By James Stella

On Sunday, 19 June, Caritas members attending the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development enjoyed a memorable day when they participated in a Holy Mass with Archbishop Orani Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro.

Dedicated to the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro, St. Sebastian, the conical shaped Cathedral is located in downtown Rio. Over 60 Caritas Members filled the Cathedral and their presence was noticeably visible as one could see them proudly displaying their Caritas Rio+20 bandanas.

After the mass a delegation of church and civil societies leaders held a press conference to outline their positions for the much anticipated Rio+20 summit. The delegation emphasised that despite the significant strides made since the advent of Conference 20 years ago, much still remains to be done for governments to embrace the green economy approach and to ensure individuals economic and social rights are preserved.

They illustrated how the ecosystem continues to be threatened as forests are being depleted, social and economic inequalities continue to widen, the rise in global temperatures detrimentally impacting famers harvest contributing to the rise in food prices and how banks prevent farmers from gaining access to credit. Furthermore, it was important for politicians to recognise that they don’t measure economy success by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone but that the long-term success of a country hinges on the protection of the environment and ensuring the fundamental rights of the poor and marginalized are safeguarded.

With so much as stake and a future appearing to be bleak I began to question if the task ahead of us will prove to be to insurmountable to overcome. But CIDSE Secretary General Brend Nilles quickly dispelled this notion, “We are the first generation that has the means to end poverty”. Never before do countries have the capacity to secure economic growth while at the same time be accountable for their actions.