Second Committee of The General Assembly

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

Delivered by Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Co-ordiantion & Inter-Agency Affairs

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very honoured to address the Second Committee today.

I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, as well as members of the Bureau, on your recent elections.

This year, your work has taken on a new sense of urgency.

Economic recovery has been fragile and uneven.

Uncertainty about the future of the global economy continues. In major developed economies, anaemic economic growth and financial uncertainties persist.

There are risks to economic stability worldwide.

Once again food prices are rising.

Food insecurity continues to take a heavy toll on millions of people. In the Horn of Africa, we are seeing crisis levels.

The gap between the rich and the poor in many societies has widened.

The increase in inequality is partly a result of globalization. But some international and national policies — such as financial sector deregulation and reductions in social services — have taken a toll.

All of this occurs as pressure on scarce natural resources increases ecosystems degrade and carbon concentrations in the world’s atmosphere grow.


In 2008, faced with the food, energy, economic and financial crises, policy-makers and experts called for a strong multilateral response.

They asked for global economic leadership and governance that would help weather the crises and provide future stability.

Despite intentions to improve, too often we find ourselves reverting to “business as usual”.  At this critical juncture, we must steer the world towards a better course.

We need to consider new development models.

We need new approaches that ensure more sustained economic growth better financial stability increased job creation and a more direct path to sustainable development.

We need a global economy that is resilient – but does not reward recklessness.

Countries need to reap the advantages and opportunities associated with globalization.  But let’s help shield them from the risks and potential negative outcomes.

Countries need sustained economic growth – but growth that is environmentally sound, inclusive and equitable – in short, sustainable development.

People need jobs – but jobs that provide decent work and effective social protection.

Households need greater food security – but food security that is based on productive and sustainable agriculture.

Indeed, these challenges, along with water, energy, sustainable cities, marine resources, resilience to disaster are some of the areas identified for priority attention during the preparatory process for Rio+20.

Only sustainable development will take us there.

With its emphasis on the inter-linkages between social, economic and environmental challenges, it is the only option.

Sustainable development can provide long-term and durable solutions to our current global predicament, as well as our future crises.

Distinguished Delegates,

The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, is now just around the corner.

Rio+20 is a landmark opportunity.  If we seize it, it can put us on a sustainable development trajectory for generations to come.

Indeed, the Secretary-General recently called sustainable development the imperative of the 21st century, and Rio+20 one of the most important meetings in the history of the United Nations.

The Secretary-General also said, and I quote “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth … these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all. Rio+20 must succeed.” End of Quote.

The Second Committee has provided crucial follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Once again, we need you.

This Committee has a broad agenda and expertise on the linkages between poverty, macroeconomic policy and sustainable development issues. Your work during this session will be a vital step towards making Rio+20 a success.

As you know, I am serving as the Rio+20 Conference Secretary-General. And my department has been willingly working with Member States as they prepare for the Conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Rio+20’s success hinges on the progress we make on renewing political commitments and on strengthening our collective resolve to accelerate implementation.

We need to achieve tangible, action-oriented and forward-looking outcomes on its two themes – the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

The emphasis on “green economy” integrates economic concerns with the social and environmental pillars of sustainable development.

Adapted to national circumstances and supported by means of implementation, green economy can be a tool for operationalizing sustainable development.

In order for the green economy to make an impact, we know that consumption patterns will have to change.

There has also been much discussion about the potential for green jobs.

Countries with experience in green-job creation need to share what they know.  We all need information on how green economy policies can create abundant, decent jobs.

However, the success of these efforts will only be as strong as the underlying commitment to international cooperation.

The United Nations, and other international institutions, should support countries that choose a green economy path.

Let’s all help each other.

Let’s align a green economy with human development… poverty eradication… and other national priorities.

Distinguished Delegates,

To succeed in this shared challenge, we must revisit and revitalize the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD).

This is the second theme at Rio+20.

Such a framework would guarantee coherence and policy integration across the three pillars.  It would also limit the overlap and duplication of activities.

A number of innovative proposals have been brought forward and are already being discussed.

A new institutional framework must include strategies for strengthening the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development and for strengthening regional, national and local capacities for sustainable development.

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Delegates,

We are at a critical juncture. We must carry out the difficult work necessary to steer the world towards a better course.

And we must find new, innovative solutions to our current global challenges.

We can do this.

We know that there are better, more concrete pathways to sustainable recovery.

In just eight months, we will need to chart the course for a green economy that ensures sustainable development and poverty eradication.

And we will need to deliver an institutional framework on sustainable development to the world.

We must also use Rio+20 to better implement the Millennium Development Goals and help map out the post-2015 agenda, working toward sustainable development goals.

Based on this Committee’s many contributions during these past years, I know we can and will succeed.

My team at DESA and I will do our best to facilitate your important work.

Thank you.