22 June 2012, article by Lucie Rosset, UN Youth Delegate for Switzerland:
We have been talking about Rio+20 for months now, yet the conference only got under way officially the 20th of June 2012. In reality, the text that will be presented and signed by all of the member states at the end of these two days of the conference has already been approved. It is supposed to reflect the unbelievable number of hours of work that were involved in the numerous sessions of negotiations in New York. How is it possible to use such vast human and financial resources to arrive at a result comprising around 50 pages, which many people find disappointing? Is it legitimate to accept such a weak text given the scale of the degradation already proven?
The expression «it’s better than nothing», which has been uttered by numerous delegations, is questioned by civil society today. During the opening ceremony of the conference, the nine major groups were invited to address the heads of state. They all asked the world’s big decision-makers not to content themselves with this text and to take advantage of the two remaining days to improve it. Moreover, some spoke of rejecting the text in the form, in which it is presented today. This applies to the NGOs that would like the words «in full participation with civil society» deleted from the first paragraph. This statement triggered even more debate among the young people than the initial ones on the question of our position vis-à-vis this result. A large proportion of young people reject the text while others adopt a more qualified position, why is this so?
Rather than being a question of different visions arising from different cultural backgrounds, I think that the problem here is the broad scope of sustainable development. In effect, in aiming to cover all of the possible elements of society, sustainable development is becoming a concept, in which everyone can find something of interest. Hence, numerous conflicts of interest arise as the nature conservationists do not sing from the same hymn sheet as the economists or the activists striving to eradicate poverty. The abundance of the topics approached leads, de facto, to a lack of capacity on the part of the actors to consider sustainable development as a whole. Hence, some young people may be satisfied because the topic they support, be it equality between men and women, rights of access to education or the protection of flora and fauna, is dealt with relatively well in the text. Nevertheless, I believe that a more general vision should be adopted here and the text should be considered as a whole.
Moreover, international phenomena are not simple. Despite its defects, the UN remains the only institutional platform that facilitates exchange, hence it has an essential role to play in enabling us to think about the future together. I do not have the time to go into it in detail here, however, in my view, one of the positive aspects of Rio+20 is the reversal of the North-South powers. We have seen how traditionally dominated countries were able to assert their positions and defend their interest with a considerable degree of success.
Finally, instead of heralding a phase of global pessimism and scepticism, the results of Rio+20 should be approached with an attitude of constructive criticism. Concrete alternative suggestions should be produced at all levels so that we can remain confident in the capacity of people to live together with dignity while respecting others and their environment.