Rio+20: A Reason to Celebrate?
Twenty years have passed since the Earth Summit in Rio – is it a reason to celebrate? – a first impression of the Rio +20 Summit by Samir Abi
The flagship activity of the first day of the Rio + 20 People’s Summit, June 15, was the commemoration of the Earth Summit of 1992. At this event Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazil’s Minister of External Relations, stressed that it is important to celebrate and remember the Earth Summit as the founding event a new era of diplomacy: multilateralism. From the outcry of Stockholm amounting to a zero growth in the first Earth Summit in 1972, environmental issues have emerged over the years as a priority in the UN agenda.
Second speaker was Maurice Strong who is believed to have been the driving force behind the success of the Earth Summit. He had started, however, as Canadian entrepreneur and president of Petro Canada in the late 70s and only joined the Committee for Environment of the United Nations in the mid-80 years after having been Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations responsible for coordinating the operations of emergency in Africa. Already in 1991 he openly criticized the United States which represented, according to him, the greatest danger to the ecological health of the world. Following his reputation, Maurice Strong was not reserved with his critique neither at the People’s Summit and started his speech with the question: “What are we celebrating?” which gained a lot of support by the civil society present in the room. His conclusion is clear: the world has changed and not in the right direction. Rio + 20, in his eyes, is a conference on the future of human civilization.