|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE on rio+20’s impact on future of development cooperation
Despite a perceived lack of concrete commitments, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — Rio+20 — brought forward an international consensus on the way ahead, a panel of national, civil society and United Nations officials agreed at a Headquarters press conference today.
“Conferences are important to make global normative changes and to bring together consensus around some very difficult issues,” noted Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), in response to questions on “The impact of Rio+20 on the future of development cooperation”. She was accompanied by Heikki Holmås, Minister for International Development of Norway, and Joanna Kerr, CEO of the non-governmental organization ActionAid International.
Enumerating some of the difficult issues discussed at Rio — use of the global commons, the nature of the global public good, equitable development and conservation of the environment — Ms. Puri said that, obviously, not all ambitions would be realized at the multilateral level. However, having people from diverse sectors and countries come together and produce a positive outcome was itself valuable. “Evolution of an undeniable global movement for change,” she said, recalling Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s words. “This is what has been triggered by Rio and it is worth every bit of resources spent.”
Mr. Heike, while stressing that the world needed much more than had been achieved, said that given the economic crises in Europe and other problems, the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals was welcome. “Setting goals works,” he added, maintaining that the Millennium Development Goals had led to progress in many countries, and had engaged many in maternal and child health, among other issues. Creativity was now needed in formulating the Sustainable Development Goals. It was important to set food security and energy targets, to further gender equality and to ensure that middle-income countries did something about their own poverty.
He went on to underline the importance of creating a sustainable development council with a robust, accountable mandate, cautioning that the proposed high-level forum must not become “toothless”. A strengthened environmental entity with universal membership was also an important advance and must be followed up. The Sustainable Development Goals must be evidence-based and focused on “what is the case”, “what works” and “what is achievable”, he said, adding that all countries must be involved in the discussion. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I hope we rise to the occasion.”
Ms. Kerr said it was refreshing to hear a Government representative talk about disappointment, since that was the dominant feeling among civil society. “There was really no new cash put on the table,” she said, while acknowledging that the Conference had produced worthwhile results because national officials had had to discuss their policies in an open forum. In addition, many creative solutions had been advanced for funding climate change mitigation and development, including the proposed tax on financial transactions.
Meanwhile, biofuels were still heavily subsidized in the European Union, which encouraged more carbon emissions, she said, noting that many in civil society were now advocating a straightforward carbon tax. Indeed, the “future we want” meant putting a stop to false solutions and getting the financial system to stop encouraging processes that added to pollution and poverty, she continued. In its meetings, civil society had agreed on a post-2015 agenda that would encompass five principles — sustainability, equality, human rights, accountability and universality.
Ms. Puri added that what was important was follow-up action to the Rio outcome, which she described as a very positive change in the way in which gender equality and women’s empowerment had been centralized as a major issue, signalling that sustainable development must be for all. Regarding the Sustainable Development Goals, she said it was important that they all have gender indicators. The strong integration between the economic, social and environmental at Rio meant that women’s empowerment would not just be a social issue to be dealt with “in a side alley”.
Asked how the disproportionate effect of fuel taxes on the poor could be dealt with, Mr. Heike said the receipts should be redistributed so that it directly benefited the poor, adding that an inclusive framework was important in all issues.
Ms. Kerr added that tax justice would probably the next big international issue. There were too many tax loopholes for corporations, such as the giant South African brewery that was paying less than a woman running a microbrewery in its shadow. If such loopholes were closed, it would be possible to do away with most foreign aid and to have all resources available for the sustainable development agenda, she said.
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