HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsLeading them down the garden path

Leading them down the garden path

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In my last installment I indicated that anti-littering should become part of our culture to save the environment.

But this can only happen if we can move our attention away slightly from the poisoned politics that seem to dominate our environment.

The reason is that the level of environmental damage in Zimbabwe is worrying. During the week, I dealt with this issue outgoing United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles A Ray urged Zimbabweans regardless of their strata in society to consider other important matters than get consumed in endless political debates.

Sadly, some among us in their wisdom or lack of, think that one can never be neutral — to them if you are not Zanu PF, you belong to the MDCs or vice versa. That notion is not only cynical, it is outright stupid. What matters most should be our being Zimbabweans, finish!

Yes, it is possible to be neutral in a resentful society like ours. I will not digress any further.
After taking a break on climate change, I was persuaded to deal with the recent United Nations Summit on Sustainable development (Rio+20 Earth Summit) subject once again this week. Of course, it really is still an important subject. At least it’s about our sustainability, our environment — “The Future We Want”.

By their nature, UN summits are high-profile gatherings as countries are represented at the highest level. Zimbabwe’s delegation comprised President Robert Mugabe and Environment minister Francis Nhema, among a coterie of bureaucrats.

The high-profile meeting ended on June 22, but Zimbabweans are yet to know what the country position paper contained. Curious isn’t it? The Environment ministry is yet to convene a stakeholders’ report back meeting almost a month later. What is happening here? Whose duty is it to give feedback to the people? Don’t the public need to know given the importance of the subject? I do not think people owe it to bureaucrats, (but) it is them who owe it to the citizens.

Almost all delegations to the Earth summit have reported back and admit that African leaders lost the battle at the negotiating table. It is now clear from other delegations that Africa was led down the garden path. Of course, you get what you negotiate for.

UN Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) on June 25 frankly said that the final outcome document, “The Future We Want”, only looked ahead towards creating “green growth” while doing nothing to hold accountable those who were primarily responsible for causing global warming.

In remarkably blunt language, Uneca made clear the deep frustrations felt by African leaders who, as usually happens in these multilateral forums, were forced to accept a bad deal rather than walk away with no deal. Although they were well aware of the “ambush” that awaited in the end, they did fall victim to it.

Basically, this means that not only will the main polluters, the industrialised countries, be doing little or nothing to pay for the damage they caused, but they will now be presenting their new environmental technologies as “part of the solution”.

These technologies will now be sold to developing countries either directly or through aid packages or soft loans with hidden terms and conditions.

The African spokesperson and political co-ordinator of the Rio+20 process, Congo President Denis Sasso N’Guesso a day before the summit ended, downplayed Africa’s limited success at the Earth Summit, saying: “We should now focus on the areas of the Rio+20 outcome document that we think needs further negotiations in the coming days and months.”

We are told African delegations saw as a deliberate tendency by developed countries to rescind all earlier commitments on poverty reduction and the economic development of the continent.

It must be recalled that the Africa Consensus statement for Rio+20 observed that not much had been achieved in any of the key areas of the statement — renewed political commitment; green economy in the context of sustainable development; means of implementation institutional framework for sustainable development and sustainable development goals.
In fact, except for means of implementation in the context of green economy, little else had been achieved.

Much to the dismay of many African delegates, the language and overall tone during general discussion at the conference was “aspirational” and non-prescriptive, as had been the case in most previous development conferences.

Indeed, throughout the final phase ofnegotiations leading up to the Rio+20 outcome document, there had been an obvious move away from straight language on rights and equity principles, led by the richest countries and reflected in attempts to leave as unagreed, 20-year-old Earth Summit principles.

The African proposal on the transformation of Unep into a UN specialised agency on environmental issues was referred to the General Assembly of the UN, which comes up next September and we must begin work on it right away, if we want to see the process go through.
The current world economic situation had made it more unlikely for development partners to deliver on their commitments towards Africa’s development.

The truth of the matter is that although Africa gained some grounds in Rio in the provision (or in fact, promise) of some resources for renewable energy, several sections of the final Rio+20 outcome document hardly satisfied delegations from the continent.

Perhaps Africa could be satisfied that it had come away from Rio having ensured that global attention had been refocused on means of implementation of sustainable development targets.

With all this in mind, I think the best thing that Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular, should be doing now, is to bear in mind that the Rio process remains ongoing and ought not be limited to the results of a single meeting.

Africa should revisit its strategies and look ahead to next September’s General Assembly meeting of the UN where they still have the possibility of making their case on all these issues.

.millenniumzimbabwe@yahoo.com/
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