Press Conference on Preparations for 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

4 March 2011

Press Conference on Preparations for 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

4 March 2011
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Preparations for 2012 United Nations


Conference on Sustainable Development


As delegates geared up for next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Secretary-General of that event called on them today to use that gathering to take collective action to save societies from mounting social tensions, ecological damage and the global economic crisis.

“I hope that Rio will produce a blueprint for a coherent pursuit of sustainable development — a blueprint that more effectively addresses new and emerging challenges, as well as implementation gaps,” Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said today during a Headquarters news conference.

With the world reeling from the effects of the 2008 food, financial and energy crises, Governments should hammer out a range of smart policies to green the world economy, promote jobs, foster the availability and use of clean energy and clean water, and ensure a more sustainable and just use of resources, he said.

Next week, representatives would hold in New York the second of three intergovernmental consultations in preparation for the June 2012 Rio Conference, he said.  (For background on the Preparatory Committee, see Press Release ENV/DEV/1198.)

The Conference, set up to renew political commitment to sustainable development and assess progress, obstacles and new challenges towards that end, would focus on the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.  Mr. Sha said it would be one of the most important events of the coming decade.  Since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), most often referred to as the Earth Summit, crafted Agenda 21 — a global social contract based on an equitable, integrated vision of progress — awareness about the need for sustainable development and national strategies to achieve it had grown, he said.

Still, he said, current consumption and production patterns were overstressing many of the planet’s ecosystems; funding for sustainable infrastructure had not kept pace with urban sprawl; neglected agriculture sectors had caused food shortages; and investment in renewable energy and sustainable forest management was far short of what was needed.  Extreme poverty persisted, even though global wealth had increased some 60 per cent since 1992.

Experts agreed on the need for a new era of sustainable, low-carbon, inclusive growth, Mr. Sha said, but stressed that developing countries were concerned about trade restrictions under a green economy and new standards that would restrict market access for their products.  Many felt they lacked the human, institutional and financial resources to create a green economy.  “Frankly, the Conference can succeed only when these concerns are addressed.”

During the upcoming event, Governments must also focus on unifying sustainable development governance, nationally, regionally and globally, he said, as well as strengthening intergovernmental bodies such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the world body’s Commission on Sustainable Development.

Echoing those concerns, Charles Ntwaagae, Permanent Representative of Botswana and Vice-Chair of the Conference’s Bureau, said those officials had solicited Member States’ input on their goals for the event and its outcome.  He expected to have a draft text by year’s end to drive forward the Conference process, and for negotiations on the Conference’s outcome document to start soon.

“We want to see an ambitious, action-oriented and authoritative outcome document that provides a clear pathway toward the global transition to a green economy and lifting people out of poverty, and toward greater institutions, particularly at the international level, to help guide that transition to a green economy,” he said.  The outcome should spell out how to make the world a better place to live, particularly for its poorest people.

The feedback from Member States, he said, was compiled in a synthesis report on best practices and lessons learned which would guide next week’s meeting of the Preparatory Committee.

Asked why the 2012 Conference process, known as “Rio+20,” was less ambitious than the 1992 Earth Summit, Mr. Sha dismissed that claim, saying the challenges today, particularly against the backdrop of the financial crisis, were greater than in 1991.  “We have to do more with less,” he said, but expressed confidence that Governments were up to that task.

Asked how sustainable development concerns such as the food, energy and financial crises were linked to the current political turbulence and street demonstrations in North Africa and the Middle East, Mr. Ntwaagae said crises made life harder for everyone and fuelled the kind of discontent seen today in the Arab world.  But by properly managing sustainable development strategies, policymakers could end the economic slowdown, create jobs, curb poverty and food insecurity, and ensure education.  Mr. Sha added that the energy and food crises were not new, but there was more urgency to address them now.

Asked about the Bolivian Government’s proposal to eliminate all forms of intellectual property protections and to replace the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with a new global economic architecture, Mr. Ntwaagae said such protections were needed to provide incentives for innovation and to facilitate development of poverty-eradicating tools such as medicine to treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  Mr. Sha agreed, and added that innovative technology must be better disseminated and made more affordable for developing countries.

Mr. Ntwaagae said intergovernmental forums, such as the June 2009 high-level General Assembly meeting on the Impact of the Economic and Financial Crisis on Development, and more recent meetings of the Group of 8 (G-8), had discussed the need to reform the Bretton Woods institutions and make them more democratic by giving developing countries a greater voice in decision-making.

Asked if Brazil was a role model for other countries in sustainable development and poverty reduction, Mr. Sha said indeed Brazil had reported strong socioeconomic progress in recent years and it had been a champion and pioneer of sustainable forestry management.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.