There is Hope for the World (on the bus) at Rio+20
By Kevin Henry, Project Coordinator, “Where the Rain Falls”
Most of the delegates and participants at the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development complain about the long bus rides from the city to the Rio Centro Conference center where most official activities are taking place. By contrast, I have found that the most interesting experiences, and the deepest conversations, I have had in my first five days at Rio have almost all taken place on the buses. While the official negotiators struggle to make progress at the conference center, tens of thousands of people from all over the world have gathered to share experience and ideas for how to make sustainable development for all, including the poorest and most marginalized members of global society, a reality.
The people with whom I have sat on the bus include: a South Korean professor of natural resources economics; a Swiss radio Journalist; officials from the Ministries of Environment of Ghana and Namibia; a British academic; the leader of a French non-governmental organization; and an idealistic young Canadian promoting spending six months in Brazil. Their interests range from how to engage their communities, whether government, academic or media, in global discussions about and action for a sustainable future, to promoting very concrete solutions and technologies to improve the lives of the poor through solar energy, sustainable agriculture, or low-cost housing. What does such a diverse group of people have in common? These global citizens, and many thousands more, have converged on Rio to express a common sentiment. In short, sustainable development, characterized by greater prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability, is not a luxury, but rather a necessity for the survival of our planet and the rights of future generations for a dignified life free of extreme poverty.
The actions of citizens from all over the world, and their passionate commitment to a better future, is perhaps the main sign of hope from this week’s gathering in Rio. Will our political leaders hear the voices of those gathered outside the closed rooms where the negotiations are taking place over the details of a text to be issued by Heads of State and Government at the end of the conference? And will all those gathered in Rio, both political leaders and members of civil society, remember that the 1.4 billion poor in today’s world deserve and expect more from all of us? To achieve the “Future We Want”, which is the theme of Rio+20, urgent and decisive action is required to address the threats that poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and climate change pose for our common humanity. No words in any text will be a substitute for such action.
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