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UPDATE: The Rio+20 battle continues

Agence France Presse reports, “‘I believe that Rio+20 will deliver the instruments to make sustainable development a paradigm for the economy, not just for the environment,’ Andre Correa do Lago, the host country’s pointman for the June 20-22 summit… The Rio+20 gathering is to bring together at least 100 world leaders along with foreign ministers. …One of the key proposals will be to define ‘sustainable development goals’ that commit countries to meeting targets in the areas of food security, access to water, green jobs and even ‘sustainable production and consumption models’. …The summit will seek to outline a path toward a ‘green’ and social economy that can balance economic growth, poverty eradication and protection of the environment.”

While this may sound positive, analysis shows that the Rio+20 agenda for water includes the promotion of public-private partnerships, the construction of major dams, the financialization of nature, and the removal of the recognition of the right to water and sanitation. And just as we have critiqued how the millennium development goals have been approached, there are similar concerns about how ‘sustainable development goals’ could be used to advance other agendas, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=3962.

Environment ministers on-side with Rio+20 agenda
It would appear that most countries are already on-side with the Rio+20 agenda. In late-February, the Environment News Service reported, “(Nearly 150) environment ministers from around the world ended their annual meeting by promising to make the upcoming Rio+20 a success. …(Spanish environment minister) Federico Ramos de Armas said the green economy is widely viewed by ministers as a way to achieve sustainable development, poverty eradication and decent job creation… (Also, more than) 100 countries, including members of the African Union and the European Union, have backed the upgrading of UNEP to a specialized agency of the United Nations as one of the Rio+20 outcomes.”

Civil society fights back
But civil society is fighting back. The Inter Press Service reported in late-March that, “(Rio+20) is showing signs of divisiveness over a draft outcome document… An international coalition of over 400 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from 67 countries is challenging ‘an apparent systematic effort by particular governments to delete virtually all references to well-established rights to water, energy, food and development’. These are some of the basic principles agreed at the original Earth Summit in 1992, says the coalition which includes Oxfam International, Greenpeace International, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Council for Canadians, CIVICUS, and Women in Europe for a Common Future.”

Business lobbying hard for green economy
Today’s AFP news report notes, “(Rio+20) will also host a forum of global corporate executives. …(Prior to June) the summit negotiators hope to enlist the support of leading multilateral institutions. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank will discuss the summit’s agenda items later this month at a meeting sponsored by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, outgoing World Bank President Robert Zoellik and Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega. ‘There is no point’ in debating how to steer the world economy toward sustainable development if we do not involve ‘those entities that are those which economic circles take seriously,’ said (Brazil’s Rio+20 summit pointperson) Correa do Lago.”

But this obscures the reality that big business has been lobbying hard for months for the green economy. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development – a CEO-led global association of 200 corporations including Coca-Cola, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Walmart -has been at the forefront of these efforts. And Barlow has previously written, “At Rio+10, the corporate World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Water Council were already major players. The World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002 became totally captive to the interests of transnational corporations and is generally acknowledged by all but the big business community to have been a complete failure. The only concrete outcome of Johannesburg was that governments and the UN cemented their relationship with the corporate elite and paved the way for years of partnership hype and ‘greenwash’.”

The Blue Planet Project/ Council of Canadians will intervene at Rio+20. In advance of this, Blue Planet Project organizer Anil Naidoo will be at the final negotiating round on the Rio+20 declaration at the UN in New York, which takes place April 23 to May 4. To reflect our work in this area, we have launched a campaign web-page, http://canadians.org/rio20.