The Stanley Foundation
Menu
Close
Seeking a secure peace with freedom and justice, built on global citizenship and effective global governance.
Search 
think.


Rio+20 = What?
June 2012

Right now, thousands of government, business, and civil society representatives from around the world are meeting in Rio de Janeiro for one of the largest and most important UN summits in two decades. The Rio+20 Conference—successor to the first Rio “Earth Summit” held twenty years ago—will take place from June 20-22. The conference will address two major themes—a “green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” and an “institutional framework for sustainable development”—as well as seven critical issues: jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans, and natural disasters.

While the conference will take stock of the progress made since the first Earth Summit in 1992, according to the Brazilian government, success will be determined by new commitments and agreements. Actions such as the strengthening of the current UN Environmental Program and the creation of a business platform for the green economy are just some of the outcomes Brazil hopes to see. Most importantly, there is hope that the conference will leave a legacy akin to that of the first Earth Summit, whose documents and deliberations paved the way for treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol. One such legacy may be the negotiation of Sustainable Development Goals, which will function along the lines of the Millennium Development Goals.

However, leading into the conference, the prevailing opinion is that Rio+20 runs the risk of becoming a missed opportunity. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that breakthroughs on the scale of those achieved in 1992 are unlikely. By the beginning of May, negotiations aimed at finalization of an action plan for the conference had been so “painfully slow” as to require an extra round of talks between May 29 and June 2. Even after that round, only 20 percent of the content of the document had been approved, meaning the rest of the document was negotiated by the Preparatory Committee immediately prior to the conference.

The stalemate on the action plan reflects a wider sense of disagreement and disillusionment on the part of the world’s governments. Though 130 heads of state have accepted their invitations to Rio+20, Obama is not likely to attend. Nor will his British and German counterparts be present. Participants in a global development podcast from The Guardian pointed to two major trends that differ from those seen in 1992: a likelihood that much of the work and progress will be done by NGOs and businesses rather than governments; and a North/South divide that sees developing countries investing more time and effort in the preparations than developed countries. In fact, there is evidence that developed countries such as the US, Canada, and Australia have “backtracked” on some of the commitments and principles negotiated in 1992. The lack of urgency and progress has been so troubling to some that they have said the conference is in need of being “saved.”

Yet some still hesitate to make premature conclusions of failure at Rio. While lack of government involvement (especially from developed countries) is disconcerting, some believe that “a world without clearly defined leaders is not a leaderless world”—that NGOs, businesses, and issue experts are just as likely to generate progress and commitments as political actors are. The Obama administration seems to place its faith in this “bottom up” approach, which would hopefully generate public pressure on governments to act on matters of sustainability policy. Indeed, the role of civil society and businesses in this year’s summit is much greater than in 1992, as is evidenced by many side events and initiatives, such as Rio+Social and the Rio Dialogues. The secretary-general of the upcoming summit has called Rio+20 “everyone’s conference,” meaning that it is everyone’s responsibility to achieve a more sustainable world and that everyone—politician, businessman, and citizen alike—has the potential to generate change.

—Audrey Williams, Stanley Foundation Policy and Outreach Intern


Share: Email Facebook Twitter
HIGHLIGHTS
2017 International Women Authors Event 2017 International Women Authors Event
Pulitzer Prize finalist Laila Lalami, author of “The Moor’s Account,” will be the featured speaker at the 2017 International Women Authors event on November 9 in Rock Island, Illinois.

Courier Courier
As summer winds down, take a look at the new issue of Courier from the Stanley Foundation. The Summer 2017 issue delves into topics including the transition away from coal in Germany, the increased role of cities in global governance, and the crisis in Venezuela. Also in this issue, read about the increased capabilities of 3D printing, and oversight over emerging technologies. Summer 2017 PDF (1,151K) Subscribe for FREE.

Stanley Foundation Annual Conferences Stanley Foundation Annual Conferences
The Stanley Foundation holds two annual conferences, UN Issues and the Strategy for Peace Conference. These bring together experts from the public and private sectors to meet in a distraction-free setting and candidly exchange ideas on pressing foreign policy challenges.

Divided into roundtable talks, the cutting-edge discussions are intended to inspire group consensus and shared recommendations to push forward the debate on the foundation’s key policy areas.


A Climate for Conflict: Stories from Somalia A Climate for Conflict: Stories from Somalia
The Ground Truth Project, New America, and the Stanley Foundation are hosting a Screening of “A Climate for Conflict” and discussion with the creators followed by a panel discussion on Climate Security and Societal Resilience on May 30, 2017.

Somalia today is at a crossroads between a deepening crisis and a path to stability. Photographer and filmmaker Nichole Sobecki and writer Laura Heaton spent 18 months documenting personal stories of Somalia, creating a film, photography, and reporting that vividly illustrate the human consequences and security risks of a changing climate. Read more.

Follow the conversation online with #AClimateforConflict.


Stanley Foundation at 60
On December 12, 1956, the Stanley Foundation was certified as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Iowa, bringing to life an organization dedicated to creating a world in which there is a secure peace with freedom and justice. Sixty years later, the organization continues to pursue and advance that vision as a thriving nonpartisan operating foundation. Moreover, it remains an organization with a professional staff and the involvement of family members who have an ongoing role in shaping its strategy and core values. More.

Receive Materials Receive Materials
The Stanley Foundation publishes policy briefs, analytical articles, and reports on a number of international issues. To reduce our carbon footprint and cut waste, we almost exclusively, use electronic distribution for our publications. Sign up to receive our resources via e-mail.

the latest the latest
Our bimonthly newsletter is filled with resources to keep you up to date with our work at the Stanley Foundation. Each edition includes news about recent publications and stories as well as features our people and partners.

You will also find many extras, from upcoming events to multimedia resources. Sign up for the latest to stay engaged on key global issues.


Watch and Learn Watch and Learn
Stanley Foundation events, talks, video reports, and segments from our Now Showing event-in-a-box series can now be viewed on YouTube. To receive regular updates on our video posts, please subscribe today.