Themes - 15 October 2012

en - Rio+20 A journey in search of a new paradigm of society

We, Franca Sessa and Marcia Ferrera, Little Sisters of the Assumption, participated in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, as representatives of a congregation that is a member of the NGO ’Vivat International’.

1.  The information that follows is intended to highlight the difficulties of a path that is directed towards a model of society with a vision of planetary Life. Those involved are, on the one hand, the institutional power groups who are imposing on all peoples new forms of capitalism and, on the other, the civil society groups that are proposing a radically different model for society, a model that would generate relations of solidarity within the human family and with nature. The setting for this conference was the United Nations. This Rio+20 meeting had been preceded by other events:

1972 Stockholm, Sweden, 110 Countries
United Nations Conference : The Environment
It stated that the Environment is what marks out the limits of the prevailing economic model. It initiated the conflict linked to the use of natural resources. It gave rise to the UNPE – United Nations Programme for the Environment, the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Montreal Protocol on the substances that damage the ozone layer.

1992 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
, 172 countries
United Nations Conference on the Environment
Earth Summit
It combined Sustainable Development with a critical view of the development model of the industrialised countries; it highlighted the incompatibility between the models of production and consumption and the rational use of natural resources. It created new bodies in the UN: the Commission for Sustainable Development, the Convention on Climate Change, the Agreements on Biological Diversity and the struggle against Desertification.

1997 Kyoto, Japan: the Kyoto Protocol
It was hoped to reach an agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on the part of the industrialised countries. The USA did not sign it.

2002 Johannesburg, South Africa
, 180 countries
Earth Summit for Sustainable Development
The commitments approved at the Rio Conference of 92 were evaluated. A Plan of Action for Sustainable Development was drawn, but was considered weak because of lack of political decision, aims and actions.
2009 Copenhagen, Denmark  - COP 15 - Conference of Parties
It was hoped to have an agreement of a universal nature on the climate that would come into effect in 2012. The industrialised countries did not accept it. There was a pact, but without any global aims for the reduction of greenhouse gases.

2010 Cancún, Mexico
– COP 16 - Conference of Parties
The negotiations between the industrialised countries (USA and Japan) and the developing countries did not reach an agreement on assuming responsibility for the environment.

2011 Durban, South Africa, 
- COP 17 – Conference of Parties
China, India and Brazil asked to have options for economic growth. The agreements reached were of a minimal nature such as the consensus to prolong the Kyoto Protocol until there would be a new agreement in 2015 or 2017, to come into effect in 2020.

2012  Rio + 20, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
, 188 countries
A UN Conference on Sustainable Development and International Governance
It was the biggest Conference held by the United Nations up to now, with the participation of 120 heads of state. It was intended that Rio+20 would set out objectives for Sustainable development that would aim to preserve the planet, with worthy living conditions for all peoples and for the generations to come, incorporating international governance in the process. The 188 participating countries officially adopted the document entitled "THE FUTURE WE WANT". The document is centred on the "green economy"; it mentions measures to be put in place from 2015. The expectations of civil society groups were frustrated.

2. “After Rio+20” is a call to reflection and to action .
We have received a flood of comments through the means of communication, and analyses by specialists in different fields and from all continents. We quote some thoughts that alert us to the importance of the "After Rio+20" as a time of constructive criticism and for preparing the steps to be taken to continue the journey:

•  Declaration by the NGOs to the plenary assembly of the world leaders entitled “THE FUTURE WE DO NOT WANT!" In a single day it was signed by over 1,000 organisations and individuals. It rejects the content of the document from the Conference because it does not respond to the aspirations of the peoples of the earth. It denounces the inaction of the industrialised countries of the North with regard to creating worthy living conditions for all people today and in the future, omitting to invest resources for sustainable development, using the economic crisis, continuing large investments in fossil fuels and the banks.
•  The green economy and the ecological debt:
The ecological crises reveal the crisis of the development model in the North and the South. Up to now the examples of the "green economy" show that

- today, the ten most powerful multinational seed companies control 73% of the global market; in 1995 it was 37%;

- 10 forestry companies control 40% of the market for paper and derived products;

- 1% of businesses in the world control the financial power of the planet.
Civil Society denounces the fact that the "green economy":

- it is increasing the "green" oligopolies" which destroy nature, merchandising and privatising the eco-systems;

- with economic growth as its basis, it does not take into consideration the capacities and the limits of nature nor the time for regeneration;

- it does not take account of the differences between developed and developing countries with regard to consumption and residual elements;

- it is repeating the ways of the present "extrativista" (illegal extraction) model and puts the desire to make money before the principles of social and environmental justice;

- it is increasing the accumulation of land, the violation of human rights and of nature and it is increasing conflicts;

- in the geopolitical perspective: although the population of the North is a fifth of the world population, their carbon emissions are 75% of the world total. These data reveal who causes – and who benefits from – environmental degradation.

