Governments completed a first reading of the outcome document for Rio+20 — formally the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — adding scores of suggestions that would provide the groundwork for more intensive rounds of negotiations.
Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the Conference, said the dedication of delegations during the negotiations “shows the world how much you care about this conference, and about the opportunity it brings”. He added: “The discussions over the last week and a half have shown that Member States are committed to a high level of ambition for Rio+20, anchored on action.”
Member States concluded the latest round of negotiations on a “ Rio+20” outcome document with proposals that would expand the length and scope of the issues under consideration as they moved towards defining a global action agenda for a sustainable future.
With additional inputs from Member States during this round, the draft outcome document ballooned from 20 to 178 pages as a result of a deepening of the scope of agreements to be made and issues considered in the text.
“There is no doubt that you want to make the best of Rio+20 and ensure that world leaders renew political commitment at Rio,” continued Mr. Sha, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “Many of you have underscored the urgent need for changing course, for changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, and for building a sustainable future — a future we all want, for us and for our children.”
During the negotiations, Member States focused on adding ideas towards finding a balance between the three pillars of sustainable development — economic prosperity, social well-being and environmental protection. That balance is considered critical to the final text, which is likely to recommend action on a wide range of related global challenges, including: lack of access to energy and water; unemployment; widening inequalities; technological gaps; rapid urbanization; food insecurity; overfishing and polluted oceans; as well as boosting scientific and financial innovations, corporate responsibility and economic markets. Some countries expressed concerns that key elements of sustainability were not adequately covered in the draft outcome document.
Kim Sook ( Republic of Korea), Co-Chair of the preparatory process for the Conference, said it was still early in the negotiations and it was important to maintain positive momentum. “We will not pre-judge how the language will turn out at the end of the day.”
Maged A. Abdelaziz ( Egypt) said the negotiations were in a phase of compiling what everyone wished to see in the draft document and encouraged editing the number of pages down while reiterating the value of inputs provided by civil society groups.
Looking ahead, Mr. Sha said he was keenly aware of the complexities of the negotiations yet to come. “It will be an arduous process,” he said at the close of the meeting. “The compilation text is long, the days of negotiations are limited and the negotiations will engage colleagues from the capitals.”
John Ashe ( Antigua and Barbuda), another Co-Chair of the preparatory process, said the co-chairs would be meeting with groups of countries before the next round of negotiations to help streamline the text. “On 23 April, we do not intend to come back and go through the present text line by line,” he emphasized.
More than 100 Presidents and Prime Ministers, as well as thousands of business chief executive officers, parliamentarians, mayors, United Nations officials, leaders of non-governmental organizations, academics, renowned artists and representatives from many other groups will come together for Rio+20. Some 50,000 people are expected to participate in the Conference, with thousands more expected to take part in the lead-up to the event.
The next negotiating session will be held in New York from 23 April to 4 May, with a final round taking place in Rio de Janeiro from 13 to 15 June, ahead of the Conference, to be held from 20 to 22 June.
Press release from Department of Public Information, United Nations