By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit has ended with broad agreements and a general “renewing of commitment” to sustainable development, greener economies and the eradication of poverty, after delegates from nearly 200 member countries approved the text of the 53-page official Outcome Document on Friday.
However many details concerning specific targets and goals have yet to be finalized, and some see the outcome of the High-Level Summit as frustratingly disappointing.
The document, entitled “The Future We Want”, cites global poverty as the planet’s current biggest challenge.
Although many politicians and figures in the UN, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, have praised the progress made at the summit, others, particularly environmental activists and development charities, have decried the conference as a “wasted opportunity” – with little to show for two years of preparations.
The British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called the progress made “insipid” and many other politicians said there had been a distinct lack of leadership.
The three-day high-level meeting was beset by tensions over whether richer countries would increase funding, in particular to enable developing countries to achieve their commitments, which they would otherwise not be prepared to do.
Arguably the biggest sticking point over the final text was whether better-off countries would allow the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” – forcing richer countries to fund the implementation of sustainable development – to be left in the draft text, after voicing concerns over increased damage to the environment. The wording remained in place.
Some advances have been made in strengthening the UN’s Environmental Program (UNEP) and Oceans and Law of the Sea (UNOLOS) conventions, but in both cases progress was deemed unambitious. It had been hoped that UNEP would get “agency” status, giving it much greater powers and resources.
High-level meetings in Europe over the Eurozone crisis, and presidential campaigning in the U.S., meant that many big names – most notably U.S. President Barack Obama – were not present at the summit, despite calls urging them to attend.
Although some pledges have been made by governments and the private sector, many believe the reluctance of governments to pump more money into sustainable development, given the world’s current economic woes, has contributed to the limited progress seen at Rio+20.
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