“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Rio+20 is one of the most important conferences in the history of the United Nations (because) our world is facing unprecedented changes and challenges,” said Sha Zukang, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary General and the Rio+20 Secretary-General, as he led and addressed the High-Level Symposium on the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, hosted by China on 8-9 September.
Mr. Sha, addressing representatives of NGOs, government officials and sustainable development experts, outlined the importance of the matters being considered and the challenges faced. Mr. Sha said that today’s world can be described in a few words: “volatility, uncertainty, unemployment, erosion of the natural resource base, extreme shocks.” Given these circumstances, a cohesive international strategy is required which links economic, social and environmental issues and works effectively to promote sustainable futures.
The absence of a unified approach thus far, Mr. Sha argued, had limited the achievements of the first Rio conference in 1992, and he therefore urged that Rio+20 be a conference focused on implementation. The preparatory meetings, he pointed out, had identified a number of priorities for sustaining development, like water and food security and social inclusion. What Rio+20 must achieve is to put in place practical measures for addressing critical issues.
On the issue of water management, for example, the Rio+20 Secretary-General suggested that closer international cooperation and responsiveness might both avoid conflict and protect resources. A similarly cooperative approach would also go some way to addressing the future of oceans.
Overseeing developments, the future of an institutional framework for sustainable development is also under discussion. Mr. Sha stressed the importance of deliberation in this area, saying that this “institutional architecture will play a fundamental role in coordinating international cooperation.”
The High-Level Symposium is an important moment in sharpening the focus for the Rio+20 Conference by providing a forum for open, productive and practical discussions. By synthesizing the outcomes of previous meetings and negotiating prospective institutional frameworks, the final impact of the conference is significantly enhanced.