With just two weeks until the start of a major United Nations sustainable development conference, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged countries to step up efforts to achieve concrete decisions to reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and more sustainable and fair use of resources.
“Rio+20 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make real progress towards the sustainable economy of the future,” Mr. Ban told a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, referring to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) that will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20 to 22 June.
More than 100 heads of State and government, along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, Chief Executive Officers and civil society leaders are expected to attend Rio+20 to shape new policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.
The gathering follows on from the Earth Summit in 1992, also held in Rio de Janeiro, during which countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.
Mr. Ban said that there is still much work ahead, but foundations are in place for agreement on the remainder of the negotiating text that is expected to become the outcome of the conference.
“I expect the negotiators to accomplish this in the days before ministers and world leaders arrive in Rio. Leaders will then act to resolve all outstanding issues,” he stated. “Their job is to achieve renewed political commitment for sustainable development. We aspire to nothing less than a global movement for generational change.”
Negotiators concluded the last round of Rio+20 preparatory talks – focussed on the gathering’s outcome document – in New York last Saturday, and they have now reached agreement on more than 20 per cent of the document, with many additional paragraphs close to agreement.
The Secretary-General cited several “concrete outputs” he expected from Rio+20, which he said will improve the lives of people around the world.
The first is to agree to define a path to an inclusive green economy that will lift people from poverty and protect the global environment, he said, adding that this requires international collaboration, investment, and an exchange of experiences and technology among countries.
Second, leaders should agree to define sustainable development goals with clear and measurable targets and indicators. These so-called “SDGs” will be a central part of the post-2015 global development framework, he stated.
Also needed are decisions on key elements of the institutional framework for sustainable development, as well as strong, action-oriented outcomes on a wide range of cross-cutting areas, such as food security and sustainable agriculture, oceans, gender equality and women’s empowerment, education and energy.
Progress is also required in the area of implementation, including reaffirming past commitments and initiatives on trade, financing for development, technology transfer and capacity building, the UN chief said.
In addition, more partnerships with civil society and the private sector – strategic alliances that can galvanize global public support and drive change – are important.
“Ultimately, Rio+20 will be measured in the transformation it sets in motion – the lives it changes for the better,” said Mr. Ban.
“Our hopes for future prosperity, health and stability rest on finding a path that integrates the economic, social and environmental pillars of development,” he added. “Sustainable development is an idea whose time has come. It is the future we want.”
Following the latest round of negotiations in New York, the next and final preparatory talks will be held in Rio de Janeiro from 13 to 15 June, just ahead of the Conference.
“I sense a real dialogue – a real willingness to find common ground,” said the Secretary-General of Rio+20, Sha Zukang, in the wake of the New York talks. “This spirit is encouraging and we must carry it to Rio.”
Addressing a press conference at UN Headquarters today, the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said that it is important that the negotiations focus on the “big picture” and not just individual national interests or individual group interests.
“Rio+20 is about setting the world on the right course for sustainable growth for future generations,” he told reporters. “The real work will begin after the conference is over, when we will need concrete action on various key areas of concern.”