Thursday, April 19, 2012

What can Africa get or should get out of Rio+20?

Thursday, April 19, 2012
By: Christian Kam, Cameroon

From June 20 to 22, 2012, the entire world has an appointment to meet in Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit, commonly known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. 

Historically, this global meeting of Sustainable Development began in 1972 with the first conference held in Stockholm, Sweden. With intervals of ten years, the conference successively held in Nairobi, Kenya (1982), In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1992) and in Johannesburg, South Africa (2002). 

We must say that this call by the United Nations is an invitation to states and private sector to “lay the foundations for a world of prosperity, peace and sustainability”. As mentioned by the website, three topics are on the agenda; 
  1. The strengthening of political commitments to sustainable development and, 
  2. Review progress and challenges related to implementation and responses to new and emerging challenges of societies. 
There are also two other questions at the heart of the summit; 
  1. A green economy for sustainability and poverty eradication and 
  2. Creating an institutional framework for sustainable development. 
The question then arises of what Africa as a continent is entitled to or should get out of this conference. This question is as complex as are the issues of sustainable development and climate change. 

If we start respectively from the definition of Sustainable Development, which is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and that of Climate Changes, namely all variations of climatic characteristics in a given location over time; we can therefore acknowledge that the complexity of this question reside in the controversy that surrounds these two mixed concept and the treatment given to the Declaration on the Right to Development. This declaration affirms the right to development as a human right in all its dimensions and defines the principles that should govern international relations in a spirit of equality and mutual respect to ensure its full realization. 

Thus, following this principle and on an economic perspective, African States should place special emphasis on the particular compensation mechanisms to mitigate the impact of Climate Change on local populations. We are thinking here of a kind of Tobin Tax* applied to the environment (commonly known as Carbon Tax). 

Indeed, as the second lung of the world, Africa is entitled to demand the immediate and unconditional establishment of a Carbon Tax, which would thus give the opportunity for indigenous people and developing countries to grow sustainably and to raise the financial income that represents the destruction of fauna and flora. Establishing such a Tax can create a fund that can be used to partially solve the problem of financing that youth development is facing, among other sectors in Africa. 

On a purely diplomatic perspective, the continent should not expect much advancement; if a UN Agency on Climate issues was established, it is still prudent to keep a cool head and to say that Rio+20 is just like any other gathering in taking the long march towards creating a more just and equitable world. This is justified by the failures of Copenhagen to deliver expectations; by the freeze of the Doha Round or finally the lack of adequate progress in the United Nations system reforms. 

Christian Kam is a Ph.D student in Economics at the University of Yaoundé II-Cameroon. He is the author of several papers on the consequences of the 2008 Financial Crisis on African countries. He is also one of the contributors to the first European report on development and an expert on youth employment issues. 

He is also a member of the steering committee of the African Youth Panel since 2008. Christian is also currently the Chairperson of the Cameroonian Youth and Hope Association and is working on a project of educating young people across Africa on non violent protest. 

Editorial Team.

*The Tobin tax consists in a tax on international currency transactions 
to limit the volatility of exchanges rates.
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