Building Sustainable Legacies

A call to action – launching the 50+20 vision

During the 3rd Global Forum on Responsible Management Education the 50+20 vision is launched with the unveiling of the 50+20 Agenda and short film.

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Business Schools Without Borders

50+20 visits the People’s Summit in Flamengo Park during the RIO+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro to host a collaboratory.

Collaboratory with Greenpeace

A discussion with Amazon Campaigner, Tatiana de Carvalho on the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior during the RIO+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.


The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction,

but on defending the machine that is destroying it.

Please read this very interesting article by George Monbiot at the Guardian: http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gnm/op/sc94P-jU7EqfbySb-vTst5A/view.m?id=15&gid=commentisfree/2012/jun/25/rio-governments-will-not-save-planet&cat=world


The perspective of the South

The President of the Bolivian National State starts with a passionate speech criticizing the conference to abuse the environment to serve the goals of all players. He says that the resolution wants weak states with weak institutions. He makes a number of examples of how Bolivia is different in how it assures a harmonious life of all people and the planet. He says that Bolivia has passed a law two days ago that foresees the assurance of the well-being of Mother Earth, its restoration of health if needed. He demands other developing countries also re-privatize its own resources. Before he became president, water and electricity was privatized in Bolivia, now they have recuperated most of their own resources. He concludes by clarifying that for him, “green economy” is a new form of colonialism!

The President of Ecuador follows just as passionately highlighting the difference of CO2 emission between the 20% poorest vs. the 20% richest countries: for every ton of CO2 emission of the poorest countries, the richest countries use 83 tons! He criticizes the mechanism for the Kyoto protocol pointing out important loopholes such as the fact that governments were not compensated for maintaining forests, but paying for reforestation if forests have been cut down and sold and need to be reconstructed. He demands a compensation for not exploiting the 14 billion dollar equivalent underground oil reserves and therefore not causing CO2 emissions by leaving the resources in the ground. Ecuador has demanded that every nations recognizes the rights of mother Earth, that nature is not an object but a subject! He is frustrated that this suggestion was rejected. He concludes by saying that the root of the problem is in Europe and the U.S. where money rules nature. And that it is a big tragedy that the problems we face is not a technical one – we can safe the planet and all live well – but a political one. He reminds his fellow statesman of the girl from New Zealand who spoke yesterday asking that rather than saving their face, they save the planet. He highlights that 80% of the countries that have just attended the G20 summit in Mexico are not attending the Rio+20 conferences and don’t even care enough about our planet to come and save their face!

 

 


Rio dialogues: Focus on water

Rio Dialogues offers a public debate on the critical topic “water” on at RioCentro. Dialogues is a public direct democratic initiative by the Brazilian government as their contribution to RIO+20. In the main auditorium there is a highly diverse and young crowd of approx. 1000 delegates and representatives of all walks of life from around the world. A rowdy crowd that is alive and present! The former president of Brazil who presided over Rio 1992 was booed out when honored. Right thereafter, the top Chief Sustainability Officer of Coca-Cola was speaking – and the electricity in the room is palpable, yet nobody booed, maybe because his speech is very correct? Yet, what about the need to walk the talk?

The session offers an important outcome and is important as we will select 3 recommendations from the 10 most voted items through a democratic process in the past 10 days. Much energy focusses on the pre-sentiment that government is trying to get away from the 2010 declaration on the right of water for everybody. The choice ranges from securing access to water, to implementing the right to water to improving water sanitation to ensure that education of children. In contrast to yesterday’s people summit at the Flamenco Park, here the urgency and the importance is palpable. It is my generation who is here: many many young faces and at least half of them women! Maybe I have finally found a place where people want to meet to change the world!?

It is difficult to find the list of the panel in the maze of the RIO+20 and I am lacking references here. A high-level African quotes an important saying:

“if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” to express his hopes for RIO+20.

He suddenly stops mid-phrase when the King of Sweden steps in with his guards and joins the audience. Shortly thereafter, Mohamed Munif turns things serious when he talks about water contamination in Bangladesh.

