Volume 16, No.03 - March 2012

Feature articles

Committed to a future we want

Sha Zukang, Rio+20 Secretary-General and UN DESA's Under-Secretary-General

The world is counting down to one of the most important events of our times, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. “Rio+20 needs to show how we can move faster towards sustainable development, before it is too late”, says Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang in an exclusive interview for DESA News. “My message is: come to Rio ready to commit.”

World leaders and stakeholders of the nine Major Groups will gather in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June with the ultimate goal of securing a sustainable future for our shared planet. Leading the preparations for this milestone event is Sha Zukang, who is also UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General. In the midst of intense preparations, he shares his visions and hopes for the conference and the remaining work leading up to it.

With less than 16 weeks to Rio+20, what is your message to different stakeholders around the world preparing for this historic conference?

“As noted by the Secretary-General, we need to make Rio+20 a great advance for human well-being. How is this done? By delivering actions, not more words. Rio + 20 needs to show how we can move faster towards sustainable development, before it is too late. It needs to secure strong political commitment at the highest levels of government and among all sectors of business and civil society, and re-energize the global partnership for sustainable development. My message is: come to Rio ready to commit. I encourage Major Groups and other stakeholders to announce at Rio+20 over one thousand new voluntary commitments for a sustainable future.”

There are a few preparatory meetings prior to the Conference, what do these sessions need to accomplish for a successful Rio+20?

“These sessions need to achieve convergence on all elements of the zero draft of the outcome document so that heads of state and government can adopt it at Rio+20. The outcome document must provide a clear direction to guide action for sustainable development. The convergence of views needs to provide clarity on such issues as sustainable development goals, a sustainable development council, the strengthening of UNEP and a road map for the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.”

Were you pleased with the zero draft of the outcome document and do you think it will serve as a catalyst for a successful conference?

“I am pleased with the zero draft document that the Co-Chairs have shared with Member States. It is a balanced text that seeks to take into account the diversity of views expressed in the more than six thousand pages of inputs from Member States, Major Groups, international organizations and other stakeholders. The zero draft represents the middle ground on which an ambitious outcome document can be built. I am encouraging all parties to be bold and to push the envelope as far as politically feasible to deliver an outcome document that heads of state and government would be proud to come to Rio to support.”

We know that there are challenges ahead, but what are the main advantages the world has now in creating a sustainable future?

“It is not a question of advantages but of dire necessity. Sustainable development is not optional. Over one fifth of humanity is severely deprived, lacking basic goods and services, including food, water and energy. Yet, on the other hand, some 20 percent of the world population is consuming 80 per cent of the natural resources. Collectively, the seven billion people on Earth are consuming each year more than 1.3 times the natural resources than the Earth can replace. This unsustainable consumption pattern must stop. The future we want is a world free from these deprivations where humanity as a whole lives within the planetary boundaries of one Earth. The long term survival of humanity requires us to commit to a sustainable future at Rio+20 and to launch concrete actions and initiatives to take us there.”

What makes Rio+20 different from other major international conferences?

“The Secretary-General has called Rio+20 a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Indeed, this will be an international conference like none other before. We are expecting some fifty to sixty thousand people to come to Rio de Janeiro for the Conference. The main difference will be the sharp focus on renewing political commitments and on implementation. In addition, the Conference will be characterized by the size and the unprecedented and strong engagement of the Major Groups of society – the non-state actors whose role is fundamental in building the future we want.

Furthermore, Rio+20 will differ from UNCED in 1992 in that Major Groups are now a part of the official proceedings, intervening and taking part in round tables alongside Member States and international organizations. At Rio 1992, Major Groups were largely confined to a global forum for civil society in Flamengo Park. The large gap between non-state actors and Member States has now been largely bridged.”

What would you like to say to citizens around the world aspiring to contribute to a sustainable future for themselves and generations to come?

“The Rio+20 Conference concerns every woman, man and child on this planet and also those yet to be born. This is your Conference, even if you are not physically present in Rio. Join the global conversation. Connect with the Conference through social media and our website. Make your opinions known to your official delegations and to your favourite Major Groups organizations. Launch initiatives of your own for sustainable development, no matter how big or small. Pitch in to build the sustainable future we all want.”

