United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Concludes with World Leaders Renewing Commitments to Save Planet

22 June 2012

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Concludes with World Leaders Renewing Commitments to Save Planet

22 June 2012
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Conference on Sustainable Development


5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Concludes


with World Leaders Renewing Commitments to Save Planet


Outcome Document Affirms Poverty Eradication

As Greatest Challenge, Recommends Strengthening of Institutional Framework

RIO DE JANEIRO, 22 June — High-level officials of nearly every Member State meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, renewed their commitments to ensuring an “economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations”, as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — Rio+20 — closed this afternoon.

A set of time-bound targets to end poverty and hunger while preserving the environment — to be known as the Sustainable Development Goals — was placed on the agenda of the General Assembly when the Conference adopted the outcome document titled “The Future We Want” in the final plenary of the three-day Conference — the largest-ever United Nations gathering in number of participants.  Rio+20 built on the ground-breaking United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the “Earth Summit”) of 1992, which adopted Agenda 21 and the Rio Principles, and resulted in the conventions on biodiversity, desertification and climate change, as well as other bases of international efforts to effect integrated, sustainable development.

Affirming that poverty eradication was the greatest and most urgent challenge facing the world today, with more than 1 billion people living in extreme want, the document advocates a transition to a “green economy” and outlines a stronger role for women, non-governmental organizations, small-scale food producers, the private sector and the academic, scientific and technological community.

Among other proposals, it recommends the creation of a high-level standing forum on sustainable development to replace the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, and the strengthening of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  The wide-ranging text, containing nearly 300 paragraphs, stresses that the Sustainable Development Goals will build on the Millennium Development Goals, the framework for slashing extreme poverty and other global ills in the period 2000‑2015.

Welcoming the document’s adoption as well as the Conference’s extensive outreach to civil society and the private sector, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the text provided a firm foundation for multidimensional well-being.  “It is now our responsibility to build on it,” he stressed.  “The work starts now.”  Also urging follow-up action, Conference Secretary-General Sha Zukang expressed confidence that the outcome document “will provide an enduring legacy for this historic Rio+20 Conference”.

General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, also the Conference President, seconded those calls to action, with the latter hailing the mobilization and inclusion of civil society as major players in implementation.

Prior to the adoption, meanwhile, Heads of State and Government as well as other senior officials continued to present their national development priorities, expressing mixed reactions to the outcome text, as the general debate of the Conference heard from today’s more than 50 final speakers.  Overall, over 100 Heads of State and Government addressed the highly anticipated gathering.  Delegations from 188 countries and three observer entities were among the 12,000 diplomatic participants.  Early estimates put the total participation at close to 46,000, with more than 9,800 civil society participants and some 4,000 international media representatives attending the Conference.

In their reaction to the outcome document, most Government and civil society representatives expressed satisfaction that the text reinvigorated efforts to use resources better for the benefit of current and future generations, while also pointing out areas that they felt were inadequately addressed.  Others expressed disappointment at the lack of new commitments.

Many leaders of developing countries urged greater emphasis on the fulfilment of commitments to address poverty and climate change.  The Prime Minister of Samoa and leaders of other small island developing States, for example, said that new commitments were not important in light of the dire and imminent threats faced by their nations due to climate change.  Rather, immediate action on existing pledges was vital, they emphasized.

Others leaders, including some from industrialized countries, expressed disappointment that the document did not demand reproductive rights.  “Women must be empowered to be able to make their own decisions on whether and when to have children,” said the Secretary of State of the United States.

In addition to the consensual outcome declaration, hundreds of voluntary commitments were registered at the Conference, from Governments, business and industry, financial and intergovernmental institutions, the United Nations system, civil society and others.  The Rio+20 Secretariat, together with the United Nations Global Compact and the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, are creating a registry of those commitments.

So far, the Conference Spokesperson announced today, commitments exceeded totalled over $500 billion, including major funding for transport and sustainable energy.  Planting 100 million trees, empowering 5,000 women entrepreneurs in green economy businesses in Africa, and recycling 800,000 tons of PVC per year are among the actions pledged.

In addition, initiatives for sustainable energy, oceans, forests, arable land and many other areas were announced in myriad side events during the Conference.  This morning, the Government of Brazil and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced the creation of the Rio+Centre to facilitate research, knowledge-sharing and international debate on sustainable development, at a ceremony attended by Brazil’s Minister for the Environment and the UNDP Administrator.

In his closing statement, Mr. Ban welcomed the breadth of the initiatives pledged at the Conference.  “These huge numbers give a sense of the scale and growth of investment going into sustainable development.  Our job now is to create a critical mass — an irresistible momentum,” he said.

