Hangout to take stock of first year post-Rio+20

On 13 June 2013, to celebrate the first anniversary of Rio+20,  the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) organized a Google+ Hangout to evaluate the progresses achieved to date and the work necessary in the years to come. Seven panelists involved in the post-Rio+20 process have discussed about the way to make the Future We Want happen. It has been recorded, so if you missed it, you can watch it now.About one year ago, from 20 to 22 June, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, better known as Rio+20, took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference addressed two main topics: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for Sustainable Development. It resulted in “The Future We Want”, a focused political outcome document containing clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development.

The panelists who discussed this first year after Rio+20 in the Google+ Hangout were Mr. Nikhil Seth, Director of DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development and Head of the Rio+20 Secretariat; Ambassador Csaba Kõrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary and Co-chair of the Open working Group on Sustainable Development Goals; Brice Lalonde, former Executive Coordinator of Rio+20 and Special Advisor on Sustainable Development to the UN Global Compact; Ms. Sabá Loftus, Organizing Partner, Children and Youth Major Group, Sascha Gabizon, Organizing Partner of the Women Major Group, and Riccardo Mesiano, First Economic Affairs Officer, Productive Sectors Section, Sustainable Development and Productivity Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Chantal-Line Carpentier, Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Programme Coordinator from the Division for Sustainable Development, was leading the discussion.

Lessons learned after Rio+20

Ambassador Csaba Kõrösi explained that all goals related to sustainable development and launched in Rio+20 have been profusely discussed during this year, and some conclusions have been reached, such as the agreement that “we need to change our way of development, we need to change our values, we need to change our paradigms. This can only go through an agreed cooperation (…) we need to make sure that our societies, with planetary boundaries, will flourish in the years and decades to come, and beyond”.

In addition he explained that the idea of global action for facing future challenges, as a way of reaching sustainable development goals, is broadly shared. “For global challenges we need to create a global agent (…) because separately we will not be able to solve them and because it is a shared responsibility. We need to think globally and act locally”, Ambassador Csaba Kõrösi said. It is not only important “to design goals and targets, but we also need to design processes that bring them to implementation”.

How do we keep the enthusiasm?

Mr. Nikhil Seth said that since Rio+20, “everywhere I go (…) sustainable development seems to be very high on people’s mind and on people’s agenda. (…) this kind of awareness, that everybody wants to engage in discussions about our future, inspires me a lot”.

The panelists agreed that the momentum had to be maintained, and also the awareness generated in the context of Rio+20. Brice Lalonde said that the goal should be “to keep everyone engaged. (…) Civil society, businesses, communities, local governments, they should all be part of the discussions. (…). Rio+20 is about inventing the future, and inventing the future is not only about governments”. He added that “we must keep this innovation and new way of using the internet to engage more and more people” in the post Rio+20 discussions.

Csaba Kõrösi mentioned that “we also need to help people understand why [sustainable development] is necessary, what should the guiding principles be and how we should reach these goals. (…) Drafting a narrative and having a vision is important: What kind of world would we like to see in 2030?”.

Including women, youth and other groups of civil society

According to the panelists, women, young people and civil society should be especially included in the post-Rio+20 discussions about sustainable development. In the past year, lots of efforts have been made to ensure their participation in the building of the Future We Want.

About children and youth, Sabá Loftus said that “it is very important to have a framework that doesn’t leave anyone behind, especially for the Sustainable Development Goals or the post-2015 agenda”. Specifically in her area of expertise, she said that “small scale activities for young people embracing sustainable development practices are going to be great ways for them to get involved”.

Asked about how individuals and civil society interested in getting engaged in sustainable development could become involved, Sabá outlined a number of ways. To get involved on the international policy level, contacting the relevant Major Group organizing partners, to be found on the Division for Sustainable Development website, would be a good idea. But she also pointed out that joining groups at the regional and national levels, or even starting your own group to become active on sustainable development, are all good ways to make a difference. 

Regarding women, Sascha Gabizon said that they have been working locally: “we try to have strong regional focal points (…) to include women everywhere in the discussion about sustainable development. (…) We have monthly conferences and everybody can join, we have 420 organizations from 82 countries that communicate with each other on a daily basis (…) and we have a team that is able to bring the specific perspective of women into sustainable development”.

Civil society constitutes the other group that should be particularly considered in the post-Rio+20 discussions. Riccardo Mesiano said that “the civil society in general is getting more engaged in the issues of sustainable development. (…) One of the reasons of our spring, the so-called Arab spring, is the fact that civil society was left apart from most of the political, social, and environmental decisions at the public level, so there is a strong push in the region to get involved in sustainable development”.

Key areas to keep working on

One of the questions raised by the public and sent via social media to the panelists, addressed the indicator GDP+, suggested in the context of Rio+20 as a way to improve the traditional Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Nikhil Seth answered that the UN Statistical Commission had been taking charge by bringing in statisticians to discuss ways in which we can move beyong GDP

Asked for short concluding remarks to show what panelists thought would have to happen to realize the Future We Want,  Mr. Nikhil Seth said that it is important to “keep engaged, remain passionate and remain involved” to get the Future We Want”. Ambassador Csaba Kõrösi said that “we need to base our vision on shared evidence, we need to seek sustainable, equitable and equal chances for everybody and we need to seek a balance of human, social, natural, built and financed capital on the way to development. It is not a traditional zero sum game but at the end of the day we will all be on the same side of the struggle”.

In a very concise way, Brice Lalonde said that “The United Nations should be the United Planet”, and Sabá Loftus highlighted “action, implementation and accountability” as the main points to be considered in future discussions.

Also related to implementation, Sascha Gabizon concluded that “we need to look at the means of implementation. (…) They should be built on human rights and women rights”. Finally, Riccardo Mesiano, in a very inclusive call for participating in the discussions about the post years of Rio+20, said that ”every country matters, every voice counts, there is no country, no group that is too small. Do not be afraid of shouting loud what you can do for sustainable development”.

Watch the Google+ Hangout on Rio+20 Anniversary:

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