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Rio+20: a failure to face our challenges and injustices

This morning, all the nine major groups within the UN system had a hard time to find anything positive coming out of Rio+20. Kiara Worth, the representative of the youth group, made a brilliant speech that got the whole major group meeting up for a standing ovation when she said that our leaders have failed completely and that we will have to do it ourselves.

The only positive point mentioned by several groups is the fact that the world has agreed to move from MDGs to SDGs (which also focusses on change in the developed countries). But as the Local authorities representative said: this outcome is probably the worst we could have had because we have an agreement that is way too weak but as there is an agreement, it will be difficult to mobilize from the ground up. The trade unions talked about the risk that the whole multilateral process is now even more under question. The NGOs referred to a petition ‘The future we DONT want’ that was launched by EJOLT partner ANPED and that was signed by more than 2000 people from 100s of organizations, reflecting that the vast majority of civil society rejects this document. The NGOs also referred to this petition in their 3 minute statement in the plenary with heads of state on Wednesday, adding that “You cannot have a document titled ‘the future we want’ without any mention of planetary boundaries, tipping points, or the Earth’s carrying capacity. The text as it stands is completely out of touch with reality. Just to be clear, NGOs here in Rio in no way endorse this document.”

NGOs, trade unions and youth have asked to remove the words “in full participation with civil society” from the first paragraph of this document, because there has only been a fake debate. Heads of state have only come to Rio to sign a document made by a Brazilian coup that did not care about full participation of civil society at all.

There are many examples of why this document is unable to deliver us ‘The future we want’. We are still spending 100s of billions of dollars subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. There is no mandate to even start negotiating an implementing agreement to stop the abuse of the high seas. There’s an extraordinary lack of any reference to armed conflicts or nuclear energy. There’s no mention of social or environmental justice, planetary boundaries or sufficiency. The list is almost endless.

But some positive things did come out of Rio. There was a people’s summit outside the UN premises with a lot of energy and an occupy Rio demonstration right at the entry of the hall where the heads of state were doing their statements. The Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties that developed over the last year culminated in a one-page manifesto that builds on the commitments that came up in all of the 14 Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties: equity – localizing our economies and a global citizens movement.

The EJOLT family working in twenty countries on four continents is already part of that global citizens movement – with the specific goal of pushing for environmental justice through direct action and action orientated research. We will continue to do so as long as justice is not served.

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