Women’s Major Group “Disappointed and Outraged” at the Rio+20 Outcomes

By Seyyada A Burney

Last week’s Rio+20 Conference brought together 50,000 NGOs, policymakers, and activists from around the world to discuss sustainability. Unfortunately, many groups, including organizations that support reproductive health and women’s rights, went home disappointed with the final outcome document, The Future We Want. In a statement released Sunday, the Women’s Major Group (WMG) at Rio+20, which represented over 200 civil society women’s organizations, expressed anger and frustration at the results of the final outcome document.

Though there was unanimous agreement on women’s rights, discussions at Rio+20 left little time for affirmation of those rights and concrete commitments. (Photo credit: www.wecf.eu)

Sascha Gabizon, Executive Director of Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), noted: “Two years of negotiations have culminated in a Rio+20 outcome that makes almost no progress for women’s rights and rights of future generations in sustainable development.” Among the document’s most notable omissions are the issues of reproductive rights, access, and the links between gender and climate change.

“The lack of recognition of reproductive rights as essential to sustainable development was especially disappointing,” said Anita Nayar, Executive Committee Member of Development Alternatives with Women for A New Era (DAWN). Reproductive rights are universally recognized as human rights, and the 1992 Earth Summit document, Agenda 21, and the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action already made the connection between reproductive health and sustainable development. However, The Future We Want fails to even mention sexual and reproductive rights. The document is also devoid of any firm commitments to improving women’s rights to land and property, effectively depriving half the world’s population of access to vital natural resources. Combined, these two oversights fail to acknowledge the ways in which women are more frequently and adversely affected by climate change.

Gabizon concluded, “At Rio+20, governments had a historic chance to take bold steps to end poverty and environmental destruction, to protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of our societies, to take concrete measures to fully implement women’s rights and women’s leadership.  We now risk increased poverty, inequities and irreversible environmental damage.” However, a positive development at Rio+20 was the introduction of the term ‘Buen Vivir’, meaning ‘to live well’, in discussions and ministries. “Buen Vivir means to take a major turn away from “throw-away” societies in which nature and culture are only considered for their inherent monetary value, to sustainable societies where women’s rights, indigenous peoples rights and indeed, all human rights to live well in harmony with nature are seen as the Future we Really Want, which is also the Future We Need.”

Click here to read the full press release.

Seyyada Burney is a Research Intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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