News in the run up to Rio+20

Rio+20 Mixed Finale: NGOs Disappointed but Progress made on Sustainable Agriculture

23.06.2012 As the Rio+20 conference drew to a close yesterday, the widely criticised outcome document, ‘The Future We Want’, was adopted by the Heads of State. The last day of the conference saw further speeches by governments, UN officials and Brazil’s President Rousseff while the UN chief Ban Ki-moon met with representatives from the nine Major Groups representing civil society at Rio+20. Three of the Major Groups went on to criticise, in a joint address, the outcome document, asserting that it “does not propose an ambitious plan for the achievement of universal access to food and water”. Although these Groups welcomed Mr. Ban’s initiative ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’, they pointed to the need to agree on concrete steps and to make food sovereignty the underlying principle of all efforts to fight hunger. While opinions on the outcome text diverged with most NGOs outraged at the lack of commitment, the paragraphs on food and agriculture were widely welcomed. EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said “The European Union considers that the Rio final agreement could have gone much further, (but) when it comes to agriculture and food security, I think the document is consistent enough in that the importance of small family farming for improving global food security is properly recognised”. The Biovision Foundation went on to call the agreement “a milestone for sustainable agriculture”. This positive evaluation is shared by Biodiversity International, who consider that agriculture was a less controversial issue at Rio+20 and takes this as a sign that “countries have come to accept the urgency of addressing food security as a global problem”. Again supporting the outcome document’s paragraphs relating to food and agriculture the influential ETC Group added that it was a “glimmer of good news” that Rio+20 reaffirmed the importance of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in considering agricultural and food issues, and particularly its role in assessing sustainable food production and food security at the national level.
United Nations: The Future We Want
Terraviva: Agriculture Emerges as Bright Spot on Rio Horizon
ETC Group: Rio+20 or Silent Spring-50?
Biovision: Rio+20 declaration a milestone for sustainable agriculture

Ban Ki-moon launches ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’

22.6.2012 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ initiative yesterday at an official Rio+20 side event, calling on governments, business, the sciences and civil society to join the fight against hunger and honour past commitments. “In a world of plenty no one, not a single person, should go hungry”, he said. “I want to see an end to hunger everywhere, within my lifetime.” The initiative has five ambitious goals: 100% access to adequate food all year: no stunting in children under two and no malnutrition during pregnancy and in early childhood; sustainable food system; doubling growth in smallholder productivity and income, with a focus on women; and zero food loss and waste. The initiative was inspired by Brazil’s ‘Fome Zero’ programme, which helped millions to escape hunger, and will be based on existing governance structures, such as the Committee on Food Security (CFS). NGOs welcomed the UN chef’s efforts. Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative saying “Ban Ki Moon’s announcement is a welcome ray of hope in a summit that has been shamefully devoid of progress for the almost billion people who go to bed hungry every night”. ActionAid also praised the ambitious agenda but reminded observers that “You can’t have zero hunger with zero money”, in reference to the few real commitments agreed to at Rio+20.
More Information: The Zero Hunger Challenge
UN Press Release: UN Secretary‐General Challenges All Nations to Achieve Zero Hunger
Oxfam: UN Zero Hunger Challenge offers ray of hope in fight against hunger
ActionAid welcomes Zero Hunger Challenge, but calls on governments to commit

Organic Dinner welcomes Rio+20’s Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture

21.6.2012 At an alternative Rio+20 side event, major players in the global food chain came together yesterday to discuss agriculture and food systems. At the invitation of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Biovision Foundation and the Millennium Institute in Washington, 120 guests - among them politicians, farmers, food processors and consumer representatives - enjoyed a ‘Taste of Change’ dinner made from organic ingredients produced by small-scale farmers in the region. The aim was to establish contacts between different actors in food and agriculture in order to take further steps towards sustainable agriculture after Rio+20. Speakers at the event appeared to be fairly satisfied with the majority of paragraphs on food and agriculture in the Rio+20 outcome document: It contains a clear commitment to strengthening sustainable agriculture and small-scale farming, as well as reaffirming the importance of the Committee for World Food Security (CFS) in supporting countries in achieving this. World Food Prize winner, Hans Herren, said the outcome of the summit could be a milestone in the process of moving towards environmentally-friendly, socially-sound and economically-viable food systems. This was confirmed by Manuel Bessler, SDC’s Deputy Director who stated that “Sustainable agriculture is an important building block for the future sustainability agenda.”
Biovision: Rio+20 seen as an important step in the right direction for sustainable agriculture
SDC: Rio+20: "Sustainable dinner" for a change of direction in food production

