First Round of Informal-Informal Negotiations on Zero Draft of Outcome Document

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

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this informal informal meeting to consider the zero draft of the Rio+20 outcome document.

The text now contains your proposed amendments.

And it is a substantial text.

Ambassador Kim Sook reminded us of the enormity of the task ahead of us. 

To make this text focused, ambitious and action oriented – this is a triple challenge.  

The General Assembly’s mandate is to agree on a focused political document at Rio+20. 

Let us remember that Rio+20 is a conference of implementation.

So the outcome must provide a framework for bold and decisive action. We must close implementation gaps.

We all know that there are new and emerging challenges that were not as pressing in 1992, as they are today. 

Some of these pressing challenges are the result of insufficient political will to address them.

And now the world’s people rely on you – and your work on this text – to show the way forward.

In the coming days, you have amendments to Chapters 3 through 5 – to consider.

You will need to find areas where you can agree, and areas where differences can be narrowed.

Expectations are high.

I know this is an inter-governmental process that is led, driven and conducted by you, the Member States.

On that premise, permit me to take a few minutes to highlight how the zero draft has evolved since January.

I will flag both (i) those areas where I believe we are seeing a convergence of views, and (ii) where more negotiation will be needed.

First, let me just say that the outcome document should be viewed as a coherent whole.

We cannot just focus on individual chapters alone. We must look at the whole picture. We must see how each part fits together to create that whole.

Let’s begin with Chapter 3 – green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

In some areas there is an emerging convergence. For example:

1)      it is important that a green economy is inclusive and equitable… that it addresses the social agenda;

2)      it should respect country ownership, and different levels of development and priorities; and

3)      it should avoid protectionism and aid conditionalities.

Some of you have emphasized the risks and costs of moving towards a green economy. Others have stressed the opportunities.

Therefore, we must find ways to address risks while seizing the opportunities.

Over the past months, I have heard many suggestions on how to support countries as they implement green economy strategies and policies.

A roadmap with a menu of policy options and milestones is among the proposed amendments to the framework of actions.

Knowledge and technology sharing are also critical.

But there are outstanding questions:

  • Technology sharing on what terms?
  • Who should bear incremental costs of moving towards a green economy?
  • How do we finance the major investments implied by that move?

Next, let me address the institutional framework for sustainable development. 

We now have greater clarity on the direction in which discussions are moving.

This means coherence in some areas.

You have indicated the principles and key functions that should guide the strengthened institutional framework, namely:

  • integration of the three pillars,
  • enhanced review and reporting on progress with implementation, and
  • effectively addressing continuing, new and emerging challenges.

But we are not yet where we need to be.

On the broader institutional framework: Several Member States have called for an enhanced role of the General Assembly and ECOSOC, in addressing the sustainable development agenda. 

A number of you have also expressed support for creating a high-level sustainable development council under the General Assembly. Others are reserving their judgment for now.

While there is little support for continuing the Commission on Sustainable Development in its current form, some are still asking if there is a way to strengthen it.

Regarding UNEP, there is universal support for strengthening UNEP, but divergence remains on how to achieve this.  Some point to universal membership, while others call for transforming it into a UN specialized agency.

Many are also calling for a strengthened financial base for UNEP.

Finally, there has been broad support – as part of strengthening IFSD – to forge closer links between science and policymaking.

On Chapter 5 -regarding the framework for action and follow-up.

It has been proposed that “framework for action” sections in earlier chapters be consolidated into a single framework. 

Regarding contents of Chapter 5, it is clear to me that there is convergence of views on the seven plus priority areas.

These priority areas have already been highlighted and were in the original zero draft.

Also highlighted was the importance of sustainable consumption and production.

Additionally, there have been extensive additions made to Chapter 5. 

There is now both additional text in existing sections, as well as entire new sections. 15 proposed new areas have been added to the draft.

Distinguished Delegates,

A few other points come out in the amendments that I would like to highlight:

  • First, is a stronger emphasis on the social pillar of sustainable development.
  • Another is recognizing the valuable contribution of ecosystems, and their services to economic and social well-being.
  • A third is the critical importance of technological innovation, as well as private sector entrepreneurship and investment, in moving towards sustainable development.
  • A compendium of voluntary commitments was also emphasized.

I also note that, in several of your proposed amendments, we see an emerging scope of aspirational goals or targets.

They cover a range of issues: food security, energy, water, land degradation, a social protection floor, decent work, disaster risk reduction, oceans and sustainable urban planning. 

An important element of Chapter 5 is the proposal to launch sustainable development goals.

There is an emerging convergence of views that at the very least Rio+20 can launch a process leading to the SDGs and define the principles by which they will be governed. 

There are three observations I would like to make on this matter.

The first is my own: that agreeing to SDGs at Rio+20 would send a strong expression of renewed commitment for sustainable development. And we know this is our objective.

The second is a point made in one of the proposed amendments to the text, namely, that for such commitment to have credibility and impact, we need to be clear on means of implementation.  What support is the international community prepared to provide?

Third, agreement on SDGs, as well as an agreement on green economy will have important implications for the future institutional framework for sustainable development.

So it is important that if agreement is reached on the first two, then institutional responsibilities for follow-up must be clearly defined.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope I have captured some of the critical aspects of the draft outcome document… and how the chapters reinforce one another.

I wish you luck as you proceed into negotiations.

Your tasks will be arduous, and your historical responsibilities high.

Rio+20 must agree on an outcome that our leaders will be proud to sign off on.

My staff and I are here to support you in any way possible to achieve a focused, ambitious, and action-oriented historic outcome at Rio+20.

All inhabitants of the planet, the generations of today and tomorrow, deserve our best effort.

And we all deserve a future we truly want.

Let us work together in partnership to make it happen.

Thank you.