Rome, Wednesday, June 1, 2011
From the 2nd to the 13th of May the 19th Conference on Sustainable Development took place at the United Nations.  This was in preparation for the Summit that will take place in Rio in 2012 which will be the 20th Conference.  Between shadows and hopes, the doubts are predominant. John Paul Pezzi.
Photo. Tornado in Joplin, USA

The assembly of this year was prepared by the Secretary General’s Report, by the reports on the continental work and by the Report of the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting which served as the basis of the negotiations about the final text, which was not yet ready by the end of the work because of a lack of consensus about many details.

The main purpose of this 19th Conference, and the final document, was the preparation of the next Summit in 2010: Rio+20, Rio for the place and 20 because it is the twentieth of these Conferences convened in June of 1992 at Rio by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit with the adoption of Agenda 21. Soon after, inserted in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) the General Assembly – December 1992 – created the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSS) with the task of elaborating the documents, proposals and studies in order to encourage, make relevant suggestions and support socio-economic changes primarily to preserve resources for future generations.

Every year the Commission gathers in a Conference the delegates of its 54 member nations, the representatives of the NGOs and Feminist, Youth and Church movements.  Alternately, one year the Conference discusses (“negotiates” is the term used) – the political and program lines for Sustainable Development, the other year they review how the various nations have implemented the decisions adopted.

An important step was the World Summit on Sustainable Development – Johannesburg (South Africa), 2002 – to take stock of achievements, challenges and issues arising since 1992.

When, like this year documents are negotiated, most of the time is spent in minute –and sometimes pedantic– discussions of the text.  The rest of the time is spent listening to interventions of reporters, ministers, experts, who sometimes speak at a hellish speed because they have only 5 or 3 minutes depending upon whether they represent a group or only one entity.  It’s a “tour de force” to remain seated for hour upon hour, trying to understand perfectly useless speeches, or others that are aimed at promoting themselves by governments or institutions, just to make sure to not miss the politicos and experts (few, to be honest) who touch upon the heart of the problems.

The topic of Sustainable Development is complex: it implies the protection of the environment, the agreed decisions regarding the indicators that define it, the controlled use of chemical products, the exploitation of the mines and of underground resources, national and international transport, and in a special way, waste management.

The ecological disasters of the recent months lead us to think that we have or we are passing the point of no return of an unprecedented stress on earth (Ban ki Moon).  Japan, Pakistan, the United States, Spain…:  a sequence of non casual phenomena.  It is time to stop calling them “natural”.

The UN convened 19 Conferences and 2 World Summits, with a third one on the horizon. Is the problem therefore perceived seriously on the highest political and social level?  In reality the accusation by the experts and international organizations is that in 20 years nothing or almost nothing has been done to abandon the exploitation which destroys our planet, in order to render development sustainable.

And what concrete proposal have been brought forward in preparation for the Summit Rio+20?

Every assembly of the UN repeats with extenuating monotony through the mouths of governments and organizations, gathered in New York from all over the world with a dispersion of money and energy, that we are consuming too much.  A clear sign of the lack of political will of the governments to face and resolve the problem.

How can this be explained? The answer is simple and deceiving.  Development touches concrete areas: transport, chemical products, mines, and waste.  In order to be sustainable, it must be structured on a sustainable production – which takes into account that natural resources are not inexhaustible – and a sustainable consumption- which requires a lessening of consumption-. The first point touches the capitalistic interests; the second is against the exasperating desire for well being of the rich, envied and rightly wanted today also by the poor.  The politicos give no answer; to the contrary they carelessly exasperate the conflict for electoral reasons: after me comes the flood!

Every one of us, instead, is a consumer who must learn to consume with respect for nature and in consideration of the process in human and environmental terms.

Some light was given by the so called Group 77 + China, supported in its proposals by many representatives.  New structures are not useful since they should require new expenses; it is enough to make the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) more capable and in harmony with the third component, the Environment.  A clear road map must be prepared, a Green Economy in Blue Ocean, so Rio+20 will not be a celebration, but a moment of energies catalyst. And then it’s also necessary to create a space for arbitration of conflict situations, added the representative from the European Community.

In the last day, a “Briefing for Delegates was going around. Rio+20: From Earth Summit to Earth Grab? At Rio+20 Governments can create a more responsive and representative Multilateral Environment Network… or enthrone a new Environment Empire. Three issue: Climate change, Green Economy, Green Governance”.

Some representatives presented their suspicion that the market is already preparing to exploit this new direction: the green economy then becomes the green capitalism with the purpose of preaching the green ecology in order to have the green money.  Is it not possible for once to overcome the power of the market for the good of the people?

It seems that today society and governments have lost the inspiration of 1992: the preparation of Rio+20 is late, but if we cannot stop the clock of the time that sees the approach of ecological disaster on our planet, we can change our way of dealing with it.
(Translation to English by Dennis Conway).