Informal Consultations on the Rio+20 Draft Outcome Document

Closing remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20)

Distinguished Co-chairs,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We come to the close of our last round of informal negotiations before we head to Rio, and to the third Preparatory Committee meeting for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

We have had an intense week of negotiations, and I sense real progress. Still, as everyone in this room is well aware, we have much hard work ahead of us in Rio.

I have listened to both the plenary discussions and many of the informal splinter group discussions. I sense a real dialogue; a real willingness to find common ground.

This spirit is encouraging, and we must carry it to Rio. Yet, we must drastically accelerate the pace of our negotiations. We are still not moving fast enough to finish our work by 15 June. We must do it!

So, allow me to reiterate what I said at the closing of our last informals on 4 May, we need to focus on the BIG PICTURE.

It is worth recalling that by the General Assembly resolution the objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.

What will make the Rio+20 Conference, and the outcome document, a “step change” on the road to sustainable development? What will the people outside this complex identify as tangible results that impact their lives and livelihoods, now and in future? 

I see a half dozen, or so, key deliverables that could really make a difference.

First, we can – I dare to say, will – launch a process at Rio to define sustainable development goals as a central feature of a post-2015 development framework. We know there are a few crucial issues still to be resolved, such as

  • how to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development
  • the process to develop the SDGs, and, not least …
  • the priority areas for possible goals.

Second, we can agree to explore, share experiences and knowledge of green economy policy options as tools to advance sustainable development and poverty eradication. We can strengthen international cooperation and collaboration in this regard.

Third, we will need to make decisions on key elements of the institutional framework for sustainable development. I believe we have made good progress in defining the key principles that should guide our efforts in this regard.

A high-level intergovernmental body on sustainable development seems to enjoy broad support – one with universal membership. It will need to facilitate progress towards sustainable development goals. It will need to enhance government engagement – in addition to the engagement of ministers responsible for the environment, also that of the ministers responsible for finance, economics and social development. It will support policy development, and facilitate stakeholder participation in its work. 

We also need to decide how best to strengthen the environmental pillar of sustainable development, and UNEP as its core institution. I know there are still differences on whether to transform it into a specialized agency, but hopefully we are converging, at a minimum, towards an outcome that would see universalization of its membership, and strengthening of its financial base.

Fourth, we need to have strong, action-oriented outcomes in the sectoral and cross-sectoral areas in the Framework for Action. I see encouraging progress in that regard, on:

  • food security and sustainable agriculture
  • energy
  • oceans
  • gender equality and women’s empowerment, and
  • education.

Fifth, we need to make further progress on the means of implementation. We must ensure that the Framework for Action does not remain a mere paper pronouncement. Reaffirmation of past commitments is crucial in this regard. So too, are initiatives to strengthen financing, technology transfer and capacity building, in support of sustainable development.

Sixth, strong engagement of civil society and the private sector will be crucial to implementing the framework for action. In that regard, I am encouraged to see that we seem to be moving towards strengthening corporate sustainability reporting and accountability.        

This brings me to my final point, which is that we need action.  We need government commitment to action, in the outcome document. And, we also need voluntary commitments from all stakeholders. The Rio+20 Secretariat has opened a registry of commitments on the Rio+20 website … designed to complement the government-ratified outcome document.

It is our hope that all stakeholders will utilize the format posted on the Rio+20 website to register their commitments.  This will help facilitate the compilation of the commitments by the Secretariat and easy access by the general public. I hope that the outcome document will recognize and endorse this compendium.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are so near … and yet so far. 

We need an ambitious, historic outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Time is precious. We have little of it left to ensure we deliver. 

Let us use that time well and deliver a vision and action framework for achieving the future we want – for all humanity on our shared planet.

Thank you.