UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon
At the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, member nations, including Nigeria, made commitments. Abimbola Akosile examines the fallout of the global arena
The world is in danger, many analysts believe. Conservation, sustainability and innovative options and instruments keep cropping up, despite cultural, economic and social inequalities around the globe.
However, there is unanimity on one thing; if the global community does not quickly and effectively address the issue of sustainable development, the recurring economic and environmental challenges may overwhelm the world, Nigeria inclusive.
Facts and Figures
Rio+20, which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was attended by some 100 Heads of State and government, along with thousands of representatives from non-governmental organisations, the private sector and civil society.
More than 700 concrete commitments were registered at the conference from various governments, business, industry, financial institutions and civil society among other groups.
Some $513 billion in funding was committed during Rio+20 for several issues, including energy, food security, access to drinking water and management of the oceans, among others.
A wide range of actions have also been pledged, such as planting 100 million trees, empowering 5,000 women entrepreneurs in green economy businesses in Africa, and recycling 800,000 tons of polyvinyl chloride (commonly known as PVC) – one of the most widely used plastics – per year.
More than 40,000 people – including parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders – attended Rio+20 from 20-22 June.
The event followed on from the Earth Summit in 1992, also held in Rio de Janeiro, during which countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.
Over 50 million people from all over the world also participated in the conference through social media platforms, voicing their comments, opinions and ideas, making the platforms a key component in establishing a conversation on sustainability issues both in the lead up and during the conference.
A key element on Rio+20 was its outcome document, entitled ‘The Future We Want’ and agreed on by Member States after negotiations.
The outcome document calls for a wide range of actions. These include beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals; detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development; strengthening the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures.
It also called for taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country; developing a strategy for sustainable development financing; and, adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production.
The outcome document also focuses on improving gender equity; recognising the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development; and stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy; among other points.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has urged world leaders to build on the commitments they made during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to achieve economic, environmental and social prosperity for people all over the world.
“The speeches are over. Now the work begins,” Ki-moon said at the closing ceremony of the three-day summit, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“Rio+20 has affirmed fundamental principles – renewed essential commitments – and given us new direction,” he added. “From governments to the world’s biggest companies, from philanthropic organisations to youth volunteers, they are part of a growing global movement for change.”
The UN scribe also welcomed the adoption of the outcome document. “The outcome document provides a firm foundation for social, economic and environmental well-being,” he said. “It is now our responsibility to build on it. Rio+20 has affirmed fundamental principles – renewed essential commitments – and given us new direction.”
“Our job now is to create a critical mass, an irresistible momentum. Because the road ahead is long and hard,” he noted. “Rio+20 has given us a solid platform to build on. And it has given us the tools to build with – the work starts now.”
“Sustainable development is the only option for humanity, for our shared planet, for our common future,” Rio+20’s Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, said in his closing remarks. “Let the commitments of Rio be with us all, as we continue our journey towards a sustainable future.”
“Twenty years ago, here in Rio, we put in place key principles and international agreements to guide our efforts,” Zukang said. “Rio+20 carries on that tradition, and has laid out a framework for action to expedite implementation.”
Nigeria’s Summit Priorities
At the world gathering in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, Nigeria prioritised seven key areas to focus negotiations on.
Speaking in Abuja, Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, listed the areas to include green development, energy, city planning and development, food security, clean and safe water, disaster management, job creation.
Mailafia said Nigeria was aligning her priorities with that of the United Nations to ensure that the nation was not left behind in the scheme of things. She said the country has an articulated position with input from the various stakeholders to be present at the summit.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who also attended the three-day summit alongside other world leaders, reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to sustainable development.
In his speech at the plenary session of the UN Conference, the President reaffirmed his administration’s determination to create greater employment opportunities for Nigerians.
“In our sustainable development agenda, under our medium to long term National Plans, we have developed several sectoral initiatives, particularly in agriculture, petroleum, solid minerals, power supply, and renewable energy. The initiatives also cover trade and investment, water and sanitation, according priority to environmental and wider development issues.
“Our goal is simply to create more jobs and opportunities for our people to rise out of poverty, and to create wealth to ensure sustainable development,” the President said, noting that the world leaders’ presence at the summit underlined the fact that global cooperation was necessary for ensuring sustainable global development.
Jonathan also said the leaders had an obligation to eradicate poverty and promote green economies for sustainable development.
Members of the Africa Progress Panel expressed their disappointment at the failure of the Rio+20 summit to deliver meaningful and measurable commitments to combat climate change and its effects across Africa and in other developing regions.
Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, Kofi Annan, said: “The lack of commitment to defined and measurable sustainable development goals at the Rio+20 Summit is a profoundly disturbing outcome. We have an obligation to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, who bear the brunt of the global ecological crisis – and to future generations, to do better.”
Other Panel members called for urgent action to help poorer nations and individuals make and meet commitments.
A member of the Panel and former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Michel Camdessus, said: “I strongly agree with my colleague, Mr. Annan, in calling for a financial transactions tax as an innovative method for mobilising development and climate change finance.”
Another member of the Panel and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Muhammad Yunus, drew particular attention to the need for strengthened land rights protection and global standards for land acquisition.
“In the last decade, speculators have bought up over 134 million hectares of land in Africa - an area larger than the UK, France and Germany combined, threatening the livelihoods and the futures of the poor people who often live on this land,” he added.
When this reporter went to the World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai, India in 2004, the message and theme was ‘Another World is Possible’. That is yet to be realised.
And now, 20 years after the first Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, the world met again in Brazil to ensure a better world, with outcome documents and action plans. Time shall tell if there is a chance for a better present and an assured future.