Reflections from Stockholm+50: The Review

John E. Scanlon
Legacy Team Leader of the Stakeholder Forum, and strategic adviser on environment and sustainable development

It was fitting to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm at an international meeting held on 2-3 June called Stockholm+50. 

It was the 1972 Conference that launched an extraordinary amount of global and national environmental law and policy making and scientific endeavour. The outcomes of this week’s meeting were, by comparison, rather modest and will not stand the test of time, but the impact of the 1972 Conference that was being commemorated will continue to endure. 

The meeting provided a wonderful opportunity to meet many committed friends and colleagues, including from Angola, Austria, Brazil, Gabon, Sweden, Switzerland, GEF, IUCN, UNEP and WRI, for the first time in several years, and there were a number of interesting formal sessions and side events, including one I had the opportunity to speak at hosted by the Stakeholder Forum on ’50 Years of Environmental Policies’, which was a lively, engaging and thought provoking discussion.

The meeting was generously co-hosted by Kenya, the birthplace of our son, and Sweden, the birthplace of my mother, and it coincided with the 50th anniversary of my first visit to Sweden as a young boy visiting my grandparents in 1972. So, from a personal perspective, it also held a special meaning. 

With sincere thanks to Kenya and Sweden for their generosity in serving as co-hosts and Presidents of the meeting. 

Originally posted on LinkedIn

Leida Rijnhout
Chief Executive Officer of the World Fair Trade Organization and Policy Advisor on Governance for Stakeholder Forum

Being in Stockholm for the 50th anniversary of environmental policies and UNEP was meant to be an important meeting, but it ended up in a 2-day talkshow filled with an empty room where ministers of environment did their 3 minute speeches without audience, without commitments and totally voluntarily. 

Fortunately, the side events were more interesting. It seemed that Swedish organisers couldn’t understand the potential for making from Stockholm+50 a political milestone in strengthening environmental policy and law, and come up with strong commitments for the future to tackle the several planetary crises.

Originally posted on Facebook.

Carmen Capriles
Co-chair of the Women’s Major Group

The Stockholm+50 Conference highlighted how “far” we have advanced since the first UN Human Environment Conference in 1972, and acknowledging that we are facing a triple planetary crisis, but completely ignoring the dirty tactics by dirty industries for replacing the term “environment” by convenient new and fashionable terms such as “Nature Based Solutions” or “net-zero”, or any of the new clichés used to avoid radical action.

Overall, this event can even be compared to the infamous ‘High Level Political Forum’ where governments go to brag about their supposed environmental and social “achievements”. Meanwhile, many still ask themselves, where has the application of a Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEA) made a difference? Which country has the best implementation rate? And what have MEAs accomplished nationally? among many other questions…

But there is no room to talk about the environment where there is no inclusion. Many civil society representatives in the Global South have been barred from participating due to visa issues or funding limitations, plus a total lack of speaking opportunities make this process a reflection of our day-to-day: more competitive and less fair. What Stockholm+50 did show was how much we still need to work to make this planet a little bit more fair so that we can talk about our common future.

Teresa Flores
Member of Ecosofia Cyrcle 

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You can catch up with our Stockholm+50 events on our Webinars page, and see the recordings from the whole conference on this page.