Civil Society Protests against Lack of Commitment

21.6.2012 The nine official groups representing civil society at Rio+20, known as ‘Major Groups’, voiced their disappointment, at the opening plenary yesterday, about the outcome document and the little commitment it contained The NGO group criticised the document for not mentioning “planetary boundaries, tipping points, or the Earth’s carrying capacity” and called on world leaders to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. The Farmers group highlighted the need to put food sovereignty at the center of sustainability, summarising the problem  with a warning: “no farmers, no food, no future.” In the afternoon, the official ceremonial opening of Rio+20 took place with UN head Ban Ki-moon reminding the conference that “words must translate into action” and that “progress has been too slow”. However, there were no signs that the conference would reopen talks on the much criticised outcome text. A general debate followed, in which 48 speakers, most of them Heads of State, addressed the meeting. While world leaders continued talking, around 50,000 activists staged a colourful demonstration, organised by the People’s Summit, in central Rio. Civil society groups, indigenous leaders and environmentalists protested with posters, flags and street performances.
Earth Negotiations Bulletin: UNCSD, Wednesday, 20 June 2012
BBC News: Rio+20: Progress on Earth issues 'too slow' - UN chief
France 24: Activists stage colorful anti-Rio+20 demo in central Rio

Church Development Service calls for a Change of Course in Agriculture

20.6.2012 The German Church Development Service (EED) today, at the People’s Summit in Rio, called on industrialised countries to initiate a massive change of course in agriculture. The EED published their demands in a document that drew on the conclusions of three events relating to food security, held at the People’s Summit under the common title ‘Good practices of sustainable agriculture and the IAASTD report’. The first event covered good practice with respect to seed banks and agro-biodiversity, and was illustrated by examples from Brazil and West Africa. The second event looked at the important issues around the role of women in agriculture, and a third event focused on the IAASTD report and the challenges to sustainable agriculture, presenting findings from a school feeding program in Ghana. The document which emerged from these events will be the ‘Religions for Rights’ coalition’s contribution to the People’s Summit’s outcome document. The EED’s text highlights the IAASTD’s finding that agro-ecological solutions can transform agriculture from being a problem to becoming a solution in the fight against poverty, climate change and regeneration of natural resource. “Supporting these diversified production methods would be a valuable contribution to more social equity and democracy in developing countries”, said EED’s agricultural expert Stig Tanzmann.
Contribution of the coalition Religions for Rights on food security to the Peoples Summit
EED Press Release 'A Change in Agriculture is needed' (German text)
Event June 16: Good practices of sustainable agriculture and the IAASTD report

Rio+20 starts after ‘weak’ outcome document agreed

20.6.2012 The Rio+20 conference begins in Brazil today, with over 120 Heads of State and Government in attendance. However, US President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and German Chancellor Merkel have been criticised for their absence. On Tuesday, delegates finally agreed on the Rio+20 outcome document after heated discussions around the text lasted late into Monday night. The Brazilian government, which led the negotiations, had pressed for the conclusion of the text before Heads of State arrived in Rio today. However, this outcome document has been widely criticised by environmental and development groups for being weak, unambitious and mostly just reaffirming previous commitments. There are concerns that the text does not commit to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and lacks concrete steps on how to change unsustainable production and consumption. Although the UN Environment Programme will be upgraded there was no agreement to turn it into a fully-fledged UN Agency. The text also contains an agreement to establish sustainable development goals (SDGs), but does not define their topics and a clear time frame for setting them up. The section on oceans was also criticised by NGOs for failing to recognize the urgency of the problem as the important decisions have been postponed until 2014. “We were promised the 'future we want' but are now being present with a 'common vision' of a polluter’s charter that will cook the planet, empty the oceans and wreck the rain forests”, said Greenpeace Director Kumi Naidoo. The text will now be presented to Heads of State for adoption, but observers do not expect major changes.
BBC News - Rio+20: Agreement reached, say diplomats
Greenpeace comment on state of Rio+20 negotiations text for adoption
Text Outcome Document - The Future We Want

