CIVICUS – Pushing for multilateral engagement in Rio+20

As an Organizing Partner of the NGO Major Group for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), along with Northern Alliance for Sustainability and Consumers International, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation has been offering a variety of opportunities to express civil society voice in the run-up to the Rio conference in June.

CIVICUS has co-organized and assisted with a range of meetings and workshops, which have produced reports and inputs into Rio+20’s draft outcome statement. An emphasis has been on ensuring that the views of CSOs from the global South and those outside the core environmental sector are heard. CIVICUS has therefore pushed for genuine engagement with civil society by multilateral institutions.

Being aware that economies have grown at the expense of natural resources and human capital since the 1992 Earth Summit, when the concept of ‘sustainable development’ gained popularity, civil society representatives are now witnessing attempts to reverse or neuter agreements made in 1992. Fundamental human rights such as the right to proper nutrition, safe drinking water and sanitation and the right to development are currently under threat.

Unfortunately, compared with the Earth Summit of 1992, ambitions for Rio+20 are low. Some see the economic crisis driving a reassertion of national interest-based agendas, exacerbated by new power battles between emergent politically and economically powerful countries. Within the process, the limited number of negotiation days points to a more profound dysfunction of a multilateral system built for an earlier age and no longer fit for purpose. The challenges of Rio+20 suggest a need for multilateral reform.

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