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Rio+20: the future we want and food security

Tesfaldet Okubayes1

This paper is produced for the Food We Want2 project.

April 30th 2013 London

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Tesfaldet Okubayes is working as Research Associate at the Pastoral & Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA). He specialises on economic policies and development projects in the Sub-Saharan Africa. 2 Food We Want project is a global action to support the critical role of Sustainable Agriculture to ensure food security and environmental protection. Project is funded by the European Union.


Introduction This article mainly focuses on one of the 7 priorities of Rio+20 negotiations, that is, food security and sustainable agriculture. The first part briefly narrates about the Earth Summit background from its origin to the present. The second part describes the commitments and action plans that are embraced in the Rio+20 outcome document related to food security and sustainable agriculture. The third part reflects mixed views of different actors towards the Rio+20 outcome document in general. Then, the fourth part of the article reviews Rio+20’s expected outcome in terms of food security and sustainable agriculture by referring to the actual results of the predecessors’ global commitments that focused on similar issues. Though it is too early to make value judgment about Rio+20 at this time – less than a year since it was convened. The article finally draws some relevant insights and conclusions by reviewing past global commitments that govern the summit.

1. Background In June 2012 Rio+20 - the third Earth Summit - heads of states and government delegates from 193 countries convened to renew their political commitment to approve the outcome document, setting the stage for a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Food security and sustainable agriculture were identified as critical issues which required due attention in the Rio+20 negotiations. Rio+20 was concerned with securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development (SD) – to assess the progress to-date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of major summits on sustainable development and to address new and emerging challenges3. “Reaffirming Rio Principles and Past Action Plans” – is the main manifesto of the outcome document of Rio+20. The document reaffirms and recalls more than 20 previous international commitments related to SDGs that have been agreed since 19724. In addition to this, it reaffirms relevant international commitments and agreed goals in the economic, social and environmental fields since 1992 aiming to accelerate implementation of SDGs, such as, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Rio+20 brought state and government representatives from all countries together, along with thousands of individuals and representatives of civil societies (about 45,763) as well as over 50 million who participated virtually on various social media platforms; this made Rio+20 the

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The Future We Want – Rio+20 full document available at http://www.uncsd2012.org/thefuturewewant.html Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment adopted on 16 June 1972; Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21; Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and the Plan of Implementation; the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation; Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries (IPOA); the Almaty Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries; the Political declaration on Africa’s development needs, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development; Millennium Declaration and the 2005 World Summit outcome; the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development; the outcome document of the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the MDGs; the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development; the Key Actions for Further Implementation of the Programme of Action; and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. 4


biggest UN conference ever5. Moreover, the impact of the conference can be seen in terms of its contents in which “Rio+20 concludes with big package of commitments for action and agreement by world leaders on path for a sustainable future; and more than $500 billion mobilized with over 700 voluntary commitments made by civil society groups, businesses, governments, universities and others (UNCSD, 2012)”6. In 1992 the first Earth summit was originated with the objective of ensuring international commitment for SD for the benefit of present and future generations. Sustainable Development, as an integrated approach to (economic) development while protecting the environment, has evolved since the first Earth Summit also known as the Rio Conference. Hosted by Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, the summit succeeded in raising public awareness and coordinating 109 world leaders to address environmental and socio-economic development problems. The summit also established a good foundation for the setting of international institutional frameworks: Climate Change Convention, a climate change agreement that led to the Kyoto Protocol; Agenda 21, which was dedicated to sustainable Agriculture and rural development; Convention of Biological Diversity; the Commission on Sustainable Development, tasked with the follow-up of the Rio conference, and the UNFCCC7. In 2002, the Second Earth Summit was held in Johannesburg, South Africa which had a greater aim to strengthen the institutional framework for SD and to recognize SD as an overarching goal at national, regional and international levels. The need to integrate SD in almost all United Nations Agency activities was highly emphasized in Rio+10 also known as Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI)8.

