Posted on | June 15, 2012 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D. |
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, is now in its third day. It has been touted as the most significant UN Conference ever. That’s what we’ve been hearing from the Secretary General and his UN political sales fleet made up of high and low ranking UN staff and delegations for over two years.
Negotiations are currently underway on the outcome document of the Rio + 20 conference. The document will then be subscribed by world leaders who will participate in a high level summit next week. For the past two years there have been calls for an “ambitious outcome document”, one that will chart the course of the world towards a greener happier sustainable future. If the organizers are successful, the policy outcome of the conference is likely to reshape the way we think of every sector of the global economy, as well as the relations between developed and developing nations.
The success of the conference all depends on UN member states, and what they hope to get out of it. The outcome document will not have a legally binding effect, but it will outline the general policy direction of our political elites. In addition the organizers hope to create a new new Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development that will help hold countries accountable to voluntary commitments to sustainability, as well as aspirational Sustainable Development Goals that will harness the power of UN agencies and powerful donors for a future of sustinability.
While the Conference is supposed to address sustainable development, which in turn should include social and economic development toghether with respect for the environment, the green agenda of the developed world is dominating. The diplomatic corps of the developing world are simply outgunned in negotiations. Delegations have exhibited the same type of marketing skills that you would normally see at a car dealership. Most of the sales pitches are over “green” items. Many of the proposals assume that all developing nations already have viable political systems, able to meet out effective fiscal and environmental regulation. Sadly, that is not the case.
What defies comprehension in all this is the lack of agreement even among developing nations, of what constitutes the “green economy”, “climate change”, “green jobs”. The delegates from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, who are all fully committed to the green agenda, barely have a grip on the science themselves. During negotiations each nation has its own special ideal green future.
Which leaves us wondering what kind of document is going to come out of the Rio Conference, and whether all this emphasis on the green economy is plain reckless politicking. Developing countries will certainly have to continue to play catch-up to the west if a green agenda is adopted. Despite their best efforts to control the Rio process, they are being worn down by negotiations and will probably be buying the green agenda package in exchange for minor concessions in the outcome document. Over the past two days working groups have been subdivided into sub-groups, and further sub-groups again. The United States and European Countries have sent delegations counting over 30 people for the negotiations, while those from develooping countries are spread thin. The negotiating process seems designed to make them irrelevant.
The buzz words of the conference are “urgency”, “action”, “ambition”, “vital importance” and the likes. But whatever the outcome, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development does not come with any warranties. The course that will be charted will be irreparable. If the Conference is successful in forming a new “green” course for the global community, there will be no going back overnight. It could turn out to be a complete economic failure on a global scale, and most worryingly in countries that cannot afford it.