Rio+20: ‘cautious optimism’ as last round of outcome document talks nears end

Rio+20 Head of Office Nikhil Seth. UN Photo/Jenny Rockett

15 June 2012 – There is a sense of “cautious optimism” among delegates negotiating the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), a UN official said today, stressing that speeding up negotiations is crucial to deliver results before the last round of talks finishes on Friday night.

“The biggest enemy now is time,” the Head of the Rio+20 Secretariat, Nikhil Seth, told reporters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this afternoon.

After the third and final session of Rio+20’s Preparatory Committee concludes, the responsibility for the outcome document will be handed over to Brazil, which holds the presidency of the Conference. The South American nation will then decide on how to proceed to achieve progress on the economic, social and environmental issues at the centre of negotiations.

“It is clear that everybody wants to finish this process before the arrival of the heads of state,” Mr. Seth said. “It is everyone’s hope that by 19 June everything will be wrapped up. Time is of the essence.”

Mr. Seth also noted that delegates are now working on ‘package deals’ that once agreed will lead to “sweeping agreement” on several paragraphs of the document.

The Conference’s high-level meeting runs 20-22 June, and is expected to bring together over 100 heads of State and government, along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders to shape new policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.

In a statement on Friday, Rio+20’s Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, said that progress at negotiations is slow but steady, and appealed to participants in a message to focus on the big picture.

“I am confident that once some of the more complicated issues are resolved, such as reaffirmation of Rio principles, means of implementation and ecosystem services, then a host of other paragraphs will be cleared,” he said.

Rio+20 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.

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