Ensuring diverse participation for Rio+20

Ensuring diverse participation for Rio+20 (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

In preparation for the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012, UN DESA is organizing a number of preparatory meetings to bolster diverse participation in the global conversation around sustainable development. On 24 January, over 200 participants joined for the first of this week’s planned events, the latest in an ongoing series of capacity building workshops for Major Groups and other stakeholders in the Rio+20 process.

At the first Rio conference in 1992 (the Earth Summit), the international community recognized that sustainable development could not be achieved by governments alone. The active participation of all sectors of society is vital to accelerating the implementation of Agenda 21, the global plan of action for achieving sustainable societies that was adopted at the Earth Summit.

More and more, key stakeholders from economic, social and scientific sectors of society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs) are important consultative partners, implementers of sustainable development, and valuable links to civil society. Formalized in Agenda 21, “the Major Groups” include women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, the scientific and technological community, and farmers. Organizations representing the views and interests of these sectors participate in all meetings of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), and in related sustainable development processes such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  

Co-hosted by UN DESA and the Stakeholder Forum, the Major Groups Capacity Building Workshop opened with remarks by Ms Chantal Line Carpentier, Coordinator for the Major Groups Programme in UN DESA, detailing the logistics of registration and the format for side events that will take place at Rio+20. From the Stakeholder Forum, Mr Jan-Gustav Strandenaes covered opportunities for engagement by Major Groups, and Mr Farooq Ulla presented a stakeholder analysis of proposals studied from both the zero draft of the outcome document, as well as the massive compilation document that was composed of more than 600 policy papers submitted by Major Groups, Member States, political groups, Intergovernmental Organizations and other UN system entities. 

The capacity building workshop was followed by a “Global Civil Society Workshop on the Zero Draft,” organized by IBON International. Attending civil society groups focused their attention on encouraging engagement from the global South, while discussing ways to strengthen rights for sustainability.

On 25 January, a meeting was organized to discuss the trade dimensions of Rio+20. “The Special Event on the Trade Dimension of Rio+20: Unpacking the Issues” was open to permanent missions and permanent observer missions, and offered a summary of key trade issues raised during the Trade Workshop held on 19 January in New York. The workshop discussed five modules: WTO principles and the environment, interface between MEA’s and trade, market opportunities in the global green economy, trade aspects of the green economy, and the submissions of Member States on trade to the zero draft of the Rio+20 outcome document.

From the Member States and other stakeholder submissions, three dimensions were discussed during the special event: minimizing potential risks associated with building green economies, maximizing trade potential and opportunities, in particular for the developing world, and improving global trade governance. Also, three submissions from Pakistan, Switzerland and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) were reviewed in depth. At this same event, chaired by UNCTAD’s Lucas Assuncao and UN DESA’s Wei Liu and Marianne Schaper, there was discussion about the language on trade for the zero draft of the outcome document with a presentation of two paragraphs related to trade and sustainable development that will be submitted to the zero draft.

From 25 to 27 January 2012, an informal meeting of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development will take place at UN Headquarters to hold initial discussions on the zero draft of the Rio+20 outcome document. Over the course of three days, Member States will devote three sessions to general discussions and comments, and three sessions to informal-informal negotiations on Sections I and II of the document. More than 200 delegates from Major Groups are registered to participate in the upcoming meeting, and many plan to hold stakeholder consultations on the margins of the informal-informal negotiating sessions between governments.

Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Rio+20 Conference Secretary-General, underscores in his last blog post of 2011, “Our major groups partners have been active participants in the preparatory process. They have spoken out candidly, and have inspired us with their enthusiasm, hope and ideas. We welcome their contributions, including their submissions to the compilation document.”

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