- Up to now, the experiments carried out prove that market-based solutions do not bring any advantage to the environment but in fact signify a transfer of rights and of property from the poor to the rich. A sustainable guide ought to begin with the recognition of the ecological debt.
•  The incorporation of international governance
The final document of Rio+20 brings some faint glimmers of hope that there may be a brake on environmental damage and on the project that follow an exploitation model of development. Principle no. 10 – drawn up in line with the Declaration of Rio 92 – states that environmental issues should be handled with the participation of parties, from the individual citizen to the companies and indigenous tribes. Better know as “the democratic principle concerning the environment”, it states that access to information, justice and administrative procedures should be guaranteed so that there be significant participation in decisions, and it attributed to the UNEP (UN Environmental Programme) the mandate to implement Principle no. 10, including by a global convention.
  The aims of sustainable development
The final document aims at unified action on the three elements: the eradication of poverty, the sustainability of the environment and equitable distribution of the limited natural resources. RIO+20 mandated a work group to focus on priority areas by means of an inclusive and transparent government process. It set out common aims for all the countries, respecting the national realities, capabilities and levels of development. This tool is a basis for focussing unsustainable consumption and the production models established by the industrialised countries. It recommended that the financial strategies for Sustainable Development be controlled by institutional mechanisms so as to guarantee the aims of sustainability and equity.
•  Towards a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature so as to “Live well”
The adoption of a process to arrive at a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature.
The recognition of the Rights of Nature redefines the relation of respect and the ethics involved in the use of the Earth, which is necessary for "Living Well", so that people’s basic needs be satisfied through sustainable production and consumption. The recognition of Nature as a subject of rights is linked to the concept of "Living well" which involves new political, social, environmental and economic policies resulting in a life in harmony with nature and other persons and with the definition of a multinational and intercultural State.

Steps taken in the direction of a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature

- The World Charter for Nature approved in 1982 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

- The Quito Declaration at the 18th Forum of the Ministers for the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean and the First Meeting of the Ministers for the Environment of the Latin American and Caribbean Community of States (CELAC) on the 3rd of February 2012.

- The São Paulo declaration after a meeting of South-American Ministers on Culture and Sustainability, on the 14th of April 2012

- Declaration of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, a meeting of the vice-ministers for Foreign Affairs and Heads of Delegation, La Paz, 17th April 2012

- Ecuador and Venezuela adopted the "Living Well" programme as the axis for the Constitution of the country. It provides the support for the country’s strategic project and for the formulation of the transition needed to overcome the present developmental model.

Steps still to be taken towards a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature.

- The Rio+20 Conference approved the mandate by which the UN General Assembly may initiate a process of discussion on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature.

- Approval by the UN General Assembly of a resolution to work towards the Declaration of the Rights of Nature.

- Formation by the UN General Assembly of an intergovernmental work group to draw up the Declaration of the Rights of Nature.
  The Manifesto of the Peoples in favour of Sustainability following Rio +20
It is a call made to civil society through a consultative process with a hundred civil organisations who met in Rio de Janeiro. It is intended to be a collective proposal with regard to the transition to a sustainable world.

3. Vivat International participated directly in the Rio +20 Conference

VIVAT International has been contributing to the advancement of sustainable development in an ongoing way through a policy of recommendations based on the lived experience of its member congregations.
On the occasion of the Rio+20 Conference, both before and during the official Conference, the UN representatives and the members of Civil Society groups debated the content of the Conference document.

Vivat International defended the integration into the final document of various important recommendations on the exploitation of mines, demanding specifically that there be prior Information and Freedom for the consensus in the areas where the exploitation of the mines affects the indigenous populations. It defended the principle of the payment of the ecological debt for the damage caused by the mining operation and demanded the recognition of the negative effects of the extraction processes used by the mining companies and the overcoming of these through appropriate governmental regulations.

There were 40 members of Vivat from Brazil and other countries at this Rio+20 Conference. It was an opportunity for active participation within the framework of the UN and for an increased awareness of the importance of collaborating in a network, aiming at a new paradigm of society. It is a big, ever-present challenge.

Franca Sessa and Marcia Ferreira, Little Sisters of the Assumption

June 2012