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

Senator Collor,
Honourable Members of the Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defence of the Federal Senate,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Conference Secretary-General for Rio+20, it is a privilege for me to address this public audience of the Committee of the Federal Senate. 

Your Committee’s – and the public’s — strong interest in the Conference is inspiring for us.

It is a clear signal of the enormous importance this event has for your country and for the world as a whole.

For a global player such as Brazil, the issues to be discussed at this Conference are at once both domestic, as well as international.

It cannot be otherwise.

Indeed, for the world as a whole the issues before us at Rio+20 can no longer be neatly separated into traditional geographic categories.

Solutions will require coherent and integrated global, regional, national and sub-national action.

In my statement today, I will brief you on the political process of preparation for the Conference, including on the green economy, sustainable development goals, and the institutional framework for sustainable development. Finally, I will update you on the logistics and physical preparations for the Conference.

First the political process.

From 25-27 January 2012, we had initial consultations on the zero draft of the expected Outcome Document for Rio+20.

The Co-Chairs’ zero draft was well received by delegations, who appreciated the challenge of incorporating more than 6000 pages of submissions into a 19 page document.

Subsequent negotiation sessions have been scheduled from 19-27 March, April 23-May 4, and June 13-15.

This is very limited time to complete negotiations, an issue which has been raised by developing countries, represented by the G77and China.

Lack of time is a major challenge.  So is the continuous shortage of funds to support the participation of developing countries and major groups.

A snapshot of our current draft text looks like this:

  • 27 new proposed initiatives;
  • the clear call for bold decisive action focused on implementation;
  • a high profile role for all stakeholders;
  • green economy roadmaps adaptable to national circumstances and supplemented by learning platforms, meeting the transition costs in developing countries;
  • a strong focus on measuring progress and going beyond GDP in measuring progress;
  • and a focus on priority areas such as food, water, energy, oceans, cities, jobs, disaster reduction and consumption and production patterns.  

In addition to the political outcome of the Conference, other expected outcomes include:

  • voluntary commitments by all stakeholders to be collected in a registry of commitments,
  • the launching of initiatives,
  • supporting and brokering partnerships,
  • learning,
  • and side events.

We understand from public statements of your Government as host country that 120 Heads of State and Government will attend the Conference. To date, 53 confirmations have been received.

In total, up to 60,000 people are expected to participate at Rio.  

Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the major themes of Conference. It is important that each country has the policy space to pursue its own green economy path. 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,
  • and a toolkit of good practices.

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

There is also significant interest in establishing a set of global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The goals should be integrated and balanced…  aspirational… and applicable to all countries.

The zero draft calls for the establishment of one set of goals by 2015. Current indications from Member States suggest varied levels of ambition concerning a decision in Rio on the SDGs.

Let me elaborate.

The minimalist approach suggests the agreement on a need for SDGs, but that further details should be left to the post 2015 process.

The next level suggests that thematic areas should be spelled out to create parameters for the goals.

Finally, the highest level of ambition would establish the goals in Rio, and leave detailing on the targets and indicators to a subsequent process. A model for such goals would be the one already contained in the zero draft on sustainable energy for all.

The Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development is the other theme identified by the General Assembly, for the Rio+20 Conference.

The General Assembly recognized the current lack of integration of the three pillars of sustainable development… the lack of coherence among institutions… and the general weakness in implementation at all levels.

The General Assembly was also keen to elevate political consideration of sustainable development at all levels.

In particular, attention has been given to the need for a strengthened UNEP — possibly by elevating it to a specialized agency.

Similarly, consideration has been given to the future of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Some suggest replacing it with a Sustainable Development Council.

Many delegates have shown interest in the establishment of a Sustainable Development Council, following recent experience with the Human Rights Council.

Strengthening the role of ECOSOC has also been strongly underlined.  

Finally, let me address the issue of logistics.

DESA and UNDP are currently supporting 72 developing countries, to prepare for and contribute effectively to Rio+20.

Our collaborative support includes:

  • the organization of  multi-stakeholder processes of national consultations,
  • the preparation of stocktaking reports on the implementation of sustainable development policies and programmes,
  • and the development of national reports based on each country’s sustainable development agenda.

The knowledge generated from these processes will provide guidance in a number of areas:

  • evidence-based policy making,
  • programming, 
  • and development of  capacity development approaches that will respond to the needs of different stakeholder groups.

The reports will provide a solid foundation at the national level for implementation of the outcomes of the Conference.

My being here with you today is part of the final inter-departmental planning mission, which began on 5 March. We expect most pending issues to be finalized, including completion of the Host Country Agreement, venue layouts, accreditation process, security, protocol, and accommodation.

The Rio+20 Secretariat is coordinating the holding of side events during the third Preparatory Committee Meeting and the Conference itself, at RioCentro. Deadline for applications is 31 March.

The Host Government will be responsible for organization of the thematic days between the Third Preparatory Committee and the Conference itself (16-19 June), off-site side events, cultural events and exhibits.

Finally, the General Assembly calls for the organization of a Partnership Forum as an official part of Rio+20, to take place during the Conference itself.

Honourable Members of the Committee,

Parliaments such as yours have a vital role to play.  We not only count on you for guidance and support for Conference preparations, but for the implementation of its outcomes.

You have direct responsibility and commitment to your constituents. Therefore, it is you – the parliamentarians of the world — who will shape the laws that create a better future.

It is your policies that can eradicate poverty, while ensuring we stay within the resource boundaries of the Earth.

Among the immediate measures of success of the Conference will be:

  • the boldness and action-orientation of the outcome document….
  • the presence of Heads of State and Government from the vast majority of countries….
  • and the voluntary commitments that we expect.

However, the long term impact of the Conference will be on the lives of people, particularly the poorest and on global sustainable development.

And Brazil, you are leading the way in advancing sustainable development, through public, multi-stakeholder engagement and participation.

In this great country, stakeholders from all sectors of society are already engaged in shaping a sustainable future for all of us.

You are helping create the future we want.

Thank you.