The Aftermath

Kirsty Schneeberger | 9 years ago

As the dust settles many of us are still taking the time to reflect on the weeks, months, and for some, years of preparations leading up to the Rio +20 conference on sustainable development.

Held against the backdrop of the stunning city of Rio de Janeiro, with the ever constant reminder of the beauty in nature surrounding the conference venues, at the very least it was hoped that delegates would be aware of their responsibility to not only forge a sustainable development path for the twenty-first century; but to also live up to their responsibility to devise means to hand on a planet to the next generation in as-good-if-not-better-condition than they found it.

In reading the Outcome Document however it seemed to many post-Rio that an adequate commitment to living up to this responsibility was glaringly absent from not only the words themselves but even between the lines.  Indeed, many of the youth constituency felt so let down by the process that they staged a walk out in the final days of the conference, after a sit-in protest that lasted many hours, expressing their disapproval of the way in which their futures were being negotiated.
Those of us who remained until the closing minutes, anticipating the gavel drop that would symbolise the end of an era for many; and the beginning of a new dawn for many more, were left wondering how history would judge not only that moment; but the all the moments that had led up to one of the largest UN-led gatherings on a single issue – sustainable development.
The trick, when both trying to discover whether or not the process or documents do live up to the aforementioned responsibility, and in attempting to answer many of these interrelated questions, is to wear a pair of spectacles that offer a long-term vision lens for one eye, and a short-term magnifying glass for the other.  For the two perspectives must complement one another and offer a balance to reflections that are made and analyses that are conducted: take a too short-term approach and we risk not seeing the bigger picture; look too far into the future to glean long-term impacts and the lessons that ought to be learned fall by the wayside.
Wearing these long-short sighted spectacles when reflecting on Rio +20 will help underpin and inform the development and initiation of the myriad processes that will put into practice many of the outcomes and agreements contained in the final text.
Some headliners of the work going forward include:
• Establishing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
• Linking the SDGs to the discussion on Millennium Development Goals
• Developing the international frameworks for the post 2015 development agenda
• Supporting national efforts to transition to new and green economies
• Integrating intergenerational equity and the interests of future generations into the UN system
• Establishing a framework for corporate sustainability reporting
As the UN General Assembly begins its work for the year it is tasked with taking these outcomes and agreements forward, mandating the various UN Agencies to undertake the work necessary to achieving them, in order to deliver on the promises made.  The responsibility now falls on Member States to drive forward the agenda in light of the Rio +20 outcomes and set us on the path to sustainability that is not only desirable or necessary, it is achievable.  In moving forward and taking these steps together, let us hope that when pulling out their notebooks and pens, the esteemed diplomatic community also remembers to pop on their perspective spectacles.

As the dust settles many of us are still taking the time to reflect on the weeks, months, and for some, years of preparations leading up to the Rio +20 conference on sustainable development.

Held against the backdrop of the stunning city of Rio de Janeiro, with the ever constant reminder of the beauty in nature surrounding the conference venues, at the very least it was hoped that delegates would be aware of their responsibility to not only forge a sustainable development path for the twenty-first century; but to also live up to their responsibility to devise means to hand on a planet to the next generation in as-good-if-not-better-condition than they found it.

In reading the Outcome Document however it seemed to many post-Rio that an adequate commitment to living up to this responsibility was glaringly absent from not only the words themselves but even between the lines.  Indeed, many of the youth constituency felt so let down by the process that they staged a walk out in the final days of the conference, after a sit-in protest that lasted many hours, expressing their disapproval of the way in which their futures were being negotiated.

Those of us who remained until the closing minutes, anticipating the gavel drop that would symbolise the end of an era for many; and the beginning of a new dawn for many more, were left wondering how history would judge not only that moment; but the all the moments that had led up to one of the largest UN-led gatherings on a single issue – sustainable development.

The trick, when both trying to discover whether or not the process or documents do live up to the aforementioned responsibility, and in attempting to answer many of these interrelated questions, is to wear a pair of spectacles that offer a long-term vision lens for one eye, and a short-term magnifying glass for the other.

For the two perspectives must complement one another and offer a balance to reflections that are made and analyses that are conducted: take a too short-term approach and we risk not seeing the bigger picture; look too far into the future to glean long-term impacts and the lessons that ought to be learned fall by the wayside.

Wearing these long-short sighted spectacles when reflecting on Rio +20 will help underpin and inform the development and initiation of the myriad processes that will put into practice many of the outcomes and agreements contained in the final text.

Some headliners of the work going forward include:

• Establishing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

• Linking the SDGs to the discussion on Millennium Development Goals

• Developing the international frameworks for the post 2015 development agenda

• Supporting national efforts to transition to new and green economies

• Integrating intergenerational equity and the interests of future generations into the UN system

• Establishing a framework for corporate sustainability reporting

As the UN General Assembly begins its work for the year it is tasked with taking these outcomes and agreements forward, mandating the various UN Agencies to undertake the work necessary to achieving them, in order to deliver on the promises made.

The responsibility now falls on Member States to drive forward the agenda in light of the Rio +20 outcomes and set us on the path to sustainability that is not only desirable or necessary, it is achievable.  In moving forward and taking these steps together, let us hope that when pulling out their notebooks and pens, the esteemed diplomatic community also remembers to pop on their perspective spectacles.

About the author

Kirsty Schneeberger

Kirsty is an environmental advocate and campaigner. She is Climate Change Manager at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. Her interest includes climate change and the environmental inheritance we leave to future generations.