Why is Rio+20 important?
By Tshikululu Social Investments on 13 June 2012
World leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and other groups are coming together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to take part in the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20), from 20-22 June.
The Conference aims to shape how countries and their citizens can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection to achieve long-term growth.
Below is an extract of an interview conducted by the UN News Centre with the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang – in his role as the Secretary-General of Rio+20 – who spoke about the main issues up for discussion, as well as his thoughts on what will make the conference a success.
Why is Rio+20 important?
Rio+20 is where decisions on the future of our planet, our economies and our livelihoods – for the next 10 or 20 years – are going to be made. The world we live in today is not sustainable – socially, economically and environmentally. At Rio, world leaders need to renew their political commitments for sustainable development and adopt an ambitious and yet practical outcome that equals the magnitude of today’s challenges. It cannot be another talk shop.
In addition to the two main themes of the Conference – a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and institutional framework for sustainable development – other priority areas are of critical importance such as green jobs, food security, sustainable energy, water access, oceans, sustainable cities and disaster risk reduction.
The world is watching. Rio can deliver agreement on specific initiatives and commitments that can accelerate progress and advance well being. This can only happen by delivering actions, not just words.
What are some of the biggest challenges that will come up in the Rio+20 discussions?
First, Member States need to renew political commitment for sustainable development. This means reaffirming the principles agreed in 1992, and committing to honour them going forward.
A critical issue in the discussions is certainly a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. A green economy can be an important pathway to sustainable development, but it is vital that each country has the policy space to pursue its own green economy path. It is also important that countries agree that a green economy will not become a new barrier to trade or source of aid conditionalities – there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Another essential issue is the institutional framework for sustainable development. We must step up efforts to build stronger mechanisms for implementing sustainable development initiatives at all levels – local, national, regional and international.
Overall, the negotiations underway need to focus on the fundamentals and deliver a blueprint that leaders will be proud to adopt at Rio.
What would be considered a successful outcome for the conference?
I would stress both participation, as well as political outcome. Over 135 Heads of State and Government are already inscribed to attend. This far exceeds the number of Heads of State who spoke at Rio in 1992.
But merely being present is not enough. We hope the Conference will adopt a focused political document, building on the Rio Principles, Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. Rio must have an action document with clear steps forward, one that defines the implementation agenda for the next 10 or 20 years.
So far, we have noted a broad and enthusiastic support for sustainable development goals (SDGs). These would complement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and they would be universal and measurable. In this regard, I am pleased to see that Member States are committed to a high level of ambition for Rio, anchored on action. Just to name a few issues, these could include universal access to modern energy, clean water, and eradication of hunger.
I am confident that Member States will unite behind these SDGs, with the details to be settled after Rio, and we hope to see innovative partnerships and commitments launched by Member States, the UN system, businesses and civil society, to be included in a compendium of voluntary commitments, and, logistically of course, we hope that the Conference will run smoothly.
- The name Rio+20 makes reference to the Rio Earth Summit held in 1992, also in Rio de Janeiro, which set out the principles of sustainable development.
- Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action adopted at the Rio Earth Summit, to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the UN System, governments, and groups in every area in which humans directly affect the environment.
- The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation was agreed at the 2002 Earth Summit in South Africa and affirms the UN’s commitment to fully implement Agenda 21 alongside the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).