Rio+20 and the Arab World: ‘Our Leaders Have Failed Us’

arab-world-rio-climate-summit-20Let down by world leaders (again) at Rio+20, green Arab researcher Mohamed Abdel Raouf says it’s time for a less top-down approach to solutions

It’s been over a fortnight since the Rio+20 summit which was supposed to look at sustainable development (and in later years ‘sustained growth’ – something which is very different) whimpered to an end. The was so little progress at the climate summit that I feel sorry for those journalists who attended and were asked to write up some ‘news’. Nobody thought it was going to be as ground-breaking as the initial summit twenty years ago which saw world leaders sign up to protect biodiversity and champion sustainability but the outcome was more depressing than many hoped.

It seems climate change has fallen spectacularly off the world agenda and, with it, our chances of an international agreement with the grit to steer the planet back onto the right track. I caught up with Mohamed Abdel Raouf, a green researcher based in the Middle East after a busy and frustrating time at the Rio+20 conference to get his take on events.

Abdel Raouf seems pretty eager to get the bad news out of the way first and tells me that the official outcomes of the negotiations were disappointing. The document which emerged from the conference, titled ‘The Future We Want’, “contains hardly any new commitment by governments” he explains. “It is neither transformational nor visionary – there are no clear measurable goals/targets, no timelines and no clear indication of how the transition to green economy will be funded.” He states that the problem is a lack of leadership. World leaders weren’t able to put their national interests aside and work on a common global agenda which requires practical steps be taken towards a new type of economy.

“They are locked in the old ways of doing things,” he admits. “These ways proved to be unsustainable and inequitable and thus resulted in economic crises and drove people onto the streets of the Arab World and Wall Street to demonstrate. This also means that top-down solving of the world’s problems is no longer an option.” I think his last sentence is particularly insightful and reflects what a lot of campaigners I know have been saying about the climate summits for years – they are not the solution.

However, the forever optimistic Abdel Raouf insists that there are reasons to be hopeful. “The Arab world skepticism about the green economy shifted a little at Rio+20,” he states. “A year ago, Arab countries were suspicious of the concept, now they are exploring green economy as one tool for sustainable development.” Yet he admits that the Arab nations positioned themselves with G77 and China which was the main group opposing many parts of the document under negotiation at Rio+20.

Even so, the final document does call on Arab nations to join others in their efforts to promote sustainable development and the green economy. Whether this call will be heard and then answered is another issue all together. Personally, I remain sceptical but Abdel Raouf’s optimism is unshakable and he insists that “it may be true that humanity lost an opportunity but we definitely still have not lost hope.”

: Image of Christ The Redeemer via Niall Dunne/Shutterstock.com

For more on Rio see:

What Can Rio+20 do for the Arab World?

Qatar’s Temporary Rio+20 Pavilion Shaped Like Soaring Falcon

Israel Takes Messianic Stance on the Rio+20 UN Conference

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