Starting June 1, 1992, Brazil will host the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, also dubbed the "Earth Summit"). Bringing heads of state from more than 120 nations together in Rio de Janeiro, the Summit will either be an opportunity for progress toward solving the globe’s environmental and economic development problems, or an exercise in damage control and public relations.
When originally announced more than two years ago, the Summit was expected to produce:
* An "Earth Charter," an ethical code of conduct for nations and peoples regarding their behavior toward the planet;
* "Agenda 21," a global work program for sustainable development into the 21st century; and
* International protocols on forests, global climate change and preservation of biological diversity.
In light of foot-dragging in some of the negotiations (especially by the US Administration), expectations are now more modest. But the Summit and its preparatory meetings still stand as a watershed in global citizen activism. At the Preparatory Committee meeting last August in Geneva, Switzerland, there were representatives of more than 350 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in attendance.
Here in the US, participation is being coordinated by the US Citizens Network on UNCED. For example, the Network is working with partner groups to plan a forum that will help brief NGOs on the issues and prepare citizen activists for the vagaries of lobbying within a labyrinthine conference such as this.
Targets of opportunity identified by Network leaders include:
1) Pressuring the US to accept the European Community’s proposal to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by the year 2000;
2) Working with sympathetic governments to democratize the decision-making processes of international institutions, particularly the development banks;
3) Pressing for the adoption of a new National Income Accounting system that reflects full-cost pricing in the use of natural resources.
And you can participate right in your own backyard. With the support of the Citizens Network, public hearings on environment and development are being scheduled throughout the US between now and April of 1992. Find one near you and get involved!
– Mark Valentine
Mark Valentine is a consultant with the Citizens Network. For more information, write: 300 Broadway, Suite 39, San Francisco, CA 94133; phone: 415/ 956-6162; EcoNet: "citizensnet."