Before the Conference concluded its work, the Rapporteurs provided summaries of its four round tables on the theme “Looking at the way forward in implementing the expected outcomes of the Conference”.  Reporting on those discussion were, respectively, Kazakhstan’s Minister for Environment Protection, Poland’s Minister for the Environment, Malawi’s Minister for Environment and Uganda’s Minister of State for Environment.

In other business, the Conference also adopted the report of its Credentials Committee (document A/CONF.216/6).  It went on to adopt the draft report of the Conference (document A/CONF.216.3) and authorized the Rapporteur General to complete the text for later distribution.

The Conference also adopted a resolution containing an “expression of thanks to the people and Government of Brazil” (document A/CONF.216/L.2).

Following the adoption of the outcome document, the Conference heard statements by representatives of Algeria on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Bolivia, Denmark on behalf of the European Union, Ecuador, Venezuela, Iceland )also on behalf of Norway), Peru, Canada, United States, Kenya, Switzerland, Congo, Chile and Nicaragua.  A representative of the Observer delegation of the Holy See also commented on the outcome document.

Speaking in the general debate today were the Heads of State of Swaziland, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal and Serbia.

The Prime Ministers of Denmark and Sweden also addressed the Conference today, as did the Deputy Prime Ministers of Croatia, Thailand and Azerbaijan.

Other speakers included ministers and senior Government officials from Slovakia, Canada, Czech Republic, Iraq, Saint Lucia, Iceland, Malaysia, Libya, Romania, Malta, Belize, Philippines, Uzbekistan, Germany, Bangladesh, Poland, Singapore, Malawi, Italy, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Togo, Panama, Venezuela, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Bahrain, Dominica, South Sudan, Nicaragua, Timor-Leste, Liechtenstein, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Tonga and Somalia.

The Special Envoy of Pope Benedict XVI also delivered a statement for the Holy See.

General Debate

MSWATI III, King of Swaziland, said the Conference must reinforce the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities to ensure equity in sustainable development efforts, in the face of such emerging threats as climate change, related food insecurity and increased disasters.  Farmers in Swaziland had suffered a reduction in maize yields that had forced the importation of food at high prices, he said, adding that delivery of social services and poverty eradication programmes had also suffered.  Therefore, it was even more critical for all development partners to fulfil their commitments as a matter of priority.

He said his Government was working to increase employment and provide basic services, as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise boost sustainability.  An improved international framework must assist such national efforts.  Swaziland was fully committed to inclusive development by empowering communities to engage in income generation and infrastructure projects, particularly in rural areas.  The Government was providing education in order to raise employment prospects for young people.  While living standards had improved, the global economic crisis was providing new challenges, and the fulfilment of funding commitments, technology sharing and capacity-building was therefore critical, he stressed.

ARMANDO EMILIO GUEBUZA, President of Mozambique, said that floods, cyclones and droughts arising from climate change had exacerbated extreme poverty and environmental degradation in his country.  Mozambique needed a green economy in order to face such growing challenges.  Welcoming the road map being developed at Rio+20, he said he realized that there were obstacles in the transition to a new economy that could save the planet.  Everyone must therefore fulfil their roles entirely.  Mozambique had already made strides in conservation, having carried out research on saving coastal resources.  The country was also making other serious efforts to institute sustainable development.  Efforts to save the planet must be undertaken today in order to avoid regrets tomorrow, he said.

TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO, President of Equatorial Guinea, said it was clear that the very existence of mankind was threatened.  Calling for responsible policies, including the rational use of resources, he said that while strategies and mechanisms to confront climate change, environmental degradation and the energy crisis had been developed since 1992, much more needed to be done.  Equatorial Guinea supported the creation of an international agency completely devoted to sustainable development.

Regrettably, however, the agreements reached at Rio+20 so far had not met expectations, he said.  The Summit should be the venue for consolidating the partnership between developed and developing countries through the sharing of technology and other forms of cooperation.  Equatorial Guinea had ratified the conventions developed at the Earth Summit, including that relating to biodiversity, but assistance was needed to replace the food supplies that would be limited by efforts to protect species.  While the fundamental role of policymaking fell to individual Governments, assistance was needed in implementing those policies.

MACKY SALL, President of Senegal, said the international community was invested in reconciling economic development and protection of the environment for future generations.  However, 20 years after the Earth Summit, and despite the warnings of scientists, the state of the environment had deteriorated further.  The time had come to overcome divergences and specific interests for the benefit of all, he said.  The concept of a green economy was highly promising, but it must not be a new impediment to the growth of developing countries, he stressed.  Instead, it should be part of the quest to eradicate poverty and ensure social justice.  “We need to break the vicious cycle in which environmental degradation is both the cause and consequence of poverty,” he emphasized.

