Franciscans International, NGOs Speak Out During Rio+20

Maria Hayes Franciscan World

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Sha Zukang, secretary general of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, called the 2012 conference “a great success.” But Franciscans International and other non-governmental organizations disagreed, according to the August issue of The Franciscan Voice.

The purpose of the conference, which took place from June 20 to 22, was to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess progress made, and address new and emerging challenges. The UN invited all stakeholders — governments, intergovernmental agencies and civil society — to contribute to a working document outlining these plans. In January 2012, the UN secretariat received 627 submissions from civil society groups — including one composed by FI — and compiled these submissions into a document titled “The Future We Want.”

At the end of the conference, the final draft pledged $513 billion toward the implementation of a sustainable future.

However, it did not make tough decisions that would have placed people ahead of businesses, according to areflection written by Sr. Denise Boyle, FMDM, executive director of Franciscans International. For example, decisions with economic implications — such as the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, which are worth roughly $800 billion worldwide — were removed from the final draft. So was the proposed financial transaction tax (FTT), which operated in 40 countries last year and raised $38 billion for governments to use to implement earth friendly policies and programs for the poor.

“The Future We Want” is “a watered down version of the original working document,” according to Sr. Denise. “It is biased toward economic growth, containing no binding obligations for governments or monitoring of the implementation of recommendations within a time frame.”

FI was part of the Franciscan delegation to the conference. Its members were among 40,000 participants — including Joseph Rozansky, OFM, director of the Order’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity for Creation — lobbying for a people-centered approach to sustainable development.

Civil society groups and NGOs are calling the document “The Future We Don’t Want.”

FI recorded footage at RIO+20 “to capture our experiences and those of the Franciscan family and our partners at the conference,” according to the August 2012 FI e-newsletter. The footage will potentially become a series about the processes, issues and conclusions of Rio+20, and will include interviews with Franciscans at the conference to highlight their concerns about environmental justice.

Other recent developments reported by The Voice include:
• A discussion on the outcomes of Rio+20, attended by the Geneva Interfaith Forum
on Climate Change and Human Rights
• Sr. Denise’s reflections on the global communities’ interconnectedness, particularly
in relation to the civil war in Syria. She quotes St. Irenaeus when she says “the glory
of God is a human person fully alive” and encourages everyone to pray for the Syrians

 Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.