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Environment and sustainable development

Rio+20 and human rights on social media: “The Future We Want”

06 June 2012


“Simply put, participatory, accountable, non-discriminatory and empowering development is more effective, more just and ultimately more sustainable,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay.

As the world prepares for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, the UN Human Rights office recently launched a social media campaign inviting people to speak up and add their voices in a global conversation on human rights and Rio+20.

#RightsRio, the hashtag created for the campaign, reached over 1 million Twitter users within 24 of launch. The Office is also using a new social media platform called Storify to create a collective online story with comments, photos and videos about human rights and Rio+20.

Rio+20, to be held from 20 to 22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, offers a historic opportunity to define pathways to a sustainable future – a future with more jobs, more clean energy, greater security and a decent standard of living for all. It is an unprecedented opportunity to build “The Future We Want.” With more than 100 presidents and prime ministers, along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, UN Officials, non-governmental organization leaders, academics and representatives expected to gather in Rio, the conference is expected to be the largest event in the history of the United Nations.

The official discussions will focus on two main themes: how to build a green economy to lift people out of poverty without destroying the environment. and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development.

But without explicit human rights safeguards, policies intended to advance environmental or development goals can have serious negative impacts.

“Incoherence between international human rights standards, environmental strategies, and economic policies can undercut all three,” Pillay said. “The logic of integration – the logic of Rio+20 – is unavoidable.”

Rio+20 is expected to lay the foundations for a set of global Sustainable Development Goals to complement and strengthen the UN Millennium Development Goals – a set of eight goals to reduce global poverty and improve living standards.

“The pursuit of inclusive, equitable and sustainable development can only take place when human beings become the central concern,” said Melinda Ching Simon, an official with the UN Human Rights office, speaking at a side event on “Human Rights at Rio+20” during the latest Human Rights Council session. “Human Rights must therefore be internalized in both principle and practice, in the transition to a green economy.”

Ching Simon also added that there is “an urgent need to strengthen international commitment and joint action in favour of sustainable development, and its institutional framework at all levels, and to do so in a manner that respects, rather undercuts human rights.”

In a recent letter (PDF), Pillay appealed to UN Member States to fully integrate key human rights considerations in the Rio+20 outcome document.

In March 2012, a group of 22 UN independent human rights experts also called on States to incorporate universally agreed international human rights norms and standards with strong accountability mechanisms into Rio+20 goals.

Outside of official discussions, nearly 1,000 side events focused on related issues are scheduled before and around the time of Rio+20. The UN Environment Programme and the UN Human Rights office will be holding a joint side event at Rio+20 on “Human Rights at the centre of sustainable development – Honouring Principle 1.”

Everyone can join the global conversation on human rights and Rio+20. Use #RightsRio to urge the #Rioplus20 sustainable development conference to promote human rights in the #FutureWeWant!

6 June 2012