2. Food security and sustainable agriculture The need to deal with challenges of growing more food for an increasing global population, while conserving natural resources in pursuit of a sustainable future, was one of the priorities of Rio+20. Nearly one billion people in the world are undernourished 9. “Feeding a global population of 9 billion people by 2050 will require at least 70 percent increase in global food production and a 50 percent rise in investments in food, agriculture and rural development”.10 According to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) June 2012 press release, Rio+20 highlighted seven areas which need priority attention: green jobs and social inclusion, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and reducing disaster risks and building resilience. Under the framework for action and follow up, the “Food Security and Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture” - section of the Rio+20 document stresses the need “to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and 5

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) press release www.uncsd2012.org Ibid. 7 http://www.uncsd2012.org/index.php?page=view&type=12&nr=228&menu=63 8 Ibid. 9 Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2011 (Rome), available from http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/i2330e/i2330e00.htm. 10 Rio+20 Issue Brief No. 9 December 2011 – Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture available at http://www.uncsd2012.org/index.php?page=view&type=400&nr=227&menu=45 6


the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger”(Rio document, 2012). It also emphasises the need to revitalize rural agricultural development acknowledging that a significant number of the poor live in rural areas and their considerable contribution to the attainment of sustainable food and agriculture. The document highlighted the need to take action on the critical needs of two significant rural populations: (1) women, who are at the heart of global food and nutrition security, and (2) small scale farmers who utilize traditional agricultural systems. It addressed the need to enhance access by women and small scale farmers to a wider range of social services, credit and other financial services, appropriate market opportunities, transportation, storage to reduce food losses and wastage, and affordable farming technologies, among others. Creating an enabling environment for improved farming practices and increased productivity was noted to improve functioning of markets and trade systems, strengthen international collaboration, especially for developing countries, and promote higher investment in agriculture. Increased support in promoting crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, which are vital to realizing the future we want, was also highly emphasized in the document. Furthermore the document has recognized the need to enhance sustainable livestock production; crucial role of healthy marine ecosystem, sustainable fisheries and, sustainable aquaculture for food and nutrition security. Actions to enhance agricultural research, extension services, training and education also gained good credit. The document reaffirms the improved work and inclusive nature of the Committee of world food security through its role in facilitating country – initiated assessment of the sustainability of food production and food security. It also recognize the apparent need to address the root cause of excessive food price volatility; and non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system to promote agricultural and rural development in developing countries and contribute to world food security. The launch of “Zero Hunger Challenge” by UN Secretary General Ban Ki - Moon is worth mentioning as an outcome of Rio+20. The campaign is highly concerned with the growing number of people – estimated at 1 billion – who still go to bed hungry each day; this fact has made the crosscutting issue of food security demand higher collective attention more than anytime. Mr. Ban calls all convening nations to be “boldly ambitious as they work for a future where everyone enjoys the right to food and all food systems are resilient”. The campaign aims at five main objectives: (1) to provide 100 per cent access to adequate food year round; (2) to end malnutrition in pregnancy and early childhood; (3) to make food systems sustainable; (4) to increase small farm productivity, with particular emphasis on the role of women; and (5) to achieve zero loss or waste of food11.

3. Mixed views towards Rio+20 document In general, countries agreed in principle to work towards the new set of SDGs which is considered by many as a very important outcome of Rio+20. Mr Ban Ki-moon at the General Assembly meeting of June 2012 said, “In Rio, we saw the further evolution of an undeniable global movement for change.” He described it as “an important victory for multilateralism after months of difficult negotiations”. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the UNCSD 11

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/jun/22/ban-ki-moon-zero-hunger-challenge


plenary has also praised the deft leadership of Brazil for creating an enabling situation for countries to “coalesce around the outcome document that makes a real advance for SD”12. She added that “the most compelling products of this conference are the examples of new thinking that can lead to models for future action.”13 The Rio+20 as the largest UN conference to date, has undoubtedly succeeded more than previous conferences in highlighting the issue of SDGs and promoting it as a significant global issue. Moreover, it has also succeeded in bringing together considerable numbers of state figures and other participants creating common ground to agree on the newly set global SDGs. However, The Guardian, in its Rio+20 summit live blog, has reflected critical opinions from representatives of different civil society organizations, in addition to the expert opinions of scholars, journalists and others on the outcome document. The civil society representatives reiterated their disappointment at “the weak and vague draft outcome document, the lack of serious inclusion of civil society…”14. Stocking from Oxfam Great Britain said “unless leaders really got their act together we will see more food riots and uprising like those of the Arab spring”15. Jonathan Watts from The Guardian in covering the opinion of Bhumika Muchhala, Third World Network representative “Rio+20 has failed to set specifics on financing and technology, which is the conflicting issue between the rich and poor nations likely to continue for the future”. Moreover, the failure of the outcome document to set clear themes and targets has raised conflicts of interest between the European Union (EU) and the US, and the G77. For example, the EU and the US wanted to focus on water, food, resource efficiency, land and biodiversity, while Muchhala said G77 group of developing countries was adamant that the goals must include strong social and economic packages, including financing and technology transfer16.