Rio+20 Side Events on Food and Agriculture

19.6.2012 The ‘People’s Summit’, civil society’s alternative forum to the official Rio+20 conference, is in full swing, hosting a range of panel meeting and workshops on agriculture and food-related topics. In addition there are also 500 official Rio+20 side events, again touching on agriculture and food related issues. One of these side events will be hosted by an International Alliance of Catholic Development Agencies, and be entitled “Sustainable Intensification and Agroecology”. This panel will discuss which approaches work most effectively to secure the right to food, protect the climate, and lead to sustainable development. Panellists include Jean Marc von der Weid, Director of the Brazilian NGO Family Farming and Agroecology (AS-PTA). Another important official agriculture and food-related event was held on Sunday. Staged by the Biovision Foundation, the ‘From Production to Consumption - Towards a Sustainable Food System’ side event was well attended, with over 100 in the audience. This event was led by World Food Prize winner Hans Herren and Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. It examined how a transformation of the food value chain could be achieved. Official side events will run until the end of the Rio conference on June 22.
Side event June 19: Sustainable Intensification, Agroecology - Right to Food and Climate
Side Event “From Production To Consumption – Towards A Sustainable Food System”
Overview of side event at Rio+20

'Rio+20 Development Dialogues' Encourage Sustainable Food Production'

18.6.2012 Food and nutritional security was the main focus on the second day of the ‘Sustainable Development Dialogues’, held on Sunday in Rio. The talks were organised by Brazil’s government to give representatives from NGOs, the private sector and the sciences an opportunity to discuss ten topics and from that issue recommendations to the Rio+20 conference. Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Centre, identified a shift of many developing countries from food producers to net importers as one of the root causes of hunger. He called for countries in the South to be allowed to raise tariffs, thereby countering the agricultural export subsidies of industrialised nations. Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement, warned that food has become no more than a commodity and would therefore not benefit its producers. Dr. Vandana Shiva, winner of the alternative Nobel Prize, also made the case against the commodification of food. Shiva emphasised that empowering women in agriculture is key to fighting hunger. The final recommendation, agreed on in this session, and to be sent to Rio+20 in the coming days, was to “develop policies to encourage sustainable production of food supplies”. However, the Brazilian Civil Society Committee, who have organised the People’s Summit, boycott these meetings, criticising the government for its “top-down approach”.  The Committee complained that the selected topics, the choice of participants and their defined recommendations left no space for open discussion. This will now take place at the People’s Summit.
Sustainable Development Dialogue Days Highlights Bulletin: Sunday, 17 June 2012
The Summit will not participate in Rio+20 preparatory event organized by the Brazilian government

Rio+20 Negotiators Criticised for Lack of Ambition

17.6.2012 The Preparatory Committee, tasked with negotiating the Rio+20 outcome document concluded Friday night’s session with only 37% of the text agreed. Opinions on the food and agriculture section differed, and there was general concern that the wording remained weak. As for sustainable agriculture, a handful of countries still refused to insert a reference to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the paragraph on sustainable livestock systems lacked clear commitment. With respect to agricultural extension services, partial agreement was reached, but the inclusion of the term ‘voluntary’ watered down a commitment to share knowledge. A paragraph on the causes of excessive food price volatility was, however, finally agreed. On Saturday, Brazil, as the host country, took over the leadership of these ‘Informal Consultations’, and is now trying to finalise the text before Heads of State arrive in Rio on Wednesday. Brazil has subsequently presented a streamlined 50-page compromise text, which attempts to meet developing nations’ demands. This text included a reference to the transfer of money and technology, but gave no clear pledges or figures. Brazil’s compromise text does, however, strengthen the protection of oceans which played a central role in the new round of talks, but it no longer refers to the right to water. The European Union criticised the text for its lack of concrete goals, measures and time frames, and the little ambition it shows in many other sectors.
UNCSD Prepcom III: Friday, 15 June 2012
Rio+20 deal weakens on energy and water pledges

