31 Aug 2012

Venue: International Environment House 2

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

On Friday, 27 July, the UN General Assembly adopted, by consensus, resolution 66/288 endorsing the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, commonly known as Rio+20 – The Future We Want – outlining the international community’s common vision of an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable future for present and future generations. Rio+20 final document is downloadable from the Conference website.

The Rio+20 Conference defined a new vision of development for the future, which would be equitable and inclusive and take into account the limits of the planet. The Rio outcome document contains a set of time-bound targets to end poverty and hunger while preserving the environment — the Sustainable Development Goals. Affirming that poverty eradication is the greatest and most urgent challenge facing the world today, the text advocates a transition to a “green economy” and outlines a stronger role for women, non-governmental organizations, small-scale food producers, the private sector and the academic, scientific and technological community.

Among other proposals, it recommends the creation of a high-level standing forum on sustainable development to replace the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, and the strengthening and upgrading of the United Nations Environment Programme.

A roundtable discussion on next steps following the Rio+20 Conference with high level representatives from inter-governmental, non-governmental and governmental organizations, was organized by the Geneva Environment Network Secretariat, on Friday 31 August.


Coffee & Tea

Welcome and I
Jan Dusik
, Acting Director, Regional Office for Europe, UNEP

Rio+20 Conference Outcomes and Next Steps Discussion
Michele Candotti
, Chief, Executive Office, UNEP
Vesile Kulaçoğlu, Director, Trade and Environment Division, WTO
Monika Linn, Principal Adviser to the Executive Secretary, UNECE
Mark Halle,  Executive Director, IISD-Europe

Question-and-answer session


UN follow-up after Rio+20

As we move forward to operationalize Rio+20, UN Secretary General has prepared an implementation matrix attempting to capture the specific mandates and recommendations addressed to the United Nations system and other entities. It has been developed on the basis of the outcome document and has undergone close consultations through the inclusive Executive Committee on the Economic and Social Affairs (ECESA) Plus inter-agency mechanism covering all ECESA organizations/entities, Chief Executives Board and additional secretariats including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the International Organization for Migration, the Global Environment Facility, etc. It spells out the clear areas and associated lead responsibility for actions by entities and indicates the time frame for action drawn from the outcome document, which will help reporting back on the follow-up in support of implementation.

This framework is however only a first step in initiating a system-wide response to the outcome document. The United Nations system needs to step up its efforts to heed to the call of Heads of State and Government for better mainstreaming sustainable development in its work and to proactively integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of its work, notably at country level. As UN Secretary General mentioned earlier this month, we must systematically respond to the guidance and objectives set out in the various parts of the outcome document, including through the launch of new initiatives.

Speakers views

Michel Candotti, remembered that UNEP has invested a lot in Rio+20. The document presents some good news. UNEP didn’t want the conference to be about UNEP, as it’s main aim was to discuss the future of the planet. The final document is definitively a document that maintains certain items that were there in the previons editions of Sustainable Development conferences and maintinas the spirit of finding global solutions, with consensus. But we haven’t seen a world community able to tackle the emerging issues.

UNEP would like to offer you the callenges:

– How to reconcize our structure with the need to be more responsive
– How to involve better major groups and private sector
– How to implement the various decisions and find pratical solutions to the green economy chapter of the document. Controversial spects and definitions, but attempting at finding solutions and reducing the footprint of activities. Allowing countries to find solutions, within their resources.

Responsivness, relevance to world needs and no replica of other agencies/processes. UNEP can make a difference by working through partnerships.

WTO representant mentioned that trade was one of the hot tickets of the Rio Conference, and WTO is happy with the results of the conference on this particular topic. The text took the agreed language.

This is not just another mechanism, this conference brought finance and science techniogy to the final document.

Monika Linn, who was in Rio 20 years ago, related that in 1992 there was a lot of enthousiasm, after the end of the cold war. There were several outcome documents, such as  the agenda 21, the bible of Sustainable Development. You could see in the preparatory process of Rio+20 that this wouldn’t be the same. The economic and political situation of the world was not the same. There were a lot of good ideas around what could be achieved. What Rio2012 did at the end, was launching a new phase, how the international community can work together on these issues. Rio achieved what was realistically possible. Geopolical powers have swifed a lot. Emerging economies have a much more visbible role, which have influenced all negotiations.

From the ECE perpsecitve, when they analyse the outcome of the Conference, they were quite pleased because there is a strong message on regional cooperation and regional commissions are given various roles. In the future we should share at the global level the successes obtained at the regional level. All agencies in the region have come with propositions for this region.

Priorities have been defined, as indicated in the document that was prepared for Rio, “From Transition to Transformation – Sustainable and Inclusive Development in Europe and Central Asia“. The findings of this report, compared to the Rio document, show that there are various recommentions there to work in these areas.

Monika ended her presentation by a statement of UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson: “We are a reflection of the word as it is, and not as we would like it to be…”.

Mark Halle highlited the positive thinking of the panel. He was wondering if they were in the same conference. A lot of people who were in Rio never were close to the conference and were not expecting some great things could come out of it. Why do we have such conferences (intergovernmental), when we know we are not making sufficiently progress?

Will be 2-3 years before we can evaluate the impact of the conference. The two big pieces: green economy, governmental. On green economy, the result is good.  Green eoconomy will be achieved at the national level. We could have got more, but what we got is really good. About governance, the results are negative. Nothing really came out of it. We all know we need governmental reform.

The outcome document  reaffirms commitments that were already  committed in the past.  The unofficial conference when relating to the economy and subsidies generated a twitter storm, 2nd after the death of Micheal Jackson. We need action on it. The government conference, was the reason why all the bigger community came together. And the bigger community results were good.

What we do next after Rio: there is a minimum we need to achieve. We will never address the problems of the world without multilateral meetings.

We have to feature out how we can implement what we have committed to. We will then build confidence.

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