What’s going on at Rio+20
As we go into the last few days before the official Rio+20 conference, I think it is important to reflect on not only what is happening there but how it intersects with the dreams and hopes of the whole world. Today (Friday June 15) the Rio+20 website changed its header. Yesterday the header read, “6 days to the The Future We Want.” (The Future We Want is the title being used for the outcomes document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.) Today the header reads, “258 Voluntary Commitments. Commit now for The Future We Want.” I see a couple of messages in this.
First, it is a bold move to claim that a UN document will lay out the future that we want and likely a bit of hyperbole but it does a great job of helping the world understand sustainable development and why it matters – it truly is all about the future we want! Second, the shift from a countdown to counting the commitments is partly PR but it also recognizes that Rio+20 is not just about an outcomes document that is used (or not) to guide national policies but that getting the future we want requires commitments by many non-governmental groups and individuals. The list of commitments makes for an inspiring read – it includes a wide range of organizations as well as many higher education institutions. AASHE has endorsed both the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative and the People’s Sustainability Treaty on Higher Education. Regardless of what happens in the outcomes document and who agrees to sign it or not, it is clear that many organizations are committed to keep the spirit of Agenda 21 and the energy in the past few months alive after all the delegates go home. THAT IS VERY
The activities in Rio are beginning to build as a predicted 55,000 people converge on Rio so here are some resources to keep up with what is happening:
ACTIVITIES: There are so many activities it is hard to keep track of them but the UN is trying. First are the UN approved (inside) Side Events – of particular interest is Aiming Higher: unlocking higher education’s potential for SD that AASHE with more than a dozen international partners put together to ensure that higher education would be recognized as an important contributor to sustainable development. That event will occur on Tuesday, 18 June at 7:30 pm (5:30 EDT) and AASHE will be represented by Kim Smith, Sociology professor from Portland Community College. In addition, there are Sustainable Development Learning Events; Partnerships Forum; SD Dialogue Days; and a variety of other events on and off site.
On the official front, the final Preparatory Committee meeting wraps up today so the markup that will go to the delegates will be finalized some time today. So far there has been very little agreement among the diplomats so it remains to be seen what will be provided to the delegates but I would expect to hear the term “bracketed language,” which refers to phrases around which there is not agreement, used to describe much of the document.
If you are a news junkie the news and media section of the UNCSD website includes both official and unofficial links to stories of what is happening. There are also numerous webcasts coming out of the meetings constantly. Keeping up with all the agreement, documents, proposals, news, and claims is a bit overwhelming – as it should be when the world is having a summit about sustainability.
Note: The US State Department has announced that the US delegation will be headed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson serving as alternate head of the delegation. Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change, will serve as chief negotiator. I have been unable to confirm who will be leading or joining the Canadian delegation. Please add that information if you have it confirmed.
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