as it unfolds: