Hopes and dilemmas for Rio20 (by Rishab Khanna)

Walking in the streets of Rio takes me back home in India. The energy is affectionate and warm, and the spirit is infectious. In between the pristine Amazon and the ocean, the streets are buzzing with the anticipation of the global summit on sustainable development.

Countries from all over the world meet once again to take stock of the global economic, economics and social situation, 20 years after the Earth summit. This meeting is happening at a time when the current economic system is being questioned by most, the euro is under a crisis and most other economies are not doing too well either. Our ecological systems are also under enormous pressure, we are witnessing climate change impacts, biodiversity loss and desertification.

For the past few years countries have been trying to come up with a consensus on how to deal with these major challenges through the meetings convened by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Here at Rio, we are at the final stage of this process. Over a hundred heads of states will meet between 20 and 22 June, to come out with a final decision on the future road map of sustainable development.

The text is being worked upon at the moment in five major areas: reaffirming political commitments, green economy, sustainable development goals (SDG’s), institutional framework for sustainable development and means of implementation. The section on political commitment is majorly rhetorical, and is lacking an apology by countries on the failure of achieving their promises they made in 1992. I believe this is crucial, because even though technological progress in the last 20 years has its merits, we have to acknowledge the damage we have caused our ecological and social systems.

The section on green economy has been a major controversy and has caused a rift among the developed nations and the G77 (developing countries), leading on to debates in the coming days on the concept of inclusive green economy.

To make the decision more tangible and meaningful, countries have proposed the sustainable development goals: tangible objectives which the world should work towards in the journey to sustainable development. Some say that the SDGs would be the next phase of the Millenium development Goals. However there is not much clarity on the relationship between the SDGs and MDGs, and what will happen post 2015, when the MDGs were meant to expire.

The fourth major area in the negotiations is around the institutional framework for sustainable development. Some of the institutions which are the main contenders of reform are UNEP ( United Nations Environment programme ), ECOSOC ( Economic and social council ) and UNCSD ( United Nations commission for sustainable development). This is crucial as till now the above institutions have lacked the resources and appropriate representation to make real impact.

Last but not the least is the text on means of implementation, where the countries are struggling to put financial resources and technology on the table. The G77 group have been upset about the lack of seriousness around this area of the text. It seems that developed nations are taking note of this issue, and we might see more progress on this area in the coming days.

It is great to be here and observe these historic negotiations, and amazing to have a great team and friends who are working with me here in Rio.