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Rio+20: Renewing the development agenda

Rio+20: Renewing the development agenda

Image credit: Graphic Design Unit of the United Nations Department of Public Information

Posted by contributor Andres Santamaria.

The Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, which starts this week from June 20th -22nd,  is not only the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development that took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but falls during the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa as well. Participants from all around the world working in government, the private sector, and NGOs have taken on the objective to tackle such issues as climate change, poverty and food security.

Specifically, the Rio+20 conference’s two main themes are: (1) a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication; and (2) the institutional framework for sustainable development. There are seven areas under discussion that are intended to make these themes feasible, including creating jobs, the energy sector, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans, and disaster readiness.

In the 2012 issue brief on food security released in December 2011, you can see the commitments that have manifested since the first Rio conference and their subsequent progress. Some of these include minimizing waste, land conservation, and an assessment of chemical risks. Other areas that pertain to food security under examination include irrigation, drought and desertification, land, water, and pest management.

A general conclusion about the results of the original Rio agenda for food security states, “Global delivery of the food security and sustainable agriculture-related commitments has been disappointing.” The 2008 food crisis put a halt on many improvements, but it helped garner attention for the need to further research and develop many strategies on agriculture, especially by countries like China, Brazil, and India.

South Asia currently has the biggest number of starved people in the developing world–with 36% of them being malnourished. “As many as 20 per cent more people could be at risk of hunger owing to climate-related losses in productivity, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Brazil has implemented their Zero Hunger program, which has helped fight hunger and poverty for many poor households. It helps families financially who consistently ensure that their children regularly attend school and who keep up with health check-ups. It also provides a school meal program, feeding 47 million children a day, all while supporting their own local farms. It now has helped around 49 million Brazilians, and it hopes to help another 16 million out of poverty by 2014. This framework is now being taken into consideration for other parts of the world, including Latin America, Africa, and Asian countries.

Mainly, the food security goals at center of attention at Rio+20 are:

  • To increase assistance on agricultural and rural development to 20%;
  • To transform global agricultural production from industrial to sustainable by 2030;
  • To ensure that food exports are secondary to food for local consumption.

At best, creating jobs that cultivate foods while being water efficient–all while supporting local production–would dramatically reduce the numbers of malnourished people all around the world and help sustain local productivity. It is now all a matter of how to procure and allocate funds to transform these practical ideas into a reality.