For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Rich Bindell, 202-683-2457,

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio Takes 20 Steps Back

Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe

WASHINGTON - “For the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (CSD) wrapping up today in Rio de Janeiro, 20 years has sadly not meant progress on critical environmental issues that affect our food and water and our communities that depend on vital common resources. In fact, the only sector that progressed at Rio+20 was the private sector. Corporations are more entrenched than ever before in the UN process.

“By our rough count in the final document that heads of state will consider today, the concept of the ‘public sector’ was mentioned 11 times in comparison to the ‘private sector,’ which was mentioned 20 times. Clearly, this is an indication of priorities. Conference organizers of UN-hosted events handed key panelist positions to Nestlé, Aquafed, Unilever, Dow Chemical and other major corporations, while Coca-Cola, Petrobras and others, put their sponsorship signage on tables, chairs and banners throughout the conference.

Despite the highest turnout of heads of state for a global forum, both President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron were conspicuously absent at the CSD, preferring instead to offer their political heft at smaller, more elite events, such as the G20, which took place just a few days prior. The most powerful nations are not setting forth a global vision on the most critical issues affecting the globe and have squandered a key opportunity to advance concrete action.


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“The final outcome document is in support of everything, but doesn’t commit to anything. It was continuously stated by the U.S., Canada, and other powerful countries that the CSD was ‘not a pledging conference,’ thus setting the tone for negotiations throughout the week and lowering expectations. There will be no legally-binding outcomes from this conference. It was effectively an exercise in public relations by the industrialized nations.

“Numerous promising ideas were proposed in the draft text only to be cut during the negotiating process due to lack of consensus and pressure from vested interests, including regulation that would curb food speculation, a tax on financial transactions that could contribute to poverty eradication and climate change adaptation and mitigation, and clear deadlines for ending fossil fuel subsidies.

“Rio+20 represents 20 steps back for both the multilateral UN process and global sustainability.”


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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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