The NGO Major Group Organizing Partners have finalized their key document for the Rio+20 Summit. “The Future We Want” outlines the common vision for “sustainable development” throughout the planet sought by those nongovernmental organizations - mostly social and environmental activist groups. There are many noble sentiments in its 283 statements. There also is much that raises serious concerns. “Sustainable,” “sustainability” and “sustainable development” appear in the text an astounding 390 times. Like “abracadabra,” these amorphous words are supposed to transform even corrupt societies into Gardens of Eden under United Nations auspices. They will use less, pollute less, be sustainable, get along and save species and the entire planet from their worst enemy: human beings.
The affirmations, resolutions and guidelines are fascinating, but the funding mechanism is even more eye-opening. Results of the U.N. conference in Rio de Janeiro, which concluded Friday, calls for annual “donations” from the European Union and Annex II (Kyoto Protocol) countries amounting to 0.7 percent of their gross national product (GNP). With the combined GNP of contributing nations totaling about $45 trillion in 2010, the transfers would add up to $315 billion per year, or $3.2 trillion per decade.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had previously committed the United States to provide $105 billion annually, based on our $15 trillion GNP. World Bank data for 2010 put U.S. per capita GNP at $47,340 - meaning each American family of four would pay $1,325 a year. That may seem like chump change compared to Obamacare or the Obama stimulus. But over a decade, U.S. citizens would be required to contribute well over $1 trillion to U.N. sustainability schemes.
To oversee this unprecedented wealth transfer to U.N. bureaucrats and NGO activists, architects of “The Future We Want” would establish “an intergovernmental process” to assess financial needs; consider the effectiveness, consistency and synergies of existing instruments and frameworks; evaluate additional initiatives; and prepare reports on financing strategies. Implementation of this grand scheme would be handled by an intergovernmental committee of 30 “experts” who would be accountable to no one, except perhaps the U.N. secretary-general.
The document reassuringly suggests that “aid architecture has significantly changed in the current decade,” and “fighting corruption and illicit financial flows [has become] a priority.” Diogenes would search in vain for evidence of this.
Indeed, the very idea of still more aid must be questioned. “Has more than $1 trillion in development assistance over the last several decades made African people better off?” economist Dambisa Moyo asks in her book, “Dead Aid.” Her answer is an emphatic no.
Nevertheless, the U.N. is determined to move forward, claiming that somehow, this time the nations will get it right. Surely, the prospect of promoting sustainability and saving the planet and its species will convert scurrilous dictators and their cronies into honest leaders who would never divert eco-funding to political friends, Swiss bank accounts or crony-capitalist wind and solar projects.
Following Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue bathed in green light for the U.N. confab and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment proselytizing at Rio+20, surely these sinners will sin no more.
Meanwhile, Statement 61 helpfully pronounces that “urgent action on unsustainable patterns of production and consumption … remains fundamental in addressing environmental sustainability” and each country should “consider the implementation of green economy policies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.”
In essence, the Rio+20 message is, “You got a problem? Team U.N. has an app for that.” From poverty eradication to food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, from water, sanitation and energy to tourism, sustainable cities and “human settlements,” “The Future We Want” has it covered. Of course, there are caveats.
Everyone should have access to safe, sufficient, nutritious food , but biotechnology, chemical fertilizers and modern mechanized farming are unsustainable. Electricity is vital, but the 1.4 billion people now without lights or refrigeration must be content with “green energy.” Health is an indicator of sustainable development, but no DDT, please.
The authors promise “full and productive employment, decent work for all and social protections” for workers. They pledge to clean up the oceans, stop illegal mining and fishing, and ensure that only “sustainable forest management” prevails (the kind that produces uncontrollable wildfires).
“The Future We Want” also lauds women, the scientific and technological community, indigenous peoples, young people, workers, trade unions, small-scale farmers, NGOs and “civil society.” However, it places additional burdens on corporations that will be expected to generate trillions for U.N. sustainability programs.
The document also includes multiple proposals for technology transfers - absent any references to protections for patents and intellectual property rights. Not included in the final text was language “respecting the right to freedom of association and assembly, in accordance with our obligations under international law.”
This is just a sampling. Recall that there are 283 statements, mostly offering pious and well-intended but naive sentiments - earnest but contradictory and self-defeating solutions.
Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT.org) and author of “Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death” (Merril Press, 2010). Duggan Flanakin is director of research and international programs for CFACT.