4 J. Hum. Rts. & Env't. 1 (2013)

handle is hein.journals/jhre4 and id is 1 raw text is: 




Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, Vol. 4 No. 1, March 2013, pp. 1-5



Editorial


Rio+20:   a critique  - The   global is personal:   the personal is   global




Following two decades on  from the ground-breaking United Nations Conference on
the Human  Environment  in Stockholm  in 1972, the United Nations Conference on
Environment  and Development  in Rio in 1992 promised much in terms of the matur-
ing of international environmental law. Among its most significant achievements,
which included reaching international agreements on climate change and biodiversity,
was the launch of the supposedly paradigm shifting concept of sustainable develop-
ment into international law and policy agendas and ultimately, our global conscious-
ness. This development ostensibly represented an attempt to redraw the relationship
between  humanity and  the environment on a more viable footing, recognizing the
complex  interplay between environmental, social and economic factors. Accordingly,
the United Nations  Conference  on Sustainable Development   (Rio+20) provided
an ideal opportunity to take stock of progress - or the lack of it - in the intervening
20 years. What then was made  of this opportunity?
   In fairness, as Adelman suggests, there is much to be discouraged about both in
relation to the Rio+20 process and its outcomes. Widespread  disappointment  is
clearly indicated not only by the (arguably expected) critical views of the 'usual sus-
pects' (such as Greenpeace, which called Rio+20 a 'failure of epic proportions') but
is also evident in the more constrained views of 'establishment' figures. For example,
Janez Poto6nik (Europe's Environment Commissioner) expressed a certain amount of
frustration with the final text, commenting that: '[t]he document does not entirely
match  our ambition or meet the challenge the world faces. But it's an important
step forward ... That's why we must engage  with it  '2 Such  muted frustration,
however,  casts off establishment constraints in the views of the more radically
inclined nations, whose frustration was communicated  in far stronger terms. For
example, Nicaragua's representative, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, pulled no punches
when  he stated that '[o]ur final document is an opportunity that has been missed.
It contributes almost nothing to our struggle to survive as a species 3
   The depressing reality is that in the context of the stagnation that has characterized
the more challenging  aspects of international environmental law in recent years
(characterized - as Lyster points out - most markedly by the recurrent failure of the
Climate Change  regime to make  meaningful progress in developing a successor to
the Kyoto Protocol), the very fact that any agreement was reached at all at Rio+20
is significant - even if that significance is painfully paradoxical in its implications.



1.   J Watts and L Ford, 'Rio+20 Earth Summit: Campaigners Decry Final Document',
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/201 2/jun/23/rio-20-earth-summit-document>
accessed 8 October 2012.
2.   Ibid.
3.   Ibid.

0 2013 The Author                        Journal compilation 0 2013 Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd
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