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Rio+20: opportunities and challenges

by Aksel Nærstad

The Earth Summit on sustainable development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was a very important event. The conference adopted the Climate Convention,  the Convention on Biodiversity, and the Agenda 21. In 2012, in Rio, there will be another United Nation Conference on environment and development: the Rio+20 conference. More and Better is taking active part in the preparations and works together with other organizations and networks in order to get ecological small scale agriculture to be a key issue at the conference.

The main issue for the Rio+20 conference will be “Green Economy in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication”. This theme open up a lot of possibilities to discuss the most important issues in the world today. It gives us a good opportunity to promote ecological small scale agriculture. But there are also many concerns raised from civil society and some governments, especially  from developing countries. So far, little emphasis has been put on the historic responsibilities of the industrialized countries, and on the need for changes in the global economy, trade rules and power balance.  Yet, poverty eradication has not been discussed very much either and strong concerns are referring to the fact that the main focus will be on “green-washing” unsustainable policies and practices.

In the end of February 2011, a report on “green economy” will be published by the United Nation Environmental Program (UNEP).  A preview of the report and many other documents on this issue are available on their webpage (see links below).
The other main issue for  Rio+20 will be “Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development”.  The governance issues are also important,  and organizations in More and Better should also discuss that.

The process leading up to Rio
Three UN Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings are foreseen before the Rio conference in 2012. The first was held last year, the second will take place in New York on March 7-8th 2011, the third will be held on May 9-11th 2012. Intercessional meetings are organized in between the PrepComs; the first one took place in January 2011. Prior and during that meeting civil society organizations managed to gather in a number of meetings. In this framework, More and Better is actively engaged in an informal work group with a focus on agriculture and related issues in the Rio+20 process. This group met in February, during World Social Forum in Senegal, and will also  meet before the second PrepCom, in New York.

From October to December 2011, there will be five regional conferences covering all parts of the world. What kind of civil society activities and participation there will be at or linked to these conferences is not yet clear.
The dates for the conference in Rio in 2012 are not decided yet, but it’s most likely that the conference will be held in May 2012.

National activities
Activities  on national level will be very important for the outcome of the Rio-process and the conference itself. So far, very little has happened on the national level, but one of the members of More and Better, the Green Movement of Sri Lanka, has already taken the initiative to involve civil society in Sri Lanka.  We encourage other organizations to do the same, and  to share their viewpoints, experiences etc. with others, through the newsletter and the webpage of More and Better.