Civil Society People’s Summit Begins

15.6.2012 The People’s Summit, civil society’s alternative forum to the official Rio+20 conference, opened its doors today. This summit will continue until June 23rd at the Flamengo Park in Rio de Janeiro and host more than 500 events, panels and workshops. Organisers are expecting around 15,000 visitors per day, including representatives of civil society, NGOs, human rights organisations and indigenous communities from all over the world. The first two days of the summit will be dedicated to activities prepared by local social movements, and be followed by ‘free access space’ for self-organized activities. Commenting on the event, Rui Varres of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) said “The summit will be a forum to denounce (the official green economy concept) but we also hope to rally social movements to defend the sovereignty of peoples and their lands against the advance of green capitalism.” Food and agriculture will rank highly among the topics to be discussed. On Saturday, three events, organised by an alliance of German organisations will take place under the common title ‘Good practices of sustainable agriculture and the IAASTD report’  to address agriculture, food security, the role of women farmers, seed banks and agro-biodiversity.
Official website of the People's Summit
The Economic Times: Social movements to stage Rio+20 counter-summit
Event June 16: Good practices of sustainable agriculture and the IAASTD report

Rio+20 Negotiations under Threat over Green Economy Disagreements

14.6.2012 Negotiations on the outcome document of the Rio+20 conference came to a standstill at the end of the second day of the Preparatory Committee. Delegates of the G77 bloc of developing countries plus China walked out of the ‘Green Economy’ thematic working groups, over a disagreement on the means of implementation, which includes the transfer of money and technology. It became apparent that while wealthy nations refused to make clear commitments in this area, the G77/China bloc decided that it was unable to continue talks without progress on the issue of funding to support developing countries on their path to sustainability. A further impasse occurred within the splinter group on food, who also met on Thursday evening. This group discussed only three out of ten relevant paragraphs but still failed to reach any agreement. With respect to the right to food, delegates decided to simply adopt the language of a former UN General Assembly resolution. Observers have noted a growing tendency by delegates to rely on earlier agreed texts and conference outcomes, due to the fact that time is running out. The third and last day of talks on Friday will be the last opportunity for delegates to agree on the outcome text before the Heads of State take the wheel at Rio+20 next week.
Earth Negotiations Bulletin: Prepcom III: Thursday, 14 June 2012
The Guardian: Rio+20 Earth summit - walkout at 'green economy' talks

Countdown in Rio: Last Round of Negotiations starting today

13.6.2012 The final round of negotiations started in Rio de Janeiro today, ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, to be opened on June 20th. The Preparatory Committee now has three days to finalise the draft of an agreed outcome document. The current version, formulated at the last round of ‘informal-informal’ negotiations on June 2nd, only reached agreement on 20% of the text. Nations are yet to reach agreement on many of the key issues set to be negotiated at Rio. On-going areas of dispute include the G77 bloc of developing countries arguing against the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, and the US trying to avoid any clear wording that would call on states to adapt sustainable consumption and production patterns. In addition, with respect to agriculture, out of the ten relevant paragraphs only one has been agreed, dealing specifically with marine ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. Delegates continue to be deeply divided on language relating to the right to food as well as on binding targets that would have an effect on the implementation of sustainable agriculture. Today will also see the start a series of more than 500 side events organised by governments, NGOs and international organisations. The People’s Summit, which is civil society’s parallel event to Rio+20, will start on Friday and host a large number of activities.
Earth Negotiations Bulletin Rio+20: Third PrepCom and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development BBC News: Nations at odds on Rio+20 earth summit

