Representatives from Governments and civil society have started a new round of negotiations that will shape the outcome of “Rio+20”, a major global conference that will have a significant impact on how the world will address key challenges affecting economic growth, social well-being and environmental protection in the years ahead.
The two-week session for Rio+20 — formally the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — has begun in New York on Monday, 23 April, and will continue through 4 May. The negotiations follow celebrations for Earth Day —officially observed as the International Mother Earth Day at the United Nations — on Sunday, 22 April.
In a statement addressed to the Conference ahead of the round of talks, leaders from across the United Nations system called on Rio+20 to “provide the road map to the future we want — a future with peace, dynamic economic and social development, universal social well-being, and a healthy and equitable environment for present and future generations where women and men, boys and girls, equally contribute to and benefit from development.”
The negotiations will consider a range of measures to advance sustainable development that include setting new goals and indicators, innovative financing, and actions that can reduce present unsustainable levels of consumption and production. This round offers Governments another chance to review the latest version of the draft outcome document for Rio+20 and further hone the text before the talks move to Rio de Janeiro in June.
“There is a delicate balance that needs to be achieved in negotiations that considers the needs and interests of all people,” the United Nations Rio+20 Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, said. “We are getting there. I am very optimistic that the negotiations and Rio+20 will be a success. For a better future for all of us and our children, this is where we need to go — and Rio+20 can lead us there.”
Some of the issues being considered and negotiated closely include sustainable development goals; strengthening the United Nations Environment Programme; and putting forward new ways to measure a country’s success that go beyond economic growth and gross domestic product to factor in people’s well-being and the protection of the environment.
“I’m looking forward to some hard-fought outcomes that reverse our unsustainable course and drive us forward to a future with peace, dynamic economic and social development, universal social well-being, and a healthy and equitable environment for present and future generations,” Mr. Sha said.
In addition to the negotiations, there will be several key side events focusing on global issues, challenges and solutions that will be under consideration for Rio+20, including the lack of access to energy and clean water, depleted oceans, food insecurity, widening inequalities and rapidly expanding cities. The next steps for finalizing the Rio+20 outcome document will occur during a final round of talks taking place in Rio from 13 to 15 June, ahead of the Rio+20 Conference on 20-22 June.
To help facilitate active civil society participation ahead of Rio+20, the United Nations launched a public online platform on 16 April to inform the recommendations of the Rio Dialogues, several high-profile events to be organized immediately prior to Rio+20 by the Government of Brazil. The Rio Dialogues will engage civil society and leading experts in seeking innovative solutions on global sustainability issues, solutions that will then be submitted directly to world leaders at the Conference.
With International Mother Earth Day falling on a weekend, the United Nations General Assembly marked the Day with an Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature on Wednesday, 18 April. United Nations General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said, “Rio+20 is an opportunity to assess our relationship with nature over the last 20 years and to inject new impetus and genuine innovation towards fostering a sustainable way forward,” adding that the “commemoration of the International Day of Mother Earth is therefore both timely and relevant, as we aim to have a successful outcome in Rio.”
The United Nations also took part in Earth Day observances around the world in places where the Day has traditionally been observed. In New York, the United Nations and the United Nations Environment Programme joined Earth Day New York’s celebration outside of Grand Central Terminal from 20-21 April, and at the New York City Green Festival from 21-22 April at the Javits Center.
Also on Earth Day, the United Nations supported the global screening of the feature film One Day on Earth, including at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The film was created in collaboration with many United Nations partners and an online community of media creators who filmed in every country of the world on the same day in October 2010. The 104-minute film documents the incredible diversity that defines our unique cultures and the common threads that connect us all, visualizing the joys and struggles of everyday life.
This year, the Earth Day Network is promoting sustainable energy issues, which are aligned with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, building support for comprehensive action at Rio+20. It is also gathering commitments online for “a billion acts of green” with the goal of registering one billion environmentally friendly actions in advance of Rio+20.
Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20-22 June and is expected to set the agenda for a more sustainable future for years to come. At Rio+20, Governments, business and civil society organizations are expected to launch actions that will make a measurable difference, leading to greater prosperity, health and opportunities, and an environment that will continue to support growth for future generations.