Tuesday 19 June 2012 - The latest news from Rio+20 and the People's Summit

Retracing Rio+20 origins

Two decades ago, various representatives from 179 countries met in Rio de Janiero, Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) or Earth Summit to create an international agreement that would build the foundations for a global partnership between those concerned with protecting the environment and creating sustainable development practices.

Of significance was the international recognition that environmental protection was closely interlinked with socio-economic challenges and with the development of societies based on principles of equity and justice. This was founded on the concept of sustainable development that had been coined in 1987 by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development's (WCED) Brundtland Report, defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

Agenda 21 truly highlighted this desire, as it was a groundbreaking document that called for new ways of reaching sustainable development in the 21st century and beyond. Along with the 27 principles developed in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Earth Summit demanded that the world and its people be looked after equitably and sustainably, in such a way that people and the environment could live well with each other. Also to come out of the 1992 conference was the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), the environmental treaty which was the basis of the subsequent United Nations annual Conference of the Parties meetings focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

This conference aimed at reaffirming the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment adopted at Stockholm in June 1972, as well as building upon it. Here the idea of the transboundary nature of pollution and the impact of global environmental degradation were brought forward as important concerns for the present and future generations to consider.

Present day Rio+20 and the People's Summit

On 20 June 2012, the next of the Rio conferences, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or Rio+20 will begin, running for three days. This conference focuses on two broad themes, namely a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and secondly, the institutional framework for sustainable development. Throughout all the Rio conferences, there has always been a strong presence of civil society organisations and movements in the form of the People's Summit, aiming to place pressure on governments to make the necessary decisions towards a just future for all and to learn from each other's environmental and social struggles at home.