Grim UN Environment Outlook Published on Eve of Rio+20

7.6.2012 A new United Nations report assessing ninety global environmental goals has concluded that the earth will soon be irreversibly damaged if the ‘emergency break’ is not pulled quickly. The fifth Global Environment Outlook report, presented yesterday in Rio de Janeiro by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found that progress has only been achieved in a small minority of the original objectives relating to the prevention of ozone layer depletion and the provision of access to clean water. Little or no progress was measured for 24 objectives, such as tackling climate change, desertification and drought. Additionally, competing demands for food, animal feed, biofuels and raw materials continue to exert pressure on land and lead to deforestation. The report called for policies to be implemented that address the causes of environmental change. “If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail (...), then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation”, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. The report did however find that significant progress was made in areas in which internationally agreed goals with measurable targets existed. Prepared by over 600 scientists over three years, it was published on the eve of Rio+20 to serve as a wake-up call for the world’s key decision-makers.
UNEP Press Release: World Remains on Unsustainable Track Despite Hundreds of Internationally Agreed Goals and Objectives

Rio+20 Negotiations Reach a Deadlock

4.6.2012 On Saturday, a new round of negotiations on the Rio+20 outcome document closed without major progress. Delegates from UN member countries only reached agreement on 70 of the now 329 paragraphs in the text prepared by the conference Co-Chairs. Unresolved issues include the process of establishing sustainable development goals (SDGs), along with issues within the framework for action, such as climate change and oceans. Regarding food security and agriculture, countries disagreed on language referring to the right to adequate food, with the G-77 and China calling for the deletion of ‘adequate’. With respect to trade in agricultural products, opinions diverged on the passage “eliminating barriers and policies that distort production and trade”. Opinions also differed on the EU proposal to introduce specific targets, such as increasing access to agricultural land, markets and knowledge for small-holder farmers (especially women in rural areas), and to raise global agricultural productivity based on sustainable agriculture by 2020. Despite the standoff, Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang remains optimistic that the document will be concluded at the last meeting before the start of the conference in Rio on 13-15 June.
Earth Negotiations Bulletin: Summary of the third round of UNCSD Informal Consultations.
IPS News: A Stalemated U.N. in Do-or-Die Session on Action Plan

FAO: Rio+20 must Eradicate Hunger in order to Achieve Sustainability

1.6.2012 On Wednesday, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published a report contributing to the debate on food security and agriculture in the run up to Rio+20. A key message of the report is that “the Rio vision of sustainable development cannot be realised unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated”. If current patterns of consumption are maintained, a food output increase of 60% from 2005-2007 levels will be required in order to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050. A shift to more sustainable production and consumption is therefore vital to ease the huge pressure on natural resources. This can be achieved if we turn to sustainable farming, cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food that is wasted every year and switch to less resource-intensive diets in rich countries. However, this will still leave 300 million people hungry who lack the means to access food. Their food security can only be achieved by providing them with decent jobs and access to resources. The FAO called on Rio participants to speed up efforts to reduce hunger and to make use of the voluntary guidelines on the right to food and land tenure.
FAO Media Centre: No sustainable development without hunger eradication
Report “Towards the future we want: End hunger and make the transition to sustainable agricultural and food systems”. FAO, May 2012.

New Negotiations on Rio+20 Outcome Document

29.5.2012 Three weeks ahead of the Rio+20 conference, delegates of UN member countries today began a new round of negotiations on the conference outcome document. Talks will be held in New York until June 2nd, with delegates expected to reach agreement on issues such as the concept of ‘Green Economy’ and the process of defining ‘Sustainable Development Goals’. “The stakes are very, very high - for people and the planet, for peace and prosperity”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the opening. The additional talks were scheduled early in May after delegates at the last preparatory meeting failed to agree on large parts of the outcome text. The basis for discussion is now a shortened 80-page version produced by the Rio+20 co-chairs. While the text refers to sustainable agriculture in various passages, clear reference to concrete measures and to an institutional framework which could implement sustainable farming practices and the findings of the IAASTD, remain missing. These negotiations are the last opportunity to reach an agreement before talks resume in Rio from the 13th to 15th June at the Third Preparatory Committee meeting, just days before the conference begins.
Secretary-General's remarks to Rio+20 Informal Consultations on Draft Outcome Document
UN News Centre: Countries begin last round of talks on outcome document
The future we want. Version of the outcome document as of 22 May 2012

