The Earth Summit, aka The World Summit on Sustainable Development aka (for those in the know) Rio plus 10, is the follow up conference from The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio, Brazil in 1992.
The theme of this summit is people, planet and prosperity and the summit is aiming to produce a practical plan for governments to work on and, unlike with previous summits, will be looking to do this in partnership with business, NGOs and civil societies movements.
So what is the grand plan?
We don’t know yet but the summit aims to cover a very ambitious range of topics, some people think too ambitious and in this sense the summit may be setting itself up to fail.
In Rio, a plan of action was drawn up for governments to tackle urgent global issues in sustainable development- such as Climate Change, bio-diversity, health, poverty and corporate responsibility.
But Rio has failed to deliver on much of its promise and this summit presents a second chance for the world to get it right before it really is too late.
What is this Sustainable Development business?
Sustainable Development is one of those catch all terms that can mean everything or nothing. Essentially it’s about balancing social, environmental and economic concerns so the interests of one are not furthered at the expense of the others.
It’s also about ensuring the resources we currently use in industrial nations are not at the expense of poorer people and that developments must ensure the current gap between rich and poor is narrowed. The most accepted definition comes from the World Commission on Environment and Development, which defines sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
What are the critical issues for the upcoming Johannesburg Earth Summit?
The summit is expected to come up with concrete and practical ways to achieve the targets in sustainable development that came out of the Rio summit. The plan is expected to include more imaginative and inclusive ways for governments to work in partnership with ngos and the private section. Kofi Annan (Secretary General, United Nations) has identified five priority areas for the summit to cover. These are water, energy, agricultural productivity, bio-diversity and health. Tied in with this is the overall issue of poverty reduction, seen as perhaps the most controversial area for the summit.
Poor nations, especially those in Africa, feel Rio and the priorities addressed since then have marginalized the issues of poverty, pointing to the fact that in the last 10 years the gap between rich and poor has widen. African per capita income in 1980 was 10% greater than it was in 2000 and throughout the world almost 1.2 billion people live on less than 2 dollars a day.
The other critical issues on the agenda include:
Energy and climate change
Education and literacy
Use of new technology and closing the gap between North and South