The problem blends with the transit of migrants who cross the region in search of the American drea...
MANAUS, Brazil – In three months, the eyes of the world will once again be on Brazil.
But it won’t be because of the World Cup or Carnival.
From June 13-22, the country will host Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
The name is a reference to the 20th anniversary of Rio-92, the UN conference held in Rio de Janeiro two decades ago that introduced numerous important environmental agreements on issues such as climate change and biodiversity.
It also produced Agenda 21, an action plan focused on environmental protection, social justice and economic efficiency.
Unlike the 1992 conference, the purpose of Rio+20 is not to introduce new treaties or agreements.
“The ones we have in place are great,” says Brice Lalonde, the executive director of Rio+20.
“The world is becoming more unsustainable. We need action, not documents,” Sha Zukang, the UN general secretary for Rio+20, told the press during a working visit to Brazil the first week of March.
The goal is to seek practical actions for resolutions that were made years ago, Lalonde adds.
“It’s time to identify the obstacles preventing the implementation of these measures,” said Lalonde on March 22 in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, where he took part in the World Sustainability Forum, sponsored by the Business Leaders Group.
At the event, Lalonde spoke to businesspeople, government representatives and members of Brazil’s Congress.
“The discussion cannot simply be held between government representatives. Businesses must also participate in the debate,” Lalonde adds.
The document that will serve as the starting point for Rio+20 was discussed at the UN headquarters in New York from March 19-23. Another round of discussions will be held in a month, also in New York.
But government representatives are not the only ones discussing the focus of the conference, Lalonde adds.
From March 26-29, scientists and environmentalists will meet in London for the Planet Under Pressure conference. At the event, the scientific community will present the latest research into climate change and the impact of economic activities on the environment.
The Brazilian business community also is preparing for Rio+20.
“This is the first conference with real participation from the business community,” says Fabio Feldmann, a sustainability consultant, in reference to Stockholm 1972, Rio-92 and Rio+10, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002.
One example of the increased participation by businesses is a fair featuring sustainable products made by micro and small businesses, organized by Brazil’s Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE), an official partner of the UN at Rio+20.
“We want to definitively insert small businesses into the global sustainable development agenda as protagonists of change,” says Carlos Alberto dos Santos, the technical director of SEBRAE.
But physicist José Goldemberg, the 2008 winner of the Blue Planet Prize, considered the Nobel of Environmentalism, says the conference’s agenda still needs to be discussed.
“Draft zero [the first draft of the conference agenda, released in January] doesn’t contain anything new,” says Goldemberg, who was Brazil’s minister of the environment in 1992.
Gro Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway and author of the Brundtland report, titled “Our Common Future,” at the World Sustainability Forum in Manaus: “We’re not going to overcome the financial crisis that has shaken the world if we don’t think about long-term development.” (Courtesy of Imagem Paulista/Divulgação)
One purpose of Rio+20 is to discuss the UN’s framework for dealing with environmental issues, Lalonde says.
At the forum in Manaus, Lalonde advocated the creation of an agency focused on the environment, much like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and a council for sustainable development.
“Having only one program [the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)] is not enough. Countries are not compelled to act through the program,” Lalonde says.
In addition to discussing the structure of the UN, member countries are going to debate the creation of new development indicators.
“We need to take on a broader view of development,” says Gro Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway, whose name is synonymous with environmentalism.
In 1987, she coordinated the preparation of a report on the environment that bears her name. The Brundtland report, titled “Our Common Future,” was the document that introduced the concept of sustainable development.
Brundtland says that since the last century, the success of a nation was measured in terms of its accumulation of wealth. But development should also take into account the level of social equity, income distribution and environmental conservation, she adds.
“We’re not going to overcome the financial crisis that has shaken the world if we don’t think about long-term development. That means we have to consider issues like climate change,” Brundtland added during her speech at the World Sustainability Forum.
The executive director of Rio+20 agrees with Brundtland. Lalonde said thinking about environmentally correct solutions will ensure that countries engage in long-term sustainable development.
“Let’s imagine that the world is a single country,” Lalonde says. “Would we permit environmental degradation and social inequality? Certainly not.”