What will the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development mean for today’s generations and those to come?
For Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the conference’s mark will put the “spotlight on sustainable development.”
For African leaders, reports Devex, it has been chance to focus priorities on agricultural productivity, food security, industrial development, sustainable tourism, water, hazardous waste, and more.
For many nongovernmental organizations, Rio+20 is an opportunity to re-energize and scale-up progress on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, as well as plan for a post-2015 world.
Well-known economist Jeffrey Sachs in an interview with The Guardian suggests that a set of sustainable development goals could help us find better ways of measuring societies’ success.
But, between the competing priorities, politicking and many points of advocacy, where do children figure in the discussions and debates of the conference?
As it turns out, the youngest generation of our day is on the minds of the United States Agency for International Development, which highlighted harnessing the “demographic dividend” of youth who can grow into productive adults by expanding access to family planning and reducing child mortality.
Eduardo Nunes, head of World Vision in Brazil, also called for a focus on children.
“The cries of young people are more urgent than ever,” he wrote in the Huffington Post yesterday, lamenting that seven million children die from preventable causes each year. “Our future is being tragically squandered—tragic for the victims but tragic also because we are losing a critical resource whose fresh ideas and openness to innovation can help build a better tomorrow.”
On Monday at the opening of the conference, multiple United Nations agencies—the World Food Programme (WFP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO)—emphasized the need to eradicate child hunger to achieve sustainability. Together, these agencies form the REACH initiative, now active in more than 13 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
More than half of all children in developing countries live in poverty. By effectively allocating scarce resources, governments can reduce food insecurity, poor health and inappropriate care of children—all of which contribute to child mortality.
Children are still some of the most vulnerable and widest-affected by humanitarian disasters caused by drought, conflict or other natural causes. They often represent half of the affected population, or between 100-175 million children annually, says the UK’s Telegraph.
Yet, for many concerned with poverty and human rights, the conference was disappointing, owing to a weak and nonbinding outcome document. The lack of commitments to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels or time-bound commitments to set up sustainable development goals in combination with backsliding on human rights issues such as women’s reproductive rights have all been issues of contention.
Talks of $30 billion fund to help poor countries cope with climate change or to impose a financial transactions tax to raise some of that money failed, Reuters reports.
The Rio+20 conference concludes today. As per the June 19th draft of the outcome document, Future We Want, contains several references to children and youth, including: the need for a green economy to improve their welfare; access to adequate, nutritious food; access to housing and social services in urban settlements; the rights of migrant children; the generation of employment for youth; and young people’s participation in decision making.
Though others point out the differences between the 1992 Rio conference and this year’s. This time around, the point was to define a new set of development principles and recognize that a “one size fits all” approach does not work, says Brazilian negotiator Andre Correa do Lago.