The Asian and Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

Closing Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Mr. Co-Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are at the closing moments of another milestone on the way to Rio+20 – the Asian and Pacific Regional Preparatory meeting.  This is a region to which I belong and for which I have a natural affinity.  The Co-Chair [will make]/ [has made] his substantive closing statement.  I do not want to cover the same ground.  I want to share with you my overall impression.

First, this is one of the most dynamic regions of the world.  Some say that the Asian region has become an engine for global stability in difficult times.  But it is also a diverse and fragile region.  For every great growth story, such as for the host country, there are ten dismal stories.  This diversity was eloquently demonstrated during the two days.

Second, this region is home to the majority of the world’s population.  It is also home to the largest number of people living in abject poverty.  It is a region where climate change is creating havoc on the lives and livelihoods of many of its inhabitants.  It has a large land mass and also the world’s largest oceans.

Third, the diversity of this region is reflected in the diversity of approaches and priorities for Rio+20.  For many, the Green Economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development is about tackling poverty and enhancing livelihoods in long term sustainable ways.   For others, it is a matter for survival.   For those who are rich and on the pathway to green growth, it is a question of greening the economy by the efficient use of natural resources and de-carbonizing growth.

What are the messages then that I take back from this meeting?

Green economy, as one of the themes of the Rio+20 Conference, has been discussed in detail in this meeting. We have listened to many “win-win” examples in this regard.  A country specific, science-based approach is one which will be most appropriate for policy makers.  It should be based on the principles of Rio, particularly the principle of ‘Common but differentiated responsibilities’.

There is an emerging consensus on the need for a green economy roadmap and I believe that such a roadmap could guide countries in the transition… offer a menu of policy options for building green economies… a toolkit with best practices and lessons learned to facilitate learning from one another.

The world’s oceans and seas, their sustainable management, especially the living marine resources are also part of the green economy.   Some refer to this as the ‘blue economy’.

Balanced and integrated consideration of the three pillars of sustainable development is the only guarantee of long term sustainability.  Rio+20 must achieve this integration.

While there are many priorities for a green economy, special focus was placed on:

  • jobs and social inclusion;
  • energy (access, efficiency and renewables)
  • water
  • oceans
  • agriculture and food security
  • disaster preparedness and resilience
  • sustainable cities

Moving to a ‘green economy’ calls for a technological transformation which needs to be facilitated by those who own the technology and know-how.  Finance and capacity building; sustainable production and consumption, and gender empowerment are important, cross-cutting elements for a green economy.

There remain concerns that a ‘green economy’ will become a pretext for non tariff barriers to trade, increasing trade protectionism and aid conditionalities.  To overcome this, a clear set of principles need to be reiterated as stated in the Beijing and Delhi meetings.

Considerable interest has also been expressed in further exploring a set of sustainable development goals.  Rio+20 may agree on broad areas for elaborating goals, perhaps in the seven areas I have mentioned above.

Continued interest was expressed in simplifying the current governance structure to make it more coherent, integrated and based on enhancing implementation.

Support was expressed for strengthening UNEP as well as in establishing a specialized agency on the environment.  Such an organization, in the context of delivering as one, should help developing countries at the national level.

Similarly, there is a need to strengthen national governance mechanisms and rethink approaches to national planning to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development.

There is a strong support to the idea of creating a Sustainable Development Council [SDC] based on the model of the Human Rights Council.

Failure at Rio+20 is not an option.  Humanity is at crossroads and we must use Rio+20 to guide us towards a sustainable world – it is the future we want.

The importance of participation and ownership by all stakeholders – including business and industry, the academic and scientific communities, and civil society at large – is vital to the success of Rio+20.   They must be true partners in the run up to and follow-up of the Rio+20 outcome.

I would like to conclude by thanking the Host Government for its warm hospitality and efforts to make this a very successful regional preparatory meeting.

I would also like to thank all participants to the meeting, government representatives, major groups and organizations, for your active participation during the two days that ensured a very productive deliberation on the issues.

Last, but by no means least, I would like to congratulate ESCAP for successfully organizing this important regional preparatory meeting for Rio+20.

Thank you.