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Friday, June 1, 2012

Build up to Rio de Janeiro +20

“Sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back”. We will here step back to pre Rio 1992, a relook at The Earth Summit and the Millennium Development Goals. This will allow us the much needed room and momentum for Rio+20, so that come June 20, 2012 and we deliver the hardest punch possible.


The foundations for the Rio process were laid in 1972, when 113 nations gathered for the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, the first global environmental meeting. In 1983, the United Nations created the World Commission on Environment and Development. Four years later its landmark report, Our Common Future, warned that people had to change many of the ways they did business and lived or the world would face unacceptable levels of human suffering and environmental damage.

In 1989, the United Nations began planning a Conference on Environment and Development to spell out how to achieve sustainable development. For two years, experts from around the world hammered out difficult agreements along the road to Rio. The international negotiating system was opened up as never before. Thousands of people from non-governmental organizations, businesses, education, women’s groups, indigenous groups and others contributed to the Rio process.

The Earth Summit 1992, Rio

It was by far the largest ever meeting of world leaders, who gathered during the United Nations conference on Environment and Development. It was attended by senior officials of 179 countries. They were joined by hundreds of officials from United Nations organizations, municipal governments, business, scientific, non-government and other groups.

The 1992 forum held a series of meetings and seminars on public issues of environment and development with participants from 166 countries. The proceedings were there to see and read for the whole world.

Rio 1992, The Agenda

It was in The Earth Summit, 1992 leaders of the world formally realised that focus solely on economic growth was not a wise way to go ahead. With shrinking resources, we cannot afford to miss out on social progress and sustaining the environment.

The agenda for 1992 summit was spread to four sections:-


a) Accelerating Sustainable Development 
b) Combating Poverty
c) Changing Consumption Patterns
d) Population and Sustainability
e) Protecting and Promoting Human Health
f) Sustainable Human Settlements
g) Making Decisions for Sustainable Development


a) Protecting The Atmosphere
b) Managing Land Sustainability
c) Combating Deforestation
d) Combating Desertification and Drought
e) Sustainable Mountain Development
f) Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development
g) Conservation of Biological Diversity
h) Management of Biotechnology
i) Protecting and Managing The Oceans
j) Protecting and Managing Fresh Water
k) Safer Use of Toxic Chemicals
l) Managing Hazardous Waste
m) Managing Solid Waste and Sewage
n) Managing Radio Active Waste


a) Women In Sustainable Development
b) Children and Youth In Sustainable Development
c) Role of Indigenous People
d) Partnership With NGO’s
e) Local Authorities
f) Workers and Trade Unions
g) Business and Industry
h) Science and Technology
i) Strengthening The Role of Farmers


a) Financing Sustainable Development
b) Technology Transfer
c) Science For Sustainable Development
d) Education, Training and Public Awareness
e) Creating Capacity For Sustainable Development
f) Organising For Sustainable Development
g) International Law
h) Information For Decision Making

With the above set of agenda, we started off towards a sustainable future. However, it is for ourselves to decide that in this journey how many miles we have travelled.

Millennium Development Goals, the 8 MDG’s (India)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world's main development challenges, the focus being the human dimension. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.

Now, we take a look at the all the goals which covers MDG

1.   Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

• The absolute number of poor in the country has declined from about 320 million (36% of total population) in 1993‐94 to about 301 million (27.6% of total population) in 2004‐ 05. At this rate of decline, the country is expected to have a burden of about 279 millions of people (22.1%) living below the poverty line in the year 2015

• 21 of 35 States/UTs are going to be early achiever of PHR targets of halving their 1990 poverty levels. 4 States/UTs are either on track or slightly slow at achieving the target. 7 States/UTs are relatively slow in progress

• Going at the present pace of change, India is likely to have 40.23% children below 3 years Underweight in 2015 against target proportion of 26.8%

2. Achieving universal primary education

• India has already attained cent percent gross enrolment ratio5 (GER) in primary grades of schooling for both boys and girls. GER stands at 114.42 for boys and 107.84 for girls in the year 2006‐07

• The NER estimated from this trend works out to be about 75 % for 1990 and is about 96% for 2008. The NER for girls in primary schools tends to have sharper rise compared to that for boys and at this rate of increase is likely to have reached 100% mark by now

Despite all this, India is expected to achieve MDG-2 well before 2015. This highlight the loophole in the way the MDG-2 is defined, which only talk of  "ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling," but makes no mention of the level of learning to be achieved by students completing primary schooling.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women

• Trends show gender parity in primary and secondary levels of educations can be attained by 2015

• Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector is likely to reach only 24% by 2015
4. Reduce child mortality

• Under‐Five mortality, going by the present trend, can come down to nearly 70 per thousand live births by 2015 against the target of 42 per thousand live births

• Early neo-natal deaths constitute as high as 51.6 % of total number of infant deaths in 2007

5. Improve maternal health

• MMR has registered a 36% decline between 1997 and 2006 as compared to 25% decline in the preceding eight years

• Coverage of deliveries attended by skilled personnel is likely to reach 62% by 2015

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB

The total no. of HIV/AIDS infected population in India is supposed to be 23.9 lakh (2009). Of all HIV infections, 39 percent (9.3 lakhs) are among women. The four high prevalence states of India (Andhra Pradesh–5 lakhs, Maharashtra–4.2 lakhs, Karnataka2.5 lakhs, Tamil Nadu–1.5 lakhs) account for 55 percent of all HIV infections in the country.

Around 40% of India's population is infected with bacteria that cause tuberculosis. The majority however are dormant TB carriers. What's most worrying is that almost 70% of TB patients are aged between 15 and 54 years. While two-thirds are male, TB takes a disproportionately larger toll among young females, with more than 50% of female cases occurring before 34 years of age.

7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability

• By 2025, per capita availability of water is likely to slip below 1000 cubic metres

• India’s forest cover increased in year 2005-07 by 728

• 95% of India’s energy comes from fossil fuels

8. Develop Global Partnership For development

Developing countries struggle to compete against developed countries because of the world's unfair trade rules which allow developed countries to heavily subsidise their industries and Corporations as well as placing high tariffs on the exports from developing countries. Internationally, India has a sufficient range of products and adequate safeguard mechanisms to protect the interests of its farmers, assuming appropriate and effective   domestic   policy.

The Road Ahead

On 20th of June our policy makers need to be very cautious, what has happened and what might happen we all are quite familiar with, there is no point talking about it again. We would rather prefer to hear about the immediate policy changes and most importantly would like to see them getting implemented.

Let us hope that Rio+20 pack a punch and does not become another Durban debate where nobody was the winner. Our policy makers need to be very cautious and take a calculated approach. “Sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back…but step back too far and you aren’t fighting at all”.

Credit: Mr. Vivek Yadav and Ms. Sudha Sah, for the report on MGD in India.