Briefing of all Member States on the substantive preparations for Rio +20

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

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to brief you today on the substantive preparations for the Rio+20 Conference.

As you are all aware, the Conference is only seven months away.

To date, regional meetings have been held in:

  • Santiago, Cairo, Seoul and Addis.

Meetings on themes related to the Conference, have also been held, in:

  • Solo, Beijing, New Delhi, Warsaw, Oslo, Ramat Gan and Copenhagen.

Meetings are also planned to be held in:

  • Geneva, Bonn, Monaco and Palo Alto.

And this is not even a complete listing.

All these preparatory meetings, including the Prepcoms and intersessionals at the global level have served multiple purposes. They have:

  • deepened understanding of the key issues involved;
  • revealed different and diverse views and perspectives;
  • heightened appreciation of the challenges; and
  • helped formulate inputs for the compilation document.

Preparations have also advanced at the national level.

In collaboration with UNDP, DESA is in the advance stages of assisting 28 developing countries with their national preparations.
By May next year, national preparations will have been completed in all of the targeted 60 developing countries.

Ideally, this support will enable them to engage more fully in the Rio+20 process. And, it will help to strengthen implementation of the conference outcomes.

In addition, two retreats of Permanent Representatives of UN membership have been convened here, in New York.

These meetings have mobilized engagement of Member States. They have provided space for in-depth discussions on the objective and themes of the Conference.


As you are aware, the Rio+20 Conference has one primary objective: to renew political commitment for sustainable development.  The two themes are meant to help expedite progress.

Rio+20 should be a Conference of implementation. By assessing progress and gaps in existing commitments by addressing new and emerging challenges. we can figure out what our next steps should be.

What then should Rio+20 mean for the world?  ‘

  • First, it should:
    • generate economic dynamism and stability;
    • promote social protection and inclusion;
    • create jobs, especially for the youth; and
    • protect the natural resource base on which the future of our planet depends.

In short, it should integrate the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development.

  • Second, it should lead to a more energized implementation of the sustainable development agenda, one of the major gaps over the past 20 years.
  • Third, it should lead to coherent policies and programmes – at all levels.

Thus, the three magical words for Rio+20 are integration, implementation and coherence.

The meetings in preparation for Rio+20 have helped create a better understanding of expectations.

Let me share some of the key messages that have emerged.

The first of the two themes for Rio+20 – the green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development – has generated considerable debate.

Member States have expressed both interest and concern, over green economy.

What has clearly emerged from the discussions is this: the pursuit of a green economy must take into account specific national circumstances, as it differs from country to country.

However, there seems to be an emerging consensus as to what it is not, and what it could possibly be:


  • A top down, one size fits all approach to development;
  • An excuse for green protectionism in trade;
  • A pretext for green conditionality in aid and finance;
  • A way to put nature under corporate control;
  • A model of tinkering at the margins of “business as usual’.


  • Based on a set of guiding principles drawn from Rio 1992, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities;
  • A means to accelerate progress towards sustainable development and poverty eradication;
  • A way to re-orient public and private decision making so that it reflects, and respects, natural capital;
  • A way to synergize growth and environmental protection by promoting win-win solutions;
  • A way to include the poor as active participants, and the main beneficiaries.

One interesting idea is to have a green economy roadmap that would be a pathway to sustainable development.

As part of the roadmap, there is also a proposal on developing a toolkit of good practices and lessons learned. Such a toolkit could assist in expediting implementation.

There is also growing interest in the idea of sustainable development goals (SDGs). Such goals could help marshall political support and means of implementation and accelerate implementation on the road to sustainable development.

Furthermore, a tentative list of 7 priority areas – or new and emerging issues – have been identified by stakeholders in preparatory meetings.

These include:

  • Combating poverty, including through green jobs and promoting social inclusion;
  • Advancing food security and sustainable agriculture;
  • Sound water management;
  • Energy access including from renewable sources, as well as efficiency and sustainability;
  • Sustainable human settlements;
  • Management of oceans; and
  • Improving resilience and disaster preparedness.

In addition, Member States and stakeholders have stressed cross-cutting issues, including sustainable consumption, means of implementation, gender mainstreaming, education, science and technology.

This list will need to be updated in light of the significant contributions that have been made to the compilation document.

I thank all those who have spent long hours on this effort.

Distinguished Delegations,

To help all participants in the preparations for Rio+20, apart from the rich information that is already available in the outcomes of the meetings and the contributions to the compilation text, DESA has worked hard to prepare issues briefs for you.

