Secretary-General's remarks to Rio+20 Informal Consultations on Draft Outcome Document
New York, 29 May 2012
I would like to thank you for giving me this unusual opportunity to join you today as you enter the final few days of negotiations.
I also take this opportunity to thank our distinguished co-chairs, Ambassador John Ashe and Ambassador Kim Sook, for their leadership in guiding the negotiations.
This has not been an easy process.
You have spent hours, days and weeks and months inside and outside this hall debating the draft outcome document.
Every word has undergone microscopic examination.
Now time is running out.
You still have much work to do – perhaps too much work.
But you must persevere. The stakes are very, very high – for people and the planet… for peace and prosperity.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
My participation today is not intended to impose anything on you as you discuss the outcome of the conference. It is the Member States’ prerogative to make decisions.
But I do want to light a fire.
I want to remind you of the urgency of our task.
It is time to look at – indeed worry about – the big picture.
When we meet in Rio, Heads of State and Government must have before them a concise outcome document that meets their expectations.
It is not reasonable or practical to leave so many issues unresolved that leaders themselves will have to negotiate when they arrive at the conference.
In Rio, the final negotiating session will last only two days.
We should not need that sort of brinksmanship to do what is right for the world’s people.
It is your responsibility to get it right here and now, this week.
This session is effectively your last opportunity to make the progress we need on the outcome we need.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
I remain optimistic that you can succeed.
Failure is not an option. The conference is too important.
As I have said before, Rio +20 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
It is your collective responsibility to seize it.
Nobody expects countries to sacrifice national self-interest.
But keep in mind: our individual self-interests are interdependent, interconnected.
It is important – it is essential – that everyone be prepared to rise above national or group interests.
More and more in today’s world, the global interest is the national interest. There is no difference between global and local.
We must be united for the global common good – united for humanity.
It is time to make compromises. To be flexible. To give as well as to take.
We also need to be practical.
It is time to work on the core elements – the “must haves” – for Rio.
The finer details can wait.
Rio is not the end but just the beginning of a larger process.
Let us not risk killing it before it is born.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
The world is watching with anticipation – high anticipation - but also with great concern.
It is up to you to show leadership and produce an ambitious agreed outcome: an outcome with an inspiring vision for sustainable development.
The world is relying on you to create a roadmap that leads to universal human development, while staying safely within the ecological limits of our shared planet.
Every entity in the UN has thought long and hard about what should be in this roadmap.
We have worked closely with you to support your negotiations, to identify what is practical, what is doable.
During the past few days, I have met with some of the important negotiating groups.
Based on my interactions with Member States and the best analysis of the UN System, let me offer my perspective on what should be included in our roadmap.
First, a process to define sustainable development goals may be one of the most important deliverables of Rio+20.
They can provide concrete milestones on the path to realizing our vision.
And they can help ensure that we integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development: the social, the economic and the environmental.
Second, we will need a new institutional framework to support our shared sustainable development goals – an effective body that can track their progress.
This body should have both high-level political engagement, and space for civil society, local authorities and the private sector to contribute their knowledge and expertise.
Third, the outcome document must include mechanisms that stimulate our economies to create decent jobs; provide social protection to the poor and vulnerable; and support a healthy environment.
Whether we call them “inclusive green economy policies” or another name, I think we can all agree that they would benefit our economies and our people, now and in the future.
The bottom line here is – we cannot continue to manage our economies as usual.
Fourth, we need tangible outcomes on a range of sectoral issues, recognizing the strong interdependence among them.
There are currently 26 areas under discussion. I urge you to consider prioritizing them in your negotiations.
Fifth, Member States must honour past commitments on finance, technology transfer and capacity building.
All countries must be empowered to participate fully in this common endeavour we call sustainable development.
Last but not least, we need commitments from all stakeholders at Rio +20 – Member States, civil society and the private sector alike.
And just as we need a way to track commitments of the sustainable development goals, we will need a process to follow up on these commitments, and hold actors accountable.
We will also need to strengthen our partnership capacity to be able to deliver concrete outcomes on the ground, where it matters most.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,
I have come before you today to inject a note of urgency into the proceedings.
We cannot continue on our current trajectory.
The well-being of billions of women, men and children rests to a great extent on what we do at Rio.
We must choose – now.
On the one hand: development that is dynamic, fair and sustainable.
On the other: the uneven, unequal, unsustainable model that we currently have, with all the injustice and instability that that implies.
This is NOT the future we want.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our work here is both a shared responsibility and a shared opportunity.
You are accustomed to fervently representing the interests of your country or your group.
But there comes a time in the life of every global leader to think about the interests of all humankind.
It is time for all of us to think about our place in the world community and how we can contribute to a sustainable future.
I call on you to think big. To be bold.
You have a streamlined co-chair’s document before you.
I urge you to work with it constructively.
Streamline it further.
Don’t dwell on the details, on the finer points of language. I hope that you all remain actively engaged. High-level backing at the Ambassador level, at the political level, is crucial.
Think of the big picture – of the importance of making Rio+20 a resounding success – for now and for the future we want.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I remain committed to support you in your work -- as does the entire Secretariat.
Again, I thank you for this opportunity, and I count on your strong commitment and vision for the future we share. We have the responsibility for our succeeding generations to make this world better for all, where everybody, big or small, rich or poor, can live in a sustainable world – economically, socially, environmentally – that is I think our moral and political responsibility. You should remember that you have such a huge responsibility to make it delivered today.
Thank you very much.
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