Eye witness Aroha Te Pareake Mead was a member of the National Maori Congress delegation which attended the Earth Summit 20 years ago. Here she gives her thoughts on our progress.
The original Earth summit in Rio 20 years ago was not just about governments. It was also about the participation of people. The Rio process included representatives from industry, unions as well as indigenous peoples, women and youth.
There was recognition that changing our damaging consumption and production patterns requires change at all levels and this means involving citizens in the process.
Since then, we have struggled to make progress. A document entitled ‘The Future We Want’ is to become the main political output of the Rio+20 summit and while there seems to be consensus on the importance of concepts like ‘greener economies’, there remains major disagreements between governments over such fundamental issues as the right to clean water and the right to be free from hunger.
Making these rights, and the broader goal of sustainability, into a reality is not just something for global conferences and not just something for other countries. We have big challenges here in Aotearoa, from the alleviation of poverty and protecting endangered species to the effective participation of Maori in decision-making.
It is also evident that if left in the hands of diplomats, the Rio+20 ‘Future we Want’ will not bring about the radical changes that are needed. We all need to take action, individually and collectively, on a day-to-day basis, to ensure we are part of the vision for the ‘Future We Want’.
Aroha is Chair of IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic & Social Policy. She was a member of the National Maori Congress delegation to UNCED 1992 and attended Rio+5 and Rio+10 conferences.