13 June 2012

Africa: Rio+20 Conference - 'World Cannot Grow At the Expense of Poor People'

World leaders meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) next week must fully commit to build a more resilient and equitable future and to act upon three fundamental challenges that hamper sustainable development: gender inequality, climate change and food insecurity, urges CARE International, one of the leading aid agencies. CARE's experience shows that these are crucial barriers to reduce poverty, achieve social justice and foster sustainable development.

"The past 20 years since the first Rio conference have brought very little progress in developing our planet in a sustainable way. In fact, the issues that were discussed in 1992 are today more urgent than ever. By 2030, we will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water to meet the needs of a growing population. Yet our current development model is degrading our environment. It threatens to reverse the gains in poverty reduction of the past last twenty years and limits the opportunities of current and future generations to fight poverty. We can't continue to grow unsustainably at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable people and our natural environment," says Kit Vaughan, Advocacy Coordinator for CARE's Poverty, Environment and Climate Change Network (CARE PECCN). "Lifting the burdens of climate change, food insecurity and gender inequality from poor women and men must be a priority for Rio+20. Poverty and environmental degradation can no longer be a by-product of our broken development system."

According to the CARE report launched today entitled "One Planet - One Future: Equity and resilience for sustainable development", climate change, food insecurity and unequal distribution of rights are pressing burdens mainly shouldered by the poorest people. They are increasingly affected by more severe disasters such as floods or droughts and they have limited safety nets to rely on in times of hardship. Among the most vulnerable people are women and girls, who are often responsible for providing food and water to their families, yet may have no rights to own land or participate in decisions that affect their lives. "Only by tackling climate change, food insecurity and gender inequality we can build resilience of local communities and deliver equity and social justice for poor women and men," says Vaughan.

CARE urges governments to commit to setting the world on a path to truly sustainable development by building a solid sustainable foundation with equity and resilience as its central pillars. Unequal rights, lack of opportunities and access to resources remain as serious obstacles to economic and social development of the world's poorest people, especially women and girls. Building resilience for poor families to protect their lives and livelihoods from climate change impacts and other shocks is essential to overcome poverty. "At the current Rio+20 negotiations we clearly see a lack of ambition and urgency by global leaders to tackle these important challenges," says Vaughan. "Rio+20 provides a critical opportunity for leaders to act; postponing commitments is no option. We need a radical transition to a sustainable development pathway, pioneered by unprecedented leadership. Otherwise we will fail millions of poor women and men of both current and future generations."

The report puts forward the following recommendations for Rio+20:

  • Step up political commitment, ambition and urgency to deliver on truly sustainable development actions.
  • Ensure that sustainable development and a green economy prioritize building equitable and resilient communities.
  • Address gender inequality and enable women as the drivers of sustainable development by removing barriers to their full participation in key institutions and processes.
  • Pursue urgent and ambitious climate mitigation for developed countries, with increased support for low-carbon and climate resilient development, climate adaptation and building resilience for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.
  • Prioritise increased sustainable agricultural productivity for smallholder and women farmers by promoting rights based approaches and agro ecological practices that build resilience for adapting to a range of shocks such as market volatility and climate change.

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