Climate change is a terrible legacy to leave to our children. Yet so far our generation of leaders has failed dismally to rise to the challenge. We must fervently hope that the Rio +20 Conference will help address these failures. Mr. Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress, June 2012.
Twenty years after the world came together at Rio to pledge determined action to tackle inequality, hunger and environmental destruction, we are moving in the wrong direction. The MDGs have been remarkably successful in galvanizing world attention on the needs of the extreme poor. These goals must be extended beyond 2015. But the MDGs are not enough and must be complemented by practical commitments to address the demands of rapid population growth, increased consumption of scarce natural resources, climate change and environmental degradation. Nowhere is this more critical than in Africa.
The Rio + 20 Earth Summit taking place from 20-22 June is a huge opportunity to address this backsliding and deliver four crucial policy messages on development in Africa and around the world.
First, African governments and international partners must redouble their efforts to meet the current 2015 MDG targets and integrate them into a longer-term commitment to sustainable development and poverty eradication.
As outlined in our recently released Africa Progress Report (2012) deep, persistent and enduring inequalities across Africa and globally have consequences for poverty and sustainable development. Governments must commit at Rio to a final "big-push" towards meeting the MDGs. This is crucial for setting the stage for any successful post-MDG agreement.
The world must adopt a new set of shared global goals building on the MDGs and incorporating the broader sustainability challenges. Committing to a single framework is vital to mobilize all stakeholders and to provide clear direction beyond 2015.
Second, Governments must reorient their economic development strategies to ensure long-term sustainability.
Participants at Rio must commit to adopting green growth strategies to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and fulfill human rights - while implementing good governance of natural resources at the local and international level. As one practical example, governments at Rio should commit to implementing green accounting or natural capital accounting measures such as those adopted by the U.N. Statistical Commission and endorsed by the World Bank, alongside their gross domestic product measurements.
Third, Governments must put smallholder farmers and agricultural productivity at the center of national strategies for growth, food security and nutrition, with a focus on women farmers.
The global food system is under acute and rising pressure with severe consequences for the developing world. But the risk of food insecurity is higher in Africa than in any other region with over 200 million people facing food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. A critical issue for Africa is land. More needs to be done to stop speculators buying up large tracts of land. In the last decade Africa accounted for 948 acquisitions covering 134 million hectares - an area larger than France, Germany and the UK combined.
Commitments at Rio must include provisions for a sustainable and equitable global food system through increased investment in smallholder agriculture, strengthened land rights protections, global standards for land acquisitions, and a focus on the rights of women producers. Support for the World Committee on Food Security (CFS) will be crucial to take forward this agenda.
Agriculture must be made a spending priority, being the area most affected by changing temperatures and water scarcity. As the region potentially hardest hit by the effects of climate change, governments must commit to financing for a climate-resilient Green Revolution in Africa in order to drastically boost agricultural productivity and help farmers adapt to an increasingly hostile climate. Improved natural resource governance will be key to new development goals.
Fourth, rich countries must deliver what they have promised.
We are concerned that richer countries are using the excuse of the financial crisis to break their promises to the poor. Overall ODA is falling well short of the internationally agreed target of 0.7% of rich countries' GNP, and the $100 billion promised by 2020 in international climate finance has not been forthcoming. Of particular concern is the fact that the recently adopted Green Climate Fund remains an empty shell.
Agricultural support from richer countries to their own farmers in 2009 was 80 times the funding for development aid to agriculture. Without new and additional funds to finance actions to realize development goals, many developing countries will be loath to sign up to more targets. Innovative financing mechanisms, such as a financial transaction tax, levies on international air transport, international bunker fuel taxes, etc. must be implemented to help raise the necessary resources. Mr. Annan recently stated, "I believe a financial transactions tax could be used to help curb excessive speculation while raising money for development and climate change finance."
Concerns are already emerging about the slow progress at Rio. But we still hope that the Rio + 20 Conference will be an opportunity for the universal adoption and, crucially, implementation, of the policies needed for sustainable development and a more equitable world. Lack of firm commitments at Rio to address unjust inequalities, hunger and environmental destruction globally would represent a failure not just of policy and politics but also of vision and values.
Caroline Kende-Robb is the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, a group of distinguished individuals dedicated to encouraging progress in Africa.