Despite little progress, Rio Conventions remain relevant and feasible
The three conventions signed in Rio 92 have produced limited results, according to participants in a panel which took place on June 21 as part of the Rio+20 Conference. But in spite of the limited advances, panellists still consider them critically important and have reasons to be optimist about the implementation.
In the Rio 92 Conference, in which was then deemed an unprecedented consensus, delegates approved the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification and the Convention on Climate Change. A report recently released by the United Nations Environment Program said the world was making progress on only four of 90 important environmental goals and objectives set by these conventions.
"The Rio Conventions were visionary. Twenty years down the road they are still relevant. We need to use the spirit of the Rio+20 declaration to implement all the relevant conventions," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the presenters in the panel "Why the three Rio Conventions are critical to achieve development and poverty eradication".
Dr Chan also congratulated governments for the prominent position achieved by health in the Rio+20 draft declaration.
Dennis Carrity, Ambassador for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, suggested a change in the way the performance of these conventions is monitored. "We need to learn lessons from the MDG. The MDG goals are clear and appealing - they were not written by lawyers or government bureaucrats."
Carrity presented three tasks to increase the implementation of the Rio Conventions: galvanize more support with visible actions, build on success stories and engage new constituencies.
One constituency that is already engaged is the small island nations. Dr Rolph Payet, Minister of Environment and Energy for Seychelles explained that small islands are particularly sensitive to the issues covered by the conventions, because of their unique nature when dealing with challenges like population growth, energy sources, waste management, and pandemics.
Tourism, often a key source of income for small islands, can be disrupted by unsustainable practices both in the host and in the visitors' countries. "The three Rio Conventions are the best tool the small islands have to address these challenges," he said.
Many participants mentioned the linkages between the Rio Conventions and health. "The warming of the planet will be gradual, but the floods, draughts and heat waves will have a disruptive effect on people, including malnutrition, scarcity of water, change in the geographic distribution of vectors, disease, and ultimately deaths," said Dr Chan.
Braulio Dias, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity suggested "upscaling" the conventions. "We clearly did not work hard enough to solve the problem, but I see this as an opportunity, not as a problem. We need to get together to mainstream the Rio Conventions".