Rio+20 Conference a “failure” for some

The Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Brazil from June 20 to 22, turned out to be nothing more than a disappointment for some.

The conference – which marked the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg – produced very little of note, according to Bryan Walsh of TIME Science.

The Rio+20 website states the conference aimed to highlight seven areas which need priority attention: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness. The Conference also hoped to focus on a green economy in the context of sustainable development, poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

However, TIME reported Chinese diplomat Sha Zukang, who headed Rio+20 for the U.N., called the final statement that was negotiated at Rio – titled “The Future We Want” – “an outcome that makes nobody happy”. Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International, also told TIME that the outcome was “a failure of epic proportions” and the statement itself was “the longest suicide note in history.”

Mercury News seemed to bring away the same thoughts on the conference, as its article reported not a “happy soul” could be found among the more than 50,000 people in attendance – including the “legion of bleary-eyed government negotiators from 188 nations” and top U.N. officials who organized the conference.

The article states the conference was a “failed attempt to find a breakthrough” and was merely a “conference to decide to have more conferences.”

But according to the article, “That result was hailed as a success by the 100 heads of state who attended. Given how environmental summits have failed in recent years as global economic turmoil squashes political will to take on climate and conservation issues, the mere fact of agreeing to talk again in the future constitutes victory.”

“We’ve sunk so low in our expectations that reaffirming what we did 20 years ago is now considered a success,” Martin Khor, executive director of the Geneva-based South Centre and a member of the U.N. Committee on Development Policy, said about the newly agreed upon proposal.

Some of the biggest issues activists wanted to see in the document that didn’t make it in, according to Mercury News, including a call to end subsidies for fossil fuels, language underscoring the reproductive rights of women and new policy on how nations might agree to manage waters that fall outside any national jurisdictions.

“We saw anything of value in the early text getting removed one by one. What is left is the clear sense that the future we want is not one our leaders can actually deliver,” Naidoo told Mercury News. “We now need to turn the anger people around the world are feeling into creative, thoughtful and meaningful action.”

The conference was not a complete disappointment, however, as the large gathering produced nearly 700 promises and advances made by individual countries, companies and other organizations, in total worth about $500 billion, if actually followed through, according to Mercury News.

One example is that the United States agreed to partner with more than 400 companies, including Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Unilever, to support their efforts to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains by 2020.

The Rio+20 Outcome of the Conference can be found here.

A cross-section of media synopsis articles on the conference can be found here.