The meeting of civil society in Bonn organized by the UN Department of Public Information (UN DPI) held on September 2-5, 2011 in Bonn is an important opportunity for NGOs and stakeholders to compare notes and unite voices on the main issues to be discussed at Rio, in June 2012. As the tradition dictates, the hosting government of Germany will submit the declaration adopted by civil society at this meeting as an input to the zero draft on November 1 to the Rio conference secretariat. Hence, this meeting and the declaration that will result from it is a significant opportunity for civil society to influence the Rio Conference.
The opening of the meeting was filled with speeches from charismatic and high level representatives. Vandana Shiva, a renowned activist once described by The Times as an environmentalist hero, highlighted that nature provides people with food, energy and water security and therefore environment should not be artificially separated from development. She said that action recognising the role of nature for human wellbeing will come from the people, in the same way German citizens pushed their government to drop nuclear energy and the Italian citizens excluded the option of privatizing water (90% of voters). Achim Steiner, head of UNEP, was provocative in stating that, if we consider UN meetings useless, we should not go to them or do something about it! He had a “yes we can” sort of speech but civil society needs to push for these meetings to be relevant to ordinary people.
In the afternoon, the main issue of discussion was sustainable production and consumption where speakers ranged from Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a famous representative of indigenous peoples, highlighting the importance of action at the community level and traditional knowledge; and Daniel Bena from Pepsico, telling the public about how they funded community initiatives to build education and sports centres. Organizations here are clearly questioning the role of private sector in the sustainability realm. The questions in the air seem to be “whose ultimately responsible for providing citizens with the basic needs for human well-being like water, food and energy; governments or the private sector? Is there a clear cut?”
IUCN will have a big day tomorrow as will be part of a round table on green economy...