This year, world leaders, government and civil society actors from around the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit of 1992, take stock of progress made, and re-create momentum for sustainable development globally.
Rio 2012 successes could set the course for an equitable, resource-efficient and low-carbon economy.
However, the buy-in for the process has been weak so far, and even the most optimistic assessments warn us not to expect any quantum leaps in commitments to a sustainable future.
Even worse, the concept of a “Green Economy” in the context of Rio+20, does not have a criteria, or rule out certain high risk technologies such as nuclear energy, large dams, unsustainable biofuels or genetically engineered organisms agriculture.
Therefore, it holds both the risk of “greenwashing” and moving the world toward a “green”, but inequitable future – despite laudable efforts by the United Nations Environment Programme to push the topic onto the international agenda.
For many, there is the risk of further enclosure of the commons by putting a price on nature and natural resources such as forests, land, and biodiversity and, in the process jeopardising potential gains for the climate and the environment.
Rio will thus not be the “big bang” for a sustainable future and is definitely not a back-up option since governments failed to deliver at the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — Durban Cop 17 last December.
Similarly, the Mexico meeting of the G20 shortly before Rio 2012 will not be the place to make up for whatever outcome emerges in Rio.
Zimbabwe has in the past attended successive world sustainable summits, and with vast tracks of land, abundant wildlife, and natural resources – gold, diamonds etc, like many other African countries endowed with immeasurable resources, sustainable distribution of resources should be at the core of development programmes.
So, political engagement in this changing climate requires entirely new thinking about strategies and alliances that should be built on certain factors.
Climate equity or climate justice has been a political catch phrase for many civil society networks in the UNFCCC context for the last couple of years.
And rightly so. But, with new developments underway and our core demands at risk, Zimbabwe, and Africa in particular, needs to redefine what we mean by climate equity and translate it into our strategies, projects and actions, for example indigenisation; wildlife-based land reform and mining among others.
In a fight that Africa is close to losing due to lack of finances, it is important to be clear about what it is that our “Motherland” wants for her people.
Yes, the financial crisis bedevilling the world is a terrible threat to the wellbeing of our economies and many people will indirectly die in this crisis if it is not managed well.
But, it is still a crisis of the rich, of those who have. The have-nots of this world might indirectly also be affected through volatile commodity prices.
Still, the overwhelming threat that millions of small-scale farmers in Rushinga, Muzarabani, Masvingo, Gokwe, Sanyati, Kezi, Beitbridge or Plumtree, fishermen in Kariba, Chivero, Manyame, women, children and slum dwellers face, is climate change in all its facets.
Already hundreds of big game such as elephants, rhino, leopard, lion, buffalo and other flora and fauna has succumbed to shortage of water and food in some of Zimbabwe’s wildlife sanctuaries.
Authorities are also failing to protect these game species either through provision of water or food due to reported lack of finances.
Thus, we must emphasise adaptation, adaptation finance, loss and damage, and climate governance in the poorest and most vulnerable areas or communities such as in Zambezi Valley, Dande, Binga, Maphisa, Gwayi Valley, Tuli Circle, Chiadzwa, Hwange to name, but a few, where abundant resources have not benefited locals.
It must be clear that civil society has played a key role in moving international agenda on environmental issues, trade and investment, economics, and finance forward in the last 20 years. Its campaigns have made climate change an issue that governments ignore at their own peril.
The public now understands that the plight of the poor and our fragile environment is not just another disaster, but a catastrophe created by human excess and irresponsibility.
Civil society does play a crucial role in a dysfunctional democracy system, where governments are failing and vested corporate interests are pulling us in the wrong direction.
Zimbabwe especially, needs to rebuild coalitions and develop a clear division of labour. We do not have to agree on everything to fight for the same big objective – that of sustainable distribution of natural resources.
Yet, it will be worth the effort to rebuild coalitions of civil society — bringing together those fighting on the inside of the process with those fighting the “system” — in light of the magnitude of the problem and the real powerful spoilers at the next Rio+20 summit.
Not everyone will draw the same red lines, not even other African countries.
Nevertheless, it will allow us to create powerful new alliances across a very wide spectrum of civil society working on various international for a — UNFCCC, G20, Rio+20 and through that lay the groundwork for more transparency, synergy and lasting impact.