By Edward Oyugi
The fear of a repeat of Cancun, when the Word Trade Organisation negotiations collapsed a few years ago, causing a stalemate to trade talks from which the spirit of multilateralism is yet to recover, has forced an uncomfortable consensus on the Rio+20 conference in Brazil. It has been billed a win-win outcome for the three parallel meetings that have been going on in in Los Cabos, Mexico and Rio in Brazil.
Whereas in Rio the UN on the one hand and civil society on the other have been haggling over a document expected to deliver commitments that seek to make the world a more sustainable place for future generation, in Los Cabos two parallel meetings have been going on: One, by the G20 and the other by the 300 odd members of the corporate world, keen to influence from a safe distance the content and policy direction of the document being negotiated in Rio. The latter has been meeting to draft recommendations for the G20 meeting, in the same Mexican city. Their choice of G7 as a reliable conduit for eventual influencing of the Rio+20 consensus is fitting if not instructive.
Instead of inputting directly into the Rio conference like any other civic groups that have been engaged in the Prep com deliberations, the 300 business people assembled in Los Cabos found it strategically more convenient to use their traditional proxies to coarse victims of their economic operations into an unprincipled consensus that begs more questions than answers.
Yes, a deal has been reached. But all the same it is a deal couched in a language of hope, the realisation of which will take more painful struggles by the victims of inequitable development of the global economy. The upside of the deal is that, it goes a long way in reaffirming, with tentative caution, the main pillars of the Rio principles of 1992, including the erstwhile controversial Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR). The deal has also brought on board the spirit, of human rights based approaches to sustainable development. China, has also pledged, alongside its Brics partners to further invest in sectors that will act as the critical levers of a green economy that has defied any commonly agreed definition; namely energy, employment, water, agriculture etc.
It is, however, unacceptable that an agreement that seeks to manage population as a means of maximising opportunities for achieving sustainable development can awkwardly remain silent on issues of reproductive health. But even more disheartening is the problematic intersection between equitable and sustainable developments, particularly given that the corporate sector of the world economy is expected to become the main driver of the two obviously inseparable goals. It goes without saying that jobless growth, rampant inequity, ecological unsustainability, food insovereignty and poor conditions of health for the majority of the people can all be put down to the pet economic policies of the developed economies of the Global North and their corporate sidekick. This begins to explain why social movements, holding a parallel Prep com meeting in Rio are not all happy with green economy mantra that reverberates through all the Rio+20 discussions.
Some of them have been heard proclaiming that green economy is “just a fresh coat of paint on the old predatory monster of capitalism” they have been used to. Workers and landless Brazilians taking part in the march on Wednesday June 21 along Avenida Brazil in Rio were heard saying branding it “green capitalism” is likely to intensify the commodification of nature.
The challenge however, is how to turn the ambiguous statement on how to mobilise the required resources for the implementation of the Rio+20 agenda, since no firm commitments found their way into the final document. Without firm commitments regarding who will foot the bill in accordance with principle of CBDR it will be business as usual.
Writer is a lecturer at Kenyatta University
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