The representative of the World Water Council wants engagement not just words. They demand that all countries in the world inscribes the right to water in their constitutions. Today, only 1 nations has done so. They also demand that as of tomorrow no single school rests without a water tab and toilets. Today, 60% of African schools are without access to water. In the other hand, they want action to ensure that more only food but also water is provided to disaster zones. We must restore the safety of water to the level we have inherited it from our ancestors. Water security founds the very basis of human survival. It is estimated that by 2020, the world needs 45% more water than today. According to the rule of 3, only oxygen is more important to human survival than water. Already today, 890 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water.

The UNCG Corporate Sustainable Forum is also under attack: the trade union representative accuses corporations to have failed on all 3 pillars of sustainability: economy, social and environment. He turns to his fellow panellist from Coca-Cola and says:

“I cannot believe that Coca-Cola will ever agree not to want to sell more Coke!”

The lady from India raises the challenge by stating that India is facing a 79% increase in water needs while at the same time facing a reduction of over 40% in the next decade. She says that we are not horrified enough that 2 billion have no access to sanitation and this impacts mostly women in the global South. She clarifies that the solutions of the North do not work for the South. While in India, the daily water consumption is around 18 litre per capita (lpc), in China the water needs are raising to 80-100 lpc in the next decade. In contrast, the USA uses 570 lpc today, which may go down to 440 lpc at best, but is way out of any sustainable future. She insists on home grown solutions based on ancient wisdom from the global South.

“There is enough for everybody’s need but more enough for anybody’s greed” (Gandhi).

After introductions, Jeff Seabright of Coca-Cola is put in the hot seat: “can we reconcile economic growth with the needs of water, and if so how?” He does not expand beyond politically correct but otherwise irrelevant answer. Munif suggests that beyond forcing governments, we need wide-spread citizen engagement to ensure the right to water and sanitation also locally. He also connects the importance of the water issue with global warming and raising sea levels which endanger many regions, and in particular Bangladesh. Two indigenous women from Mexico turn the atmosphere chilly when they point out the lack of consideration and consultation in the decision- making process around water. A 13 year old indigenous girl asks for clear strategies on how to ensure that this will be assured.

The audience present selects as their urgent recommendation to implement the right to water as their first priority. The bigger question of course is what government will do with this. The current update is that there will be no consensus reached, with only 40% of the draft even discussed and no agreement achieved to date. Tomorrow, the top government negotiations with the heads of states start…


Changing paradigms for creating sustainable and just cities

At Rio Centro, many thousands of delegates, media and major groups  (women, labour, youth, business, labour, etc.) representatives are  meeting to discuss the challenges we face. What a nice change from the 5-star experience at the Windsor Barra, the temporary home to 2,700 business executives. Finally we had some relevant and engaged discussion about important and urgent topics – food for the brain and soul!

A session sponsored by the Ford Foundation on building and creating  just cities pointed out an important new paradigm: we need to look at  the arrival of poor emigrants in a city as an opportunity rather than  as a problem, like in the 60s and 70s. Addressing the issue of  mobility linking housing with work place is also critical.

Naturally, there are fears about the political instability that results from many new low-income emigrants. Yet, there is a proven,  direct connection between general income inequality and political instability. Investments by foundations are, as such, risk money. We need to take risks to ensure we limit and reduce inequality, activities and investments that support this.

The latest thinking highlights the importance of non-government associative housing projects. Another related paradigm shift is the  need to understand that the different interests for different city spaces need to be transformed from competing interest to combined interests. The effect of moving favelas (slums) into different areas has long proven to be a disastrous strategy. In Rio, an unknown amount of economic activity and value-added activity of low-income areas was wiped out when the neighbourhoods were relocated to create space for  competing interests, such as commercial buildings. So-called informal settlements are very vulnerable to being relocated, often not only temporarily but (as an example given again from Rio) for a period of  50 years – a sad series of undisputed discriminatory deeds!

A great take-away quote from Luis Ubinas, President of the Ford Foundation: “Let’s not call investing in low-carbon public transportation solutions a courageous act, it would rather be courageous or stupid  not to do so… much like playing Russian roulette with our future!”

In conclusion, a related side comment from one of the panelists (the official list is hopelessly outdated, listing NYC Mayor Bloomberg who is nowhere nearby) who reminds us that rural poverty is even worse than urban poverty as it also concerns social exclusion and is mostly  hidden and invisible to the public eye. What a most relevant and engaged session – I feel as being part of a group of people who cares with a sense of urgency. What a relief!