Press Conference on Rio+20 by Civil Society Representative

4 June 2012

Press Conference on Rio+20 by Civil Society Representative

4 June 2012
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Rio+20 by Civil Society Representative


With the start of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil looming, countries were still far from agreeing on a summit declaration or plan of action, a civil society activist said today at a Headquarters press conference.

“Only 70 paragraphs out of a total of 329 in the latest draft declaration have been agreed on,” said Jeffery Huffines, a representative of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, a global civil society network.

Non-governmental organizations had held a series of press conferences at United Nations Headquarters in the hope that their voices would be reflected in the outcome document, and Mr. Huffines represented the voice of many non-governmental organizations not present at what Michael Strauss of Earth Media, the moderator, said was their last press conference before consultations moved to Rio de Janeiro.

Big differences had emerged on the three new issues being addressed by the Conference — the concept of the green economy, how to define sustainable development goals and what new institutional framework to create to house future activities on sustainable development, Mr. Huffines said.  What was even more worrying was that the developed countries were attempting to remove or dilute the principals agreed to in Rio 20 years ago.

On the issue of financial assistance to developing countries, the developed countries were resisting the concept of new and additional funds, or any concrete figures or mechanisms, he added.  There was an air of despondency among developing country delegates, due to the trend in the recent negotiations.  As one delegate had put it, the developing countries were being asked to take on more obligations through the concepts of the green economy and sustainable development goals, but there were no new funds to assist them and there was a backtracking on the technology transfer commitment.

The Rio 1992 summit had adopted legally binding instruments and embraced civil society, he said.  The Johannesburg 2002 summit had celebrated partnerships relying on a self-regulated private sector.  The Rio 2012 summit must reaffirm the State as the indispensable actor setting the legal frame, enforcing standards of equity and human rights, and fostering long-term ecological thinking, based on democratic legitimacy, he said.

On an upgrade of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to a United Nations Organization for the Environment, the course of consultations remained unclear, but the strengthening of the Programme seems to be accepted by almost all players, he said.  Africa, especially Kenya, wanted an upgrade to specialized agency, while another solution was a United Nations body with higher standing than a programme, with universal membership.  The United States was strongly against it and Germany was strongly for it, he added.

Mr. Huffines also shared a wide range of civil society views relating to the crisis and opportunity in global governance; human rights and equity; agriculture; oceans; institutional framework for sustainable development; major groups for children and youth; and global and regional treaties on Rio Principle 10, among other issues.

He noted what civil society hoped to get out of Rio was a set of agreements that would offer guideposts for all to continue to work together to achieve “the future we want”.

“What we need are not just words on a page, but action, and what we are seeing at this Conference is the convergence of over 100 Heads of State and Government and over 18,000 members of civil society, active citizens, coming together to discuss the fate of humanity,” Mr. Huffines said.

In response to a question about the prospect of not having high-stake Heads of States, such as United States President Barack Obama, in Rio, he said that citizens of their countries would come in great numbers and they would go home and hold Governments accountable to an agreement made at the Conference.

Mr. Huffines was among those citizens leaving for Rio hopeful: “I am an eternal optimist.  Despite the setbacks and disappointments, I do believe that Rio+20 will provide us with fresh hope and guidance to meet the challenges we as one humanity face as we come of age and develop the multilateral institutions capable of enforcing the Rio Principles and Agenda 21 we all agreed to 20 years ago.”

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