EuroStep – Ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNSCD) to be held in Rio in June next year, also known as Rio+20, civil society organisations have described the official preparatory processes as being too slow and weak in content. If UNCSD is to live up to its commitment to achieving sustainable development, a fundamental paradigm shift in the global economic structure is needed. Any policy that is made within the current system that does represent such a paradigm shift will ultimately be unsuccessful, Eurostep has warned.
According to Hannah Stoddart from the Earth Summit stakeholder forum, progress in the preparatory discussions has been slow, as “no global leaders have come forward with a compelling vision for the Summit, and it has received little press attention”. This lack of ambition may be explained by the general struggle of international actors to agree on multilateral accords, as was the case in the climate change conferences in Copenhagen and Cancún, the expert stated. These concerns have further gained in importance after the UN Commission on Sustainable Development failed to adopt an outcome document at its meeting in May 2011. In light of the international community’s failure to live up to its commitments on sustainable development there have been concerns among developing countries that developed countries may use the broad sustainability agenda of the conference to “rewrite and replace the sustainable development narrative”, including the ‘green economy’ concept “with an associated weaker emphasis on social concerns”, Stoddart warned.
Rio+20 takes place at a crossroads. Voices have however grown louder, accusing the international community of predominantly focusing on environmental aspects of sustainability, lacking a sufficient focus on poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Moreover, current policy proposals for UNCSD do little to change the macroeconomic structures that leave millions in situations of chronic poverty. Any initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable development within these structures will ultimately be unsuccessful, since they fail to address the roots causes of poverty. That being said, UNCSD also represents an opportunity for such changes to be made and for this reason Eurostep shall be monitoring the developments surrounding UNCSD and in particular the EU’s approach to sustainable development closely.