Indeed, the green economy required a lasting change in modes of consumption and production, not just declarations, he continued.  African States supported and expected the transformation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) into a specialized agency, as well as the creation of a global structure to address problems in the sea and air.  Senegal would resolutely pursue the implementation of Agenda 21, including in the areas of protecting biodiversity, ending soil degradation and promoting renewable energy, among others.  The world’s people would be disappointed if Rio+20 turned into a routine meeting just like any other, he warned, emphasizing that political will would decide whether action was taken at the Summit.  Beyond a green economy, Senegal proposed “genuine green governance” focused on economic and social policies, he added.

TOMISLAV NIKOLIĆ, President of Serbia, emphasized that the resource-intensive growth of the twenty-first century could not continue.  “It is upon us, the political leaders of the world, to deliver a focused and clear agenda for the future,” he said.  Serbia was pleased that the green economy had been proposed as part of that solution, and stressed the importance of measurable deliverables as well as a clear time frame for the implementation of related goals.  A reformed, strengthened, better-coordinated and more coherent governance framework was needed at all levels, he said, adding that it should be based on political leadership.

Such a framework must also avoid overlap, maximize the use of resources and promote synergies, he continued, adding that proposed reforms to existing mechanisms would help achieve those goals.  In addition, strengthening regional cooperation was a key to achieving internationally agreed goals, including the outcomes of the present Conference.  “We need to make an advanced, green and sustainable shift in the way we produce and consume,” he stressed.  In that vein, sustainable development goals for the post-2015 period were urgently needed.  Financing solutions as well as adequate support for those in need were also of critical importance.

HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT, Prime Minister of Denmark, noting that sustainable development hoped to chart a new course, said the international community once again had an opportunity to commit to a sustainable future for its children.  “Green is the passport to rethinking and re-deciding the way we create growth,” she said, adding that green jobs and green business solutions were critically important.  Noting that her country held the Presidency of the Council of Europe, she said the European Union had been working towards concrete green targets and supported the strengthening of the institutional environmental framework, including UNEP.

She went on to say that the European Union understood the vital importance of gender equality, fulfilling the rights of indigenous peoples and mobilizing the private sector and civil society in the green transition.  The green economy was the only way out of the existential crises confronting the world, in particular how to end global poverty and overcome climate change.  “ Rio+20 has set the direction,” but now words must be translated into actions.  Official development assistance (ODA) had an important role to play in that respect, she said, adding that the European Union provided more than half of total foreign aid from the Group of (G-8).

Denmark, for its part, had increased its development funding despite budget constraints, she said, calling on other donors to do the same.  New measures must be considered, including a form of global taxation.  Denmark was pursing an ambitious course that would make it totally independent of fossil fuels by 2050, she said.  The European Union had adopted new legislation that would bring the bloc close to improving energy efficiency by 20 per cent by 2050.  It would also create new jobs and increase European gross domestic product by billions of euros.  Rio+20 may soon be closing, “but our work had just begun”, she stressed.

FREDRIK REINFELDT, Prime Minister of Sweden, said that while globalization and increased scientific knowledge had brought tremendous benefits to many people, wars, climate change and unsustainable production and consumption patterns had created daunting challenges that must be met by collective international action.  Democratic principles and respect for human rights and gender equality, including reproductive rights, were a critical basis for such action.  It was also important to stand against protectionist policies and restrictions on freedom of expression.

Sweden had instituted economic instruments for a green economy, including incentives and disincentives such as environmental taxes, he said.  There was a need for a complete re-thinking of urban planning, including resource efficiency, recycling and increased availability of social services.  Innovation should be a priority, and responsible management of water and other necessary resources was critical.  Stressing the importance of measuring progress, he welcomed the development of sustainable development goals to provide targets for urgently-needed action.

TUILAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI, Prime Minister of Samoa, noted that his country, a small island developing State, had just celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its independence, and recalled that Rio was the place where the vulnerabilities of islands had first been recognized.  In addition to recognition, however, was a need for action underpinned by global sharing and a perspective that valued all contributions equally, even those from the smallest States.  The implementation scorecard of the Rio Principles was uneven, as were reviews of the Rio+20 draft outcome document.  Acknowledging its perceived shortcomings, he said Samoa was more focused on implementation than the wording of the text, which was adequate as a starting point.

He said his island nation was facing a significant land-degradation challenge.  Organic farming was gaining traction as a response and women were pioneering business innovation in that field.  Samoa had also embarked on energy reform, focusing on resources that were available all year round.  However, the necessary start-up funds called for assistance from donors.  Marine resources were a critical element of livelihoods, and given that fact, their sustainable management should be conditional on small island States receiving better support.  All previous international agreements should be honoured in that area, he stressed, offering his country’s experience in partnerships and overcoming obstacles.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Secretary of State of the United States, said the draft outcome document marked a real advance for sustainable development, which was a critical issue for all countries.  “This was a time to be pragmatic but also optimistic,” she said, maintaining that a future in which all people benefited from sustainable development was within reach.  That future was not guaranteed, however, because the necessary resources were under