Presentation Sisters in Rio for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development
It is 20 years since the first Earth Summit was held in Rio, and it is significant that leaders of the Nations of the world – Members States of the UN – will assemble again to consider the future of planet Earth, and many organisations in Civil Society will also attend. The International Presentation Association will be represented among those organisations. In the past few years we have been conscious of a variety of international meetings that were held to challenge the nations of the world to come to agreements on environmental protection – held in such venues as Kyoto, Bali, Copenhagen, Durban, Johannesburg and Mexico. There have been Mutilateral Agreements, Conventions and Treaties signed. Some of these are binding under international law and many are not binding. The Rio+20 Conference will be another attempt to arrive at commitments by the world’s governments to accept responsibility for environmental protection.
The concept of Sustainable Development that has emerged identifies three “pillars” – Economic, Social and Environmental. The Economic Pillar includes the capacity and willingness of the nations of the world to adequately fund the commitments that will be accepted; the Social Pillar includes the 8 Millennium Development Goals that were set by the UN to be completed by 2015. MDG 7 relates specifically to environmental protection. For Rio+20, the MDGs have been linked to a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals which address both social and environmental factors. The Environmental Pillar is concerned with environmental sustainability.
There are two major topics under discussion at Rio+20:
1. The transition to a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. The principles of a Green economy have been outlined in previous international meetings and may be addressed under the following headings:
- Equitable distribution of wealth
- Economic equity and fairness
- Intergenerational Equity
- Precautionary Approach
- The right to human development
- Internalization of Externalities
- International cooperation
- International liability
- Information, participation and accountability
- Sustainable Consumption and Production
- Strategic, co-ordinated and integrated planning to deliver sustainable development, the green economy and poverty alleviation.
- Just transition
- Redefine Well-being
- Gender Equality
- Safeguard biodiversity and prevent pollution of any part of the environment.
2. The institutional framework (governance tools) for sustainable development. Since the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, a number of organisational structures have been established to address environmental issues. They include:
- Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) which functions to restructure and revitalise UN economic and social activities, and to manage sustainable development.
- United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) whose function was to be the “conscience” of the UN on environmental issues.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which assesses the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change.
- The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) acts as a co-ordination body on Sustainable Development for ECOSOC.
- The Environmental Management Group (EMG) which is an interagency body across the UN system.
- United Nations Development Program (UNDP) which advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.
An obstacle to effective functioning by these structures is that, with the exception of ECOSOC, they have no avenues to directly influence the UN agenda on Sustainable Development. They are generally required to submit their proposals via ECOSOC. The other significant organisation is the World Bank. Its funding activities are often influenced by the donor nations, and in recent times the World Bank has continued to invest in such activities as extractive industries producing fossil fuels.
A major challenge facing Rio+20 is that the UN Member States generally do not address environmental sustainability from a global perspective, preferring to organise their responses within national boundaries. The recognition that the natural environment is not restricted to areas specified by the human community requires a major shift for many national leaders.
On the IPA website there are several items that discuss the Rio+20 Conference. A number of gatherings of Presentation Sisters around the world were held to reflect on the major issues that confront Earth Community. The International Presentation Association Submission to Rio+20 Compilation Document was substantially prepared by Joan Power pbvm (Victoria). Rio+20 will produce an Outcome Document – The Future We Want – now in draft form – and the IPA has outlined its expectations of that outcome document in the following set of principles:
- respect for life that includes the laws of nature and affirming the interdependence of all life forms on earth and the dependence of the human species on a healthy ecosystem;
- The green economy recognizes the relationship between gender equality and sustainable development and women’s role as change agents and community builders;
- Importance of Education: All stakeholders need to be educated holistically, from cradle to grave, on the inter-relatedness of the three pillars of development: social, economic and environmental;
- A green economy acknowledges that there are common but differential responsibilities;
- Good management of forests is essential to the development of a green economy.
1. Our Voice For Rio+20 – 31 March 2012, a community workshop convened by several interest groups –
- Friends of South East Queensland (FOSEQ); United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA); Earth Charter: Australian Green Development Forum (AGDF); The Academic Council of the United Nations System (ACUNS).
- This full day workshop roundtable interactions on the 15 Principles of the Green Economy and the Sustainable Development Goals.
2. Rio+20 Briefing – 9 May 2012, convened by The United Nations Association of Australia and Australian Government’s Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
This evening Briefing was a presentation of the Australian Government’s submission to Rio+20. It provided a glowing representation of Australia’s work on Sustainable Development and its possible modelling for Developing Countries. The presentation was followed by robust discussion with the participants and advice to the Australian Government representatives to be “honest and humble” in presenting their material.
3. Between Durban and Rio! – 17 May 2012, presented by Ian Fry, an international Climate Change Negotiator for the government of the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu. Cosponsors:
- Friends of the Earth, Brisbane; Friends of Tulele Peisa, OxfamUQ; Earth Link; Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
This evening presentation and follow-up panel responses and open discussion focused specifically on the insecure future of small island nations that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and severe weather events.
Those attending Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference as representatives of IPA are:
- Sr Marcela Alejandra Cruz Barrios pbvm – Chilean
- Sr Elizabeth Lee pbvm – Canadian
- Sr Rosemary Grundy pbvm – Australian
- Ms Mary-Ann Greaney (Associate) – New Zealander
- Mr Tamai Mafuse (Associate) – Zimbabwean
- Ms Stephanie Campbell (requested to be included with IPA reps) – Australian
We will be participating in a number of Parallel Events that are scheduled in the days prior to and during the conference. We will also be observers to the sessions of governments. You are encouraged to take an interest in the proceedings and we will provide you with a report of the experience as a follow-up.
Rosemary Grundy pbvm