A truly ‘Green Economy’ must Include Sustainable Farming, Panelists Conclude

25.5.2012 Rio+20 will only be successful if it ensures that sustainable small-scale agriculture becomes the key to feeding the growing world population, concluded a panel discussion on Wednesday at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich). The event gathered experts to discuss which shape agriculture should take within the ‘green economy’ and was organised by Biovision, SWISSAID, and the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern. “The main focus in Rio must be on implementing sustainable farming methods and linking science and policy more closely,” said Biovision’s President Hans Herren. The implementation of sustainable small-scale agriculture has become even more pressing with unsustainable industrial agricultural practices taking a heavy toll in recent years. As an example of this, SWISSAID director Caroline Morel pointed to the risks associated with biofuels, saying “even now, forests are being cleared, smallholder families are being driven away, and food production is being given up for the sake of biofuels.” The panellists called on the Swiss delegation at Rio+20 to work towards the adoption of concrete measures towards a change of course in agriculture as promoted by the IAASTD.
Press release: Sustainable agriculture must become a cornerstone of the 'green economy'
Swissaid: Ohne Kurswechsel wird die „Titanic“ sinken

Ban Ki-moon calls for Action to Advance Sustainable Agriculture at Rio+20

23.5.2012 With one month to go before the start of the Rio+20 conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on participants to grasp this “once-in-a-generation opportunity” and take “bold action for sustainable development”. In an address in New York on Tuesday at the informal thematic debate of the General Assembly’s 66th session entitled “The Road to Rio+20 and Beyond”, he called for action to “advance food security and sustainable agriculture and push for a goal on ‘zero hunger’ or ‘food security for all”. Ban Ki-moon also made it clear that he was disappointed at the slow pace of negotiations and ongoing disagreement which has meant that an additional session of talks have had to be organized to start at the end of May. He went on to say that states should not lose sight of the bigger picture by obsessing over the “microscopic examination of text”. Rubens Born of the Brazilian NGO Vitae Civilis, who also sat on the panel at the debate, called on the General Assembly to “provide leadership, pressure, boldness and effectiveness in changing the course of humanity away from an otherwise inevitable catastrophe, caused by unsustainable and unfair means of production, distribution and consumption.”
Concerned at Pace of Rio+20 Negotiations, Secretary-General Calls for Bold Action
Secretary-General: World Is Watching Rio+20, Says Secretary-General

Peoples Summit to call for Agroecology instead of ‘Green Economy’

14.5.2012 At a press conference on Sunday leading representatives of the Peoples Summit, the civil society’s parallel event to Rio+20, presented a document criticising both the concept of the ‘Green Economy’ and the official conference agenda. “What is being called the Green Economy is in reality the ongoing exploitation of nature. Current production and consumption patterns are only making problems such as global warming, water scarcity and the commercialisation of nature worse”, said Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America Director for ETC group. The representatives of the people’s Summit also re-affirmed their commitment to the fight against GM food, pesticides, biofuels and terminator technology that works to prevent farmers from replanting harvested seeds. It was also agreed that the Peoples Summit will focus on defending vital changes to the current production system, which will include the development of alternative models based on agroecology. The document also makes a case against the Brazilian Forest Code, which can now only be vetoed by President Dilma Rousseff, stating "We appeal to all peoples of the world to support the Brazilian people’s struggle against the destruction of one of the most important legal frameworks to protect forests.”
Agência Brasil: Cúpula dos Povos rejeita conceito de economia verde da Rio+20
O Globo: Representantes da Cúpula dos Povos criticam 'economia verde' no Rio
People's Summit: What is at stake at Rio+20

