IFMSAs Road to Rio+20 (Summary of the 3rd UNCSD intersessional)

At the end of last month IFMSA attended for the second time in the Rio+20
preparations in UN Headquarters, New York. Fancily called the 3rd UNCSD
Intersessionals. Think Global Initiative Coordinator Mike Eliasz and Liaison
Officer to WHO Usman Mushtaq represented IFMSA in this meeting. This was the
second time Mike attended the Rio+20 intersessionals and a lot of progress have
been made in the negotiations since last time, from not being in the text at all
health probably has its in own chapter. Before we arrived there had been a week
of informal – informal negotiations where civil society groups had been unable
to share the text which required some quick catch up. The negotiations have
also got a bit stuck, the relatively short zero draft has been transformed into a
monstrosity of a text with all the interesting stuff in brackets. From previous
experience with UN negotiations, we can tell you that this is not unusual.

It was frankly sickening to hear governments of certain developed nations trying
to argue there was no such thing as a right to development for other countries
and more scarily a human right to water and sanitation (despite this right being
politically acknowledge already). There are also concerns about efforts address
population growth not being undertaken in the context of a reproductive rights
agenda. If your more interested in this check out this great petition from children
and youth ensuring the human rights are incorporated into the Sustainable
Development agenda insert link

At the meeting what was most interesting was getting to chat informally with
various UN officials about what was going to happen at Rio and where it fitted
into the post 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda. As one
official put it ‘Rio is now just posturing for post 2015’ all the UN agencies are
trying to make sure there area of interest is on the Agenda and also they have a
specifically defined area of work. While Usman tried to get hold of the negotiators
from EU, Switzerland and Norway who mainly proposed the health language in the text,
Mike noticed that all countries positions on things were based purely on self-interest;
“I was hearing about Mexico and the Philippines pushing social protection for migrants.
The naïve and idealistic person that I am loved this idea, but the reason for Mexico and
the Philippines pushing this is that their economies are entirely dependent on
remittances from expatriates overseas, therefore the more protection migrants
have the more remittances they can send home. It is a self-interested policy
but also worthwhile in its own right, I came to the realisation all things in
International Relations need framing in individual countries self-interest.”

In the blog from last meeting, Mike wrote stated that one of the most likely
outcomes of the summit was Sustainable Development Goals but as with all
UN meetings we probably now have a roadmap to agreeing to Sustainable
Development Goals. (SDGs) This also will occur under the General Assembly,
many countries were annoyed by the work of certain UN agencies to prepare
goals to be fostered on countries at the end of the conference. (I should probably
add that the Millienium Development Goals were developed by technocrats and
introduced late in the night at negotiations so governments had no say in their

With the SDGs there are a number of opinions on these from Governments as to
what form they should take. You can see some of the ideas below:
• We have stand alone SDGs before 2015
• The SDGs are released at the same time as the replacement to the MDGs
post 2015 and they are complementary to each other
• The MDGs are replaced by SDGs altogether.

As the IFMSA we fit somewhere in between two major groupings in the Rio
process the Major Group on Children and Youth and the NGO group(Health
cluster). Whilst we predominantly work on health issues we have also been
involved in supporting wider youth participation and engagement. It was in this
context Mike got to deliver a speech on behalf of the Children and Youth group
to the Bureau on youth participation, human rights and youth employment.
The group on Children and Youth are doing some amazing work and are by
far the most organised grouping at Rio. In particular check out the work on an
ombudsperson for future generations really inspiring stuff, will hope that there
is an element of accountability for future generations within the UN system.
Insert Link

The day after the intersessional, we took the bus to Washington DC for a
meeting with the Pan American Health Organizations (PAHO). PAHO is the WHO
regional office for America We introduced our work and discussed around were
IFMSA and PAHO could best collaborate. The regional office has long focused
on Sustainable Development and Health interlinkages, they released a tool kit
with a website specifically on the Rio process. PAHO is going to be one of the
biggest actors from the health community in Rio this June, and they are very
willing to support and include IFMSA in their activities. We have been even
offered to collaborate on a joint side event. The 5 hour bus trip from New York to
Washington, paid well off and IFMSA gained another strategic partner.

In terms of next steps for IFMSA:
• Launch our campaign toolkit which will facilitate the capacity building
efforts in our own federation and also ensure an advocacy campaign.
• Try to set an example and make our commitments on behalf of IFMSA and
the health sector to sustainable development
• Continue to advocate our stance in the ongoing negotiations, with the 4th
and final intersessional coming up next week.
• Position ourselves for post Rio+20 process

We have come a long way since IFMSA first started to work on Sustainable
Development through the Climate Change negotiations, only this time we are
ahead the process and not behind!

Kind regards
Mike Eliasz and Usman Mushtaq

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enquire now

Give us a call or fill in the form below and we will contact you. We endeavor to answer all inquiries within 24 hours on business days.