Last week, world leaders from nearly 200 countries, along with thousands of environmental activists and bureaucrats, met in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or “Rio +20,” as the follow up meeting to the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (which was also held in Rio).
While the stated objectives of the meeting were to discuss the creation of a green economy and building the institutional framework for sustainable development, the conference produced an outcome document devoid of any serious commitments, a significant defeat for the alliance of population control advocates and environmentalists.
Pro-life and pro-family advocates and their member-state allies (mostly in the developing world and the Holy See), achieved a noteworthy victory in the Rio +20 negotiations in keeping the outcome document free of any reference to “population control” or “reproductive rights,” often code for unrestricted abortion.
This was no small feat, considering the efforts of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and population control advocates to co-opt the environmental agenda.
For green activists and their U.N. allies, the stakes were high for this meeting; U.N. leaders built it up for months prior to its beginning, calling on nations to make concrete commitments on sustainable development and urging non-governmental organizations—and especially youth—to “make some noise” ahead of the conference.
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and chairman of the Rio +20 conference Sha Zukang called on member states to “come to Rio ready to commit,” stating:
The world we live in today is not sustainable—socially, economically and environmentally. At Rio, world leaders need to renew their political commitments for sustainable development and adopt an ambitious and yet practical outcome that equals the magnitude of today’s challenges. It cannot be another talk shop.
In spite of countless such overtures from the Secretary General and conference leaders, negotiations over the outcome document were lengthy and heated, drawn out over several months leading up to the start of the conference. Few commitments on behalf of governments materialized, leaving U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon with little to announce in his address to the conference other than commitments from non-governmental organizations, private businesses, and artists.
The outcome document also contains a proposal to upgrade the U.N. Environment Program to an independent U.N. agency, subject to approval by the General Assembly. The issue of creating concrete Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an initial goal of Rio +20, was kicked down the road; instead, a group of 30 countries will be appointed by the General Assembly to propose a list of SDGs later this year.
Overall, Rio+20 represents a significant defeat for the U.N.’s prolonged efforts to impose a so-called green economy, which, in addition to being an expensive undertaking, would most hurt developing nations and violate sovereign states’ right to determine their own economic and social policies.