Civil Society criticises slow pace of negotiations at Rio+20

4.5.2012 As the Second round of 'informal-informal' negotiations on the zero draft closed today, civil society representatives expressed frustration at a press conference in New York. Neth Dano of the ETC Group (Action on Erosion, Technology and Concentration) described the negotiation process as “painfully slow”. She stated that farmers’ organisations and NGO’s had put concrete proposals on the table, which included how to improve farmers’ participation in decision-making on sustainable development in agriculture. But she feared these proposals might be lost in the “jungle of paragraphs” and the lack of commitment by governments. Grace Balawag, of Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education), noted a huge divide in the Rio+20 negotiations between the aims of developing and developed nations. She underlined the need for sustainable development to incorporate the perspective of indigenous people who face a daily struggle against the exploitation of indigenous land, territories and resources.
Press Conference on Civil Society Reaction to Rio+20 Negotiations
United Nations Webcast: Video of the Press Conference

Farmers' Major group calls for sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty

30.4.2012 During the second round of 'informal-informal' negotiations in the run-up to Rio+20, the UNCSD Bureau today met with Member States and Major Groups. On this occasion, the Farmer’s Major group, one of nine groups representing civil society at the conference, released a statement calling for the implementation of sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty. The paper states that many farmers consider food sovereignty as the correct framework to address poverty, hunger and environmental issues, as well as to secure human rights and animal welfare. According to the Major group “farmers hold the solutions for sustainable development in their hands”, but nation states must also rethink their development models and empower peasants, family farmers, indigenous peoples and women. To be able to produce and harvest successfully, they need access to land. The paper concludes that the response of Rio+20 should be based on the demands of the people: “fighting hunger with fresh, safe, nutritious, chemical-free food, reviving rural economies, and preserving biodiversity.”
Statement Farmers Major Group, April 30, 2012, Meeting with Bureau and Member States

Petition to put livestock on the Rio+20 agenda

26.4.2012 The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), an animal-advocacy group, made a move to put farm animals on the Rio+20 agenda. Yesterday WSPA’s South America director presented over 100,000 signatures to the Executive Coordinators of the Rio+20 conference, Elizabeth Thompson and Brice Lalonde. “It is very encouraging to see such vast support for implementation of comprehensive humane and sustainable agriculture practices,” said Mr. Lalonde. The petition forms part of the WSPA Pawprint campaign, which calls attention to the negative impacts of industrial livestock farming on the environment and human health. 
WSPA News "More than 100,000 People to the UN: The Humane Future We Want for Farm Animals”
IPS: Farm animals join Rio+20 agenda
WSPA Publication "Why livestock and humane, sustainable agriculture matter at Rio+20"

Rio+20 Side Event: Implementing Sustainable Agriculture

24.4.2012 On April 23rd, a Rio+20 side event on agriculture took place to accompany the second round of ‘informal-informal’ negotiations on the zero draft, which was held in New York from 23 April to 4 May. The event entitled ‘Implementing Sustainable Agriculture’ was organised by Biovision Foundation, the World Society for the Protection of Animals and International Partners for Sustainable Agriculture. The aim was to discuss four thematic areas of implementing sustainable agriculture, including the livelihoods of rural women and sustainable livestock practices. Prof. Judi Wakhungu, who co-chaired the IAASTD, proposed views on best practices. She called on Rio+20 to initiate a transformation of agriculture and foods systems. In her opinion strong political and institutional leadership and a coalition of actors at all levels is needed, together with support to sustainable practices along the whole agricultural value chain, in order to achieve sustainable agriculture.
UNCSD: Report from Side Event Implementing Sustainable Agriculture
IISD Reporting Services: Coverage of Selected Side Events, photos and summary of the event

Rio+20 cannot achieve sustainable development without ending hunger

19.4.2012 In his statement at the Regional Conference for Europe, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva warned that efforts to achieve a model of sustainable economic development at Rio+20 will only succeed if the international community tackles the most urgent challenge – ending hunger. “We cannot call development sustainable if we are leaving behind almost one in every seven people”, da Silva said today in Baku, Azerbaijan. With only two months to go until Rio+20, “we have the opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and climate change”, he argued. The Director-General named priority areas for action, including the adoption of more sustainable production and consumption patterns, a shift to healthier diets, the reduction of food loss and waste, and the improvement of rural livelihoods.

