The negotiated outcome text of the Rio+20 conference, titled “the Future We Want”, was released within these last few days of the conference after some feet dragging by delegates from 191 countries. In many cases, the text shows missing links, the use of poor phrasing and a lack of action.
Many NGO heads have been calling the texts weak.
Our Executive Director, Anselm Iwundu, stated on his Twitter @anselm_iwundu: “Reprehensible that we had to “Negotiate” the #FutureWeWant! Outcome? Watered down texts; NOT the kind of ambition needed to take us there”. In a press release, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, said, “This is not a foundation on which to grow economies or pull people out of poverty, it’s the last will and testament of a destructive twentieth century development model.” Stephen Hale, Oxfam spokesperson at Rio+20, stated “Everybody should look in the mirror and ask what history is going to make of this. We face connected crises. Rio+20 should be a turning point, but it is a dead end.
Heads of State, government representatives and major group representatives will meet in the next couple of days to discuss the next steps especially with respect to implementation. Fairfood International’s own analysis of the text highlights gaps in priority areas of our work; we hope that as the process continues these gaps are closed in the final discussions.
Last week, at the beginning of our time in Rio, we provided our take on “The Future We Want” in the form of the “The Food Future We Want”. We made several demands on the food and beverage industry based on the priority areas of the Rio+20 agenda and hoped that governments would seize this opportunity to demand more engagement from the private sector.
Food security and sustainable agriculture
The Rio+20 negotiated text does stress the importance of the promotion and support of sustainable agriculture (110). However, where it identifies that the private sector should contribute more to sustainable development by implementing sustainability initiatives and CSR (46, 47), it does not call on the private sector to address social and environmental violations within their supply chains through initiating policies and practices.
Although it is recognised that food production should become more sustainable and ensure sufficient food for all, while still conserving natural resources as much as possible, the important role of local food production and markets to support food security challenges which are crucial for a sustainable global food economy has not been recognised.
The negotiated text states that women and men should have equal access to job opportunities and worker protections (152). However, it doesn’t mention how this will be implemented; with women responsible for producing more than 55% of the world’s food supply (UN.org). There should be more of an emphasis put on women’s empowerment; including through training, job opportunities and participation in decision-making.
We noted that the document has included measures which describe the need for a more efficient use of energy and the development of cleaner and more sustainable energy sources (127).
We expected to see that the document would stress the importance and need for companies to also take responsibility for implementing energy efficiency throughout their entire supply chains.
Sustainable and effective water resource management is covered in the document (120). It emphasises the need for water to play a key role in sustainable development and for integrated water resource management programmes to be adopted. We, however, expected to see more focus on initiatives for providing sustainable water management systems to vulnerable drought prone areas, such as Sub-Saharan Africa.
The outcome document did state the importance of implementing the pre-existing international guidelines and legal frameworks for oceans; such as the United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (158, 169). However, where there was an opportunity to address the devastated state of our oceans, the content of the text completely fails to recognise any opportunity to put a plan into action to help the oceans recover and establish sustainable fisheries. Where governments have failed, especially the United States, Venezuela, Canada and Russia, we believe that companies must now take the lead in ensuring the health of the oceans; specifically, due to their direct control of fishing practices.
The importance of increasing poor and vulnerable areas’ resilience towards disasters was emphasised in the negotiated text (186). However, there was not enough focus on addressing the underlying causes and risk factors of disaster resilience; such as, sustainable agricultural systems, sustainable ecosystem and environmental management systems and integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation in business operations. While these issues were addressed in other sections of the document (108-118), they were not directly linked to disaster readiness.
Rio+20 had the opportunity to deliver a comprehensive plan of action to tackle the reality that the planet and its peoples face. In general, we see the potential in the Sustainable Development Goals. There needs to be a careful and inclusive plan put in place for the process of defining them and ensuring their effectiveness. Unfortunately, time is running short. Due to the failure of Rio+20, it is clear that companies must not rely on government legislation and agreements for putting proper steps in place. The food and beverage industry must themselves take the initiative to ensure a sustainable global food economy.
Cover image: FIESP (CC License)< Back