21.05.2012 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

"Rio +20 is an extraordinary opportunity that should not be wasted", says Lidia Brito

Article published by Folha de S. Paulo on 5 May, 2012


Optimism and confidence that you can take a global commitment to the sustainability of the planet is essential nowadays. Within a month for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), the world is searching for answers to this crucial challenge for mankind. Using this space for global dialogue is undoubtedly a unique opportunity that cannot be lost.

Why is it so important to believe in the success of Rio +20 now? First, because there is a combination of forces from all parts of the world, around common goals, to find more sustainable ways, and any change will only occur if it starts in the mind of the people and in the positive dialogue between the various actors in the development process . Second, and very importantly, because we have to act fast. Today, the scarcest resource on the planet is time.

Just the fact that we ask, 20 years after the Rio-92, where we are and where we want to go now, it is alone very important. And so we should not regard this conference as an isolated event to be held in June in Rio de Janeiro. We're talking about a process that began two decades ago and does not end in 2012. So, expecting  that one of the tangible results of the meeting is to clarify the processes of dialogue, decision making and action necessary for humanity to have a joint response to its challenges is to accept that the Rio +20 will have been a success.

The 'Rio +20' process is having an effect even before the event itself. In March, in London, during the conference Planet Under Pressure, scientists, government representatives, private sector and civil society called attention to important points that should influence the negotiators who will be in Rio, including the state of the planet and possible risks associated with the global changes, the need to look at sustainable development by integrating economic issues with social and environmental issues, thus suggesting , for example,  the appreciation of  the natural capital, when measuring the progress of a nation, as well as other indicators such as GDP.

Another example of optimism for the Rio +20 is the space created to organize other events such as the Forum for Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development to be held in June in Rio. This forum will bring together various partners of UNESCO, as the International Council for Science (ICSU), the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, the International Council of Social Sciences (ICSS), the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. This is another step for constructive dialogue between the scientific community, governments, civil society and the private sector, all crucial actors in the changes that need to be operated.

I believe that the participation and integration of all around the Rio +20 - especially the young, who are connected and are part of a multicultural generation, without language, cultural or technological barriers- is essential. Rio +20 will be a focal point for these young people, around the common and global goal of sustainability, reinforcing the values of generosity and the respect for diversity and shared responsibilities when faced with such complex challenges. This universal movement of youth helps us to further strengthen our positive vision for the future.

Lidia Brito is director of the Division of Science Policy and Sustainable Development of UNESCO and former Minister of Education, Science and Technology of Mozambique.

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