Rio+20: Begining of a Global Transformation and new multilateralism

The significance of Rio + 20 does not lie in any document but in the new direction provided to global governance, whose focus should be on patterns of natural resource use, and not just on natural capital, to ensure human well being.


The sequel to the 1992 Earth Summit, once again in Brazil, with around 100 heads of state participating, takes a forward looking perspective by setting the agenda for a global transformation. The outcome represents a set of compromises by all, which can be considered an optimum result in a multi polar world, considering the strategic nature of the issues on which a consensus was needed – ‘the future we want’.


The global consensus also signals the emergence of a new multilateralism with Brazil, China and India beginning to shape the global agenda. Not surprisingly heads of state from these countries, rather than those from the major G7 countries participated in the Conference.


Perspectives on the outcomes reflect political interests of countries at different levels of development. Commentators in developed countries, like Greenpeace, have declared it a failure of epic proportions. Others, like the World Wildlife Fund, focus on the text and the lack of commitments, specifics and measurable targets, and suggest that progress on environmental issues should be made locally with the help of the private sector, without the help of international accords. Hillary Clinton was also clear that “governments alone cannot solve all the problems we face”. Analysts, in Price Waterhouse Coopers, however, have warned that the private sector has an important role to play but not as a substitute for government action. The fast growing developing countries stressed their claim to natural resources to raise standards of living comparable to those in developed countries, while the poorer countries were unhappy there was no firm commitment for more aid. China described the document as comprehensive and balanced, and “of great significance in guiding the direction of global sustainable development” and the equal right of development to all countries. According to the organizers of the conference, Brazil, the purpose was to define new global goals, and a process to do just that has been initiated.

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