Good intentions are not enough: the Earth Summit of 1992

ESSCNews shares this article written by Pedro Walpole after he returned from the Earth Summit.  Originally published in Intersect magazine in September 1992, the observations that Pedro wrote about 20 years ago eerily remain the same 20 years after in Rio+20.

Last June, over 100 governments gathered at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) in city of Rio de Janiero to address the inseparable concerns of the environment, development, and poverty.  Although the results of UNCED, otherwise known as the Earth Summit, are difficult to evaluate, it is still necessary to attempt to do so.  In general, UNCED was not as comprehensive and effective as it hopes to be.  Why we say this is the subject of this article.

Moral commitment

The Earth Summit sought to achieve the strengthening of objectives and the binding of action to sustain life.  Instead, only selected concerns and their operationalization were agreed upon without specific targets or timetables.  Twenty years after the Stockholm Conference where the participating countries developed the moral vision of urging unity of action to protect our fragile globe, UNCED has been little else but a forum to exchange development concerns.  To illustrate this weakening moral vision, we shall cite how one issue (nuclear weapons) and one situation (the World Bank) were treated during the Conference.

The Stockholm Declaration called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.  UNCED failed, however, to approve a paper on nuclear power and to affirm the condemnation of nuclear weapons, even if the global power struggle today has been diminished.

For the last 30 years, the model for development operationalized by the World Bank has been criticized by non-government organizations working closely with the poor.  True, the World Bank was heavily funding energy programs, particularly those concerned with global warming.  At the same time, however, it was also fueling the poverty of millions and adding to the environmental problem. Yet the World Bank remained virtually unchallenged by governments, even during the Conference. Read more


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