4. Rio+20 and its expected contribution to food security and Sustainable Agriculture In assessing the trends and issues of Rio+20 in relation to food security, it is worth reviewing the outcome and progress of previously agreed global commitments that govern food security which are reaffirmed in the newly set SDGs. Prior to the Summit, the UNCSD in its 9th issue brief about Rio+20 reviewed international time bound and qualitative commitments on food security and sustainable agriculture. Some of the major agreements and commitments assessed were:  Agenda 21 (1992); is a global action plan for sustainable development into the 21st century in which 38 of its 40 chapters agreed at the Earth Summit in 1992. The Agenda is a non-binding programme of action, which was adopted by more than 178 Governments17.  Rome Declaration on World Food Security (1996);  Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) (2002); 12

Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State speech at the UNCSD Plenary Rio De Janeiro, Brazil June 22, 2012 (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/06/193910.htm) 13 Ibid. 14 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/jun/22/rio-20-summit-final-day-live-blog 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid. 17 Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development Volume 3 Number 2 - June 1999 http://www.bgci.org/worldwide/article/0011/


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MDGs (2000) and CSD17 decision on agriculture, rural development and drought and desertification.

The issue briefing has revealed the outcomes were very disappointing in which most of the commitments had failed to deliver their proposed objectives in the planned time. The outcome progress of some of the commitments had clearly indicated Rio+20 is adopting previously failed global agreements. As illustrated in the issue brief of the UNCSD; Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 with its main target –in particular with food security and sustainable agriculture, has emphasized on: (1) Review of Agricultural policy to integrate SDGs; (2) Land conservation; (3) conservation and sustainable utilization of plant genetic resources; (4) integrated pest management; (5) sustainable plant nutrition to increase food production; and others. However, due to varied reasons the progress was insignificant. Only partial achievements have been made in most of the targeted components. Chapter 18 of Agenda 21 - Water for sustainable food production and sustainable rural development has shown some progress through the use of large scale irrigation systems. However, lack of basic infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa, has made the commitment unable to deliver agreed targets in time. Chapter III of JPOL - Changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production – similar to the above targets, has shown little progress in reaching targets due to limited implementation capacity of the developing countries. Such a trend of limited progress was very common to almost all of the internationally agreed commitments towards food security and sustainable agriculture. Even though Rio+20 has made a point of identifying and assessing implementation gaps to improve the outcome of the reaffirmed commitments, experiences show this is not going to be easy. Financial limitations, technical and capacity gaps, climate calamities and political problems are among the most likely barriers, as in the other international agreements. Apart from that, most of the commitments are not legally binding, mostly agreed on a voluntary basis, lacking the necessary international enforcement mechanisms can potentially contribute to continued failure. Similar to that, as stated in the press release of the UNCSD, voluntary commitments are a major part of the legacy of Rio+20 to complement the official outcome of the Conference. This clearly shows the outcome document has a major gap in holding countries accountable for the agreed actions, targets, and financial pledges they made. However, strategies identified to fill implementation gaps and mitigation strategies for the upcoming challenges can potentially support Rio+20 in delivering its commitments better than its predecessors.

5. Conclusion Countries seem to be agreed in principle towards SDGs; however actions and implementations remain a big question. The conference has got considerable appreciation from UN officials and some state figures which made the document politically possible. However, the heavy dependence on past commitment that can more likely to retain previous wrong directions has made the document unpopular to scientists and civil society representatives. David Nussbaum, the head of UK- Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in his email to The Guardian live blog has described the Rio+20 document as ambitious, highly


dependent on political commitment rather than agreed to scientific facts that can protect the planet in the future18. The past 20 years have been a more suitable span of time for the earth summits to show progressive outcomes than the future, which is characterized by unsustainable situations such as increased numbers and frequency of climate calamities, financial crisis and ever increasing human deprivations. Therefore, strategies to materialize the future we want must prioritize sustainable agriculture and food systems which are the basis for an environmentally friendly economy for the future. This will greatly contribute to materialize a planet without hunger and malnutrition - The future we want 19. Even though most of the critique towards Rio+20 document holds true, I believe the there is a wider opportunity to learn from past wrong deeds with great potential to impact food security and sustainable agriculture positively.

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/jun/22/rio-20-summit-final-day-live-blog FAO to watch the video on YouTube follow the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzrVO2GFaNE&feature=related