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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rio+20 = Rio-40 or Rio Fail?

Speaking on behalf of the Ocean and everything in it with my Ocean Hero, Dr. Sylvia Earle, at the Rio+20 Oceans Dialogue.

"More money was mobilized at  than at any previous UN conference, to benefit the planet & its people" @UN Twitter statement. 

But what really was the outcome for the planet and the people? 49 pages of fluff. The outcome document, titled 'The Future We Want' has been shunned by many who attended the summit and many more who watched eagerly from their seats at home, anticipating positive outcomes. For those of us who attended, participated and voiced a general need for ACTION rather than RECOMMENDATIONS, particularly for the oceans and the high seas - which form half our planet, the mood is low. 

Finding silver linings is tough....especially seeing as the will of 183 countries to develop a framework for high seas governance was killed by a very small number of powerful countries - namely, the United States, Russia, Canada and Venezuela. How that is even possible, is beyond me!

The resulting document has been described as "watered-down text that has very little teeth" by Kumi Naidoo the executive director of Greenpeace International. Frankly, the results are discouraging.

The final outcome document does however, contain recommendations on ending overfishing, taking action to stop illegal fishing, phasing out harmful subsidies, eliminating destructive fishing practices and protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems. I, like many others, await action. 

It becomes evident once again that the one thing that will rescue us and our oceans is education. This was reflected in my message at the Oceans Dialogue of Rio+20. Below is an excerpt,

"We need to empower people with knowledge so they can make informed decisions. We live in this incredible age of digital technology and social media. We need to embrace the tools that lie at our finger tips to get the word out about oceans and get people excited enough so that we can begin to see the positive change that we so desperately need. We need to involve the local communities in the protection of their own back yard. Mobilize the masses. A bottom up approach might be our only hope."

Finally, it is important to note that Rio+20 was not a complete failure because after two decades of trying, the Oceans were finally on the agenda. There was a high amount of public participation in Rio+20, including the fact that people from 163 countries submitted nearly one and a half million votes online about environmental issues they wanted to see discussed. 

The conference has been a celebration of knowing that nature matters - for business, industry, healthy, security, and every breath we take, every drop of water we drink," said Dr. Sylvia Earle. "Whether the political leaders endorse what people are saying or not is not as important as the lift this conference has given to the growing awareness that the planet has limits."

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