If you go to our website, you will see some of them already posted on that site. These include the issues briefs on Green Economy and trade; on peer review; on IFSD, and we will be adding to this list several other issues briefs on the priority issues. These will include briefs on oceans, agriculture and food security, energy, sustainable cities, sustainable development goals and green jobs. These briefs are information notes only, like a fact sheet.  They provide background and analysis.  We are leaving the recommendations for you to make.

The independent study by a consultant on IFSD is also posted on our website. This follows up on the five options proposed in the Nairobi-Helsinki Outcomes and looks at their legal, financial and structural implications.

There is thus, no shortage of information that all of you will have in addition to the rich information that has been sent to the compilation text. I would also encourage you to visit our website frequently which is user-friendly and developed to enrich your work.

Let me now turn to the second theme for Rio+20 – the institutional framework for sustainable development. Let’s refer back to the three magical words- integration, implementation and coherence.

Analysis and examination of the existing institutional framework point to deficits in these three areas.

The three pillars – social, environmental, and economic – are not integrated in an institutional setting. The focus on implementation of commitments is weak. And there is a lack of coherence among bodies, entities and institutions, at all levels.

Institutional reform needs to be approached through this prism.

Let me summarize some important views. The following have emerged during the course of the preparatory process:
1.    At the global level there is a clear expression of interest in strengthening UNEP. But within this broad expression, more detail is being sought on the implications and impact.

2.     Along with ideas on strengthening the CSD and ECOSOC, there is also a deep interest in the creation of a Sustainable Development Council. The model of the Human Rights Council is often cited.

3.    At the regional level, ways to strengthen the Regional Commissions, and improve the interface with regional development banks, regional UNDGs, regional integration entities and other bodies is also a major preoccupation.

4.    At the national level, many are referring to the need to reorient national decision making. Putting integration at the heart of the national system of ministries. Activating Sustainable Development Councils at national levels. And giving a more participatory role to national stakeholders.

5.    The UN system is being asked to strengthen its contribution at all levels. The “delivering as one’ modality has been cited as one good example.

Now let me say a few words about the road ahead.

Tuesday marked the 1 November deadline for submission of inputs to the compilation text from Governments, the UN system and major groups.

As of nine o’clock this morning, the Secretariat has received 507 contributions – 57 from Member States, 5 from political groups, 48 from the UN system entities and intergovernmental organizations, 4 from regional PrepComs, and 402 from Major Groups.

There are, in addition, a considerable number of contributions received online and they are being uploaded on our website.  So for an update on the total number of submissions, please visit the Rio+20 website.

Given the large volume of inputs received, the Secretariat is working round-the-clock to ensure that all inputs are uploaded in a timely fashion.

Simultaneously, adjustments are being made on the website, to ensure that received inputs are accessible to all.

The Bureau will be meeting next Tuesday and will provide guidance on the issuance of a compilation text, by late November.

At the next intersessional meeting in mid-December (15-16 December), Member States will provide their views on the structure, format, and content of the outcome document, taking into consideration the rich submissions from Member States, UN organizations and Major Groups.

These comments will help the co-chairs draft the first negotiation text (or zero draft), by mid-January.

The negotiations on the zero draft will start in earnest at the end of January. This will take place under the co-chairmanship of Ambassador Kim Sook of ROK, and Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda.

As agreed by the Bureau, one week of the months of February, March and April will be set aside for negotiations (13-17 February/19-23 March/30 April-4 May).  Hopefully, the third PrepCom, to be held in Rio on 28-30 May 2012 (As announced during the Briefing by the Brazilian Delegate, the proposed new dates for the 3rd PrepCom – 13-15 June 2012), will complete the negotiations.

Regarding the dates of the Conference itself, we have been advised this morning that President Roussef, in response to Member States request, has announced her proposal for the new dates, 20-22 June 2012.  We expect that the host Government will transmit the new dates to the General Assembly in the coming days.

This could mean adjustment of the preparatory/negotiating meetings. The Bureau will guide us on this matter.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those countries that have contributed to the Trust Fund for the Conference (CSD Trust Fund).

As you know, the Trust Fund is used to ensure equitable participation, and representation, by developing countries and major groups, in the preparatory process and the Conference itself.

There continues to be a pressing need for further contributions.

I call on Member States to please consider contributing to the Trust Fund.


A good deal of work remains ahead of us.

You have already shown your energy and enthusiasm.

And together, we will advance toward the future we want.

Thank you for your time and attention.

The floor is open for comments and suggestions.  If you have questions, we will try our best to answer them.