FAO News: Sustainable development goals hinge on hunger battle
Statement of the FAO Director-General at the Regional Conference for Europe, 19 April 2012, Baku

High Commissioner calls on states to integrate human rights into Rio+20

18.4.2012 In an open letter, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has called on member states to integrate human rights into the upcoming debates and final outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. “For Rio+20 to be successful, its outcome must ensure that explicit human rights safeguards are in place”, the UN Human Rights Chief argued. She criticised the Zero Draft, stating that the failure to take human rights sufficiently into account, including the right to food, water and sanitation, would undermine efforts to achieve socio-economic development and protect the environment. Pillay pointed out that there were numerous examples of projects aimed at sustainable development, which lead to the violation of the rights of already vulnerable communities, for example if scarce food-growing lands were diverted for the production of biofuels.

UN Human Rights, Media Centre: Pillay urges states to inject human rights into Rio+20
Full text of Navi Pillay’s letter to Member States

The Rio+20 Earth summit must stop land grabbing

17.04.2012 In an article published in The Guardian on the International Day of Peasant Struggle, British journalist Fred Pearce called on the Rio+20 Earth summit to put an end to land grabbing. He criticised the agenda for the upcoming conference, saying it “has a glaring hole: land rights”. Governments in the Global South are handing over supposedly 'empty' and 'unused' farmland to foreign investors, destroying the livelihoods of local farmers and continuing to impoverish the poor. Rio+20 “must back peasant farmers on land rights”, demands Pearce, who has spent two years investigating the global epidemic of land grabbing for his book ‘The Landgrabbers’ to be published in May.

Article: The Rio+20 Earth summit must back peasant farmers on land rights
International Day of Peasant's struggle: Via Campesina mobilises against land grabbing

Civil Society’s perspective on the Rio+20 Zero Draft

28.3.2012 On May 23rd, a few days before the UNCSD Third Intersessional Meeting, civil society representatives gathered to exchange views in preparation for the People’s Summit in June. The event entitled 'Towards the People’s Summit at Rio+20: Civil Society Alternatives to the Zero Draft' convened key actors involved in the alternative summit, as well as participating civil society organisations. Andre Abreu, member of the Brazilian Civil Society Facilitating Committee, demanded that the views of small-scale farmers and others be included in the Rio+20 process, since corporations and private actors have usurped the concept of 'Green Economy' to promote their own economic agenda. Dena Hoff of La Via Campesina criticised the Zero Draft for not differentiating between agricultural systems. While peasant farming has always been part of a green economy and provided sustainable solutions to feeding people, industrial agriculture is responsible for a large share of greenhouse gases. She stated that the current system is putting local food production at a disadvantage and underlined the need to provide small-scale farmers with access to markets and international fora such as the UN.

Towards the People’s Summit at Rio+20: Civil Society Alternatives to the Zero Draft

UN experts: “No global goals without accountability” at Rio+20

19.3.2012 The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, and 21 independent experts of the Human Rights Council have called for a ‘double accountability’ mechanism. At international level, a mechanism similar to the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review should ensure that the goals established at the Rio+20 Conference will be met. At the national level, governments should set up their own accountability mechanisms with the participation of civil society. “A real risk exists that commitments made in Rio will remain empty promises without effective monitoring and accountability,” the experts warned. Olivier De Schutter also underlined the need to reaffirm the right to food and clarify its implications. He proposed that Rio+20 should strengthen the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur called for acknowledging the potential of agroecology and farmer’s organisations.

Open Letter: If Rio+20 is to deliver, accountability must be at its heart
OHCHR Background Note: The Right to Food as a Global Goal

Rio+20 - Time to act

Document with proposals on issues linked to food and agriculture for Rio+20 signed by many NGOs

 

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