In 1992, government officials from a large number of rich and poor countries gathered in Rio de Janeiro for a major United Nations (UN) conference on sustainable development that became known as the Earth Summit. Twenty years later, 150 heads of state returned to Rio for another UN summit to assess
In 1992, government officials from a large number of rich and poor countries gathered in Rio de Janeiro for a major UN conference on sustainable development that became known as the Earth Summit. Twenty years later, 150 heads of state returned to Rio for another UN summit to assess the progress made and to discuss the next steps. Islamic Relief was there to contribute to the debate.The 1992 Earth Summit ended with optimism and high hopes that the poorest countries would be able to grow their economies in partnership with richer nations through harnessing green technology to avoid a kind of wasteful, highly polluting development that characterised the original Industrial Revolution. Twenty years later, it appears that only some countries have made significant progress with China leading the way. However, economic advances are just one of the three pillars of sustainable development. Environmental and social progress is equally important but has not enjoyed the level of attention and investment afforded to promoting economic growth. Carbon emissions have continued to grow at an alarming rate and developing countries are bearing the brunt of increasingly frequent and severe droughts and floods as climate change begins to unleash its effects.Overall, the summit provided some valuable insights. The fringe events allowed Islamic Relief to strengthen partnerships and share expertise and knowledge surrounding sustainable development and faith-based organisations. The inspiring workshops allowed attendees the opportunity for highlighting successful development projects around the world. One particular project which was highlighted in one of the workshops was one in India where a small community based organisation developed a way to bring renewable energy to people who has never had access to electricity before. As a result, this allowed the women in villages to become entrepreneurs as this encouraged them to rent out solar lanterns on a nightly rate; providing a source of income.There was however, a sense of frustration at the marginalisation of faith-based groups. While religion and faith was discussed in the original Earth Summit declaration, twenty years on, the leading faith communities were not among the nine key civil society groups recognised by the UN as having a special part to play in the Rio +20 process. Therefore, there were limited opportunities by faith-based groups to fully participate in the summit.However, the importance of such events should not be overlooked. Most local social, economic and environmental questions have a global dimension, and cannot be tackled seriously unless there is a meaningful international and multilateral process to engage people in.