For more information:
UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20
Rio+20 – the future we want campaign

Blog by Rio+20 Secretary-General, Mr. Sha Zukang

Connect with the Rio+20 Conference:

Taking up emerging development issues

CDP takes up emerging development issues

High unemployment is the Achilles Heel of the recovery. In fact, most developing and transition economies are still seriously challenged by high unemployment – especially among the youth. These and other matters will be addressed by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) at the annual meeting in New York on 12-16 March, chaired by Professor Frances Stewart.

Given the renewed economic volatility expected in the year to come and the persistent development challenges confronting the world economy, the main issues to be addressed by the fourteenth session of the Committee fall under the overall theme: “Confronting emerging development issues.”

Providing advice on critical matters

As a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Council, the CDP provides independent advice on critical issues on the international development agenda. The Committee is also responsible for reviewing the list of least developed countries (LDCs) every three years. Comprised of a diverse group of experts, the 24 members on the Committee have been nominated by the UN Secretary General and appointed by the Council for a period of 3 years. At its plenary session, the CDP drafts its annual report which reflects its discussions on studies prepared by members with the assistance of the Secretariat. The report is then considered by the Council at its substantive session in July.

As a contribution to the Council’s deliberations on the implementation of the millennium development agenda, the 14th session of the CDP will analyze the promotion of productive capacity and the generation of employment (the topic of this year’s Annual Ministerial Review). It will also address the future of the international development agenda beyond 2015 and conduct the triennial review of the list of the LDCs.

Macroeconomics for development

In the Committee’s view, policy approaches of the recent years were based on an incomplete view of macroeconomic policies, which stressed nominal balances and paid limited attention to output and employment and to the real economy. Thus, nominal macroeconomics must be replaced by macroeconomics for development, with particular attention to counter-cyclical policies to minimize the volatility of growth. Effective sectoral policies are also necessary for the generation of decent jobs, the promotion of a dynamic structural transformation of the economy and for sustaining growth.

MDGs agenda beyond 2015

Exploring the UN’s future development agenda, the CDP argues that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been the benchmark for global development policy since 2000. The current set of MDG targets will expire in 2015. Although progress has been made, many targets will not be met, while the MDGs do not incorporate some important objectives. A pertinent question then is what is the most effective way to take the MDG agenda forward after 2015? This is a political debate as well as a technical one. Thus, the Committee considers essential to take into account lessons from the past experience and to make recommendations for the future, which are not only helpful in charting future direction but also likely to be politically acceptable.

The triennial review

Finally, during the triennial review of the list of LDC, the Committee will consider which low-income countries would be eligible to join in the category and which countries currently in the list could be eligible for graduation. The LDC category was created due to the recognition of the need to alleviate the problems of underdevelopment of those developing countries that were persistently falling behind and to attract special international support measures for helping them to address those problems.

Graduation implies that LDC-specific support may no longer be available for countries that leave the list. Thus, as a follow up to the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs in Istanbul in May 2011, CDP will also review the existing transition mechanisms as specified in General Assembly resolution 59/209. The aim is to identify how existing provisions can be further strengthened and better monitored in order to facilitate a smooth transition from the category.

For more information:
Committee for Development Policy

Spotlighting challenges of today’s youth

“Today we have the largest generation of young people the world has ever known. They are demanding their rights and a greater voice in economic and political life,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the “World Youth Report”, published by UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development, was launched on 6 February.

Entitled “Youth Employment: Youth Perspectives on the Pursuit of Decent Work in Changing Times”, the report gathered responses from over one thousand young people around the world in an extensive online survey. It reveals that the greatest concerns among youth are the quality and relevance of their education, job vulnerability, labour migration, delayed marriage, and the rural divide, as well as age, gender and racial discrimination.

The report also shows that youth are seeking to innovate in areas such as green technologies and communications. “Young people are, in general, more conscious of global issues like climate change and social equity. I think that promotion of green economies among youth is a winning solution,” says Michael, a 23-year-old and a member of the World Esperanto Youth Organization.

The Secretary-General also urges, “We need to pull the UN system together like never before to support a new social contract of job-rich economic growth. Let us start with young people”.

For more information:
World Youth Report
Press release:
World Youth Report press release