Sustainable development cannot be achieved by government action alone. It requires the participation of all sectors of societies. At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, a document called Agenda 21 was released that, among other things, formalized groups whose contribution is crucial to making sustainable development a reality. Since then, these nine groups have represented the voice of their respective constituencies within UN meetings, including all subsequent Earth Summits.
Each of the nine major groups (Business and Industry, Children and Youth, Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Women, Local Authorities, NGOs, Workers and Trade Unions and the Scientific and Technological Community) has submitted position papers leading up to the Summit as well as commented on drafts of the prospective outcome document. These documents are all available via the websites below. The groups will be involved in a wide range of side events, workshops, presentations, exhibitions, etc., including the People’s Summit, and, of course, the official events of Rio+20.
With Rio+20 fast approaching, here is a brief overview of some of the activities that the different groups have planned (for more on Business and Industry, check out an earlier blog).
- Children and Youth: Youth comprise nearly 30 per cent of the world’s population, which means that their involvement in environmental and development decision-making is critical. Youth are always very active in the Summits, and many official government delegations send a youth representative. Youth from around the world will come together at the Conference of Youth for Rio+20 (aka Youth Blast), taking place from 7-12 June in Rio. The group is coordinated by Rio+twenties.
- Farmers: Since agriculture occupies one third of the land surface of the Earth and is a central activity for much of the world’s population, farmers play a crucial role in sustainable development. Their calls for action include increasing the proportion of overseas development assistance focused on agriculture and rural development, increasing support for participatory approaches to farmer to farmer training, developing new approaches to reward farmers for ecosystem services, and securing land tenure for rural women (to see the full list read their statement online). The group is coordinated by La Via Campesina – International Peasant Movement.
- Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous Peoples and their communities have historical relationships with their lands and have developed, over many generations, a holistic traditional scientific knowledge of their lands, natural resources and environments. At Rio, the Indigenous Peoples Global Conference on Sustainable, Self-Determined Development will be taking place from 16-19 June. The Group will also have a Pavilion from the 19th-21st that will highlight Indigenous People’s work in achieving its Plan of Implementation on Sustainability, which was identified and agreed upon by Indigenous Peoples in the Kimberley Summit in 2002. To learn more about Indigenous People’s Contributions to Sustainable Development, read their statement submitted to the Rio+20 process, which includes strengthening culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, full exercise of our human and collective rights and strengthening diverse local economies and territorial management. The group is coordinated by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Tebtebba – Indigenous People’s International Centre for Policy Research and Education.
- Local Authorities: According to Agenda 21, “Local authorities construct, operate and maintain economic, social and environmental infrastructure, oversee planning processes, establish local environmental policies and regulations, and assist in implementing national and subnational environmental policies. As the level of governance closest to the people, they play a vital role in educating, mobilizing and responding to the public to promote sustainable development.” The ICLEI World Congress will take place in Belo Horizonte, Brazil from 14-18 June. The 17th of June will be the Local and regional authorities’ day for a sustainable development. The Rio+20 Global Town Hall will be an open setting where local leaders, conference delegates, international organisations and businesses can meet up and discuss the urban future. The major group is coordinated by ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).