NATIONAL COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

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

Distinguished Members of the Commission for Rio+20,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Conference Secretary General for Rio+20, it is a special honour for me to address the Brazilian Commission for Rio+20 once again.

I see it as a mark of mutual trust and partnership. You – as our host country — have invited me to this high-level body to discuss the national preparations for this once-in-a-generation international conference.

Since my last visit, we have made remarkable headway, both at the level of the host country, as well as globally.

The most tangible proof is the zero draft of the outcome document, which member states will continue to negotiate in earnest, as of 19 March.

As host country, you have allocated and mobilized unprecedented political, financial, human and material resources for an event of this magnitude.  

It goes without saying that the success of the Conference depends on this crucial support.

We expect Rio+20 will be the largest, most participatory event in UN history.

This varied engagement and representation, is reflected well in your Commission, which embodies the participative spirit of Agenda 21. It reflects the next level of multistakeholder governance for sustainable development.

As you know, Brazil faces many of the same challenges in sustainable development as the world at large.

At our earlier meeting last year, you spoke to me frankly of the many social, economic and environmental challenges you face:

  • your draft legislation on forestry and REDD+,
  • the proposed bill on oceans,
  • and your concerns about reconciling protection of nature with poverty eradication and job creation, in both urban and rural settings.

It is no coincidence therefore that the very issues you confront at the national level are at the heart of the Rio+20 zero draft: jobs, energy, food, water, oceans, disaster resilience and cities, and many others.

Turning now to the outcomes of the Conference, I recall vividly the concern that some of you expressed last time.

You want to see a meaningful outcome for the conference in the form of a Charter, rather than empty bureaucratic rhetoric, or a poetic statement.

Indeed, I share your views!

In my own conversations with Member States and Major Groups, I have stressed that we need to focus on implementation through action.  I have repeatedly stressed the need for bold, decisive action.

However, the negotiations on the outcome are very much driven by Member States. Right now, the zero draft is titled “The Future We Want” and we all want an ambitious and bold outcome document from Rio+20. Now, not a small number of amendments by Member States are pulling in opposite directions.

We need to work together so that ambition wins over the status quo.

The strongest advocates for change come from civil society.  They are shouting for equality, inclusive societies, bold action. They are the strongest allies for the future we want and its reflection in the Rio outcome.

We need an action-focused document heads of state and government will be proud to sign off on at Rio.

The zero draft represents a very good starting point. Some of you have pointed out that the document needs more ambition. You’ve said that some of its provisions do not reach far enough.

I fully agree. 

In fact, I am urging all Member States and stakeholders to push the envelope as far as possible.

Between now and the Conference, they need to come up with initiatives that break new ground. They must forge a consensus that demands action.

We need firm commitments that make a difference in the lives of the poor. And we need decisions that will help humanity to live within the resource boundaries of the planet.

My message is this: come to Rio ready to commit. And commit big.

Now, what are the critical issues for Rio+20?

First, Member States need to renew political commitment for sustainable development.

This means reaffirming the principles agreed at Rio 1992, and committing to honour them going forward.

Second issue: green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. This could be a make-or-break issue.

It will be important that each country has the policy space to pursue its own green economy path, relevant to its national circumstances.

Countries must also agree that a green economy will not become a new barrier to trade or source of aid conditionalities.  

What would an agreement on green economy look like?  It could be:

  • a green economy roadmap, including milestones,
  • a menu of policy options,
  • a toolkit of good practices and
  • a platform where countries can share experiences and learn from one another.

Many countries remark that a green economy should be inclusive, rich in decent jobs for people at varying income and skill levels. Particularly for the poor and unemployed.

This means we need some meaningful resource commitments to support developing countries in building green economies. This may include:

  • a capacity development mechanism,
  • and a green economy transition fund to promote development, diffusion and transfer of clean technologies.

Third, Sustainable development goals (SDGs) have also been proposed. They are not explicitly linked to a green economy, but they are designed to help governments and other stakeholders focus their energies and monitor progress.

SDGs would need to build on the MDGs and be at the core of the post 2015 development agenda.

Many believe that Rio+20 must define at least a minimum set of SDGs which will give direction to the development agenda after 2015. The critical areas I mentioned must be part of this vision, including food, water, energy, oceans and cities.

Fourth:  the institutional framework for sustainable development.  We must build stronger mechanisms for implementing sustainable development initiatives at local, national, regional and international levels.

As the UN system, we are asked to strengthen our contribution, coordination and coherence at all levels, in particular through “delivering as one”. 

Both at the intergovernmental level and within the UN system, reform must deepen.

The creation of a Sustainable Development Council, along with strengthening the CSD and ECOSOC, are getting increasing attention. Many also suggest strengthening UNEP as core of the environmental pillar.  In all reform outcomes we must provide sufficient space for stakeholder participation. That is the key to success after Rio+20.

Next, for this to be an action-oriented Conference of implementation, the compelling political outcome must also be accompanied by concrete voluntary initiatives that are results-oriented.

We expect a large number of voluntary initiatives for sustainable development to be announced and launched at the Conference.

I would invite you to urge all your constituents and stakeholders to propose significant voluntary initiatives.

Excellencies,

We will gather here again in only four short months. We have worked hard and we have set our sights high.

To conclude, let me elaborate on the successful outcomes we hope to see in Rio: 

  • We hope over 120 heads of State and Government will attend.
  • We hope the Conference will adopt a focused political document, building on the Rio Principles, Agenda 21 and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
  • We hope to see specific commitments and initiatives for achieving coherence, integration, but in particular implementation.  Rio+20 will define the action and implementation agenda for the next 10 or 20 years.
  • We hope to see innovative partnerships launched by Member States, the UN system, business and other sectors of civil society.
  • Finally, we, of course, hope that the Conference will run smoothly, with no major hiccups.

I know that with such effective management and generous deployment of resources, this great host country will easily achieve that.

Thank you very much. And I look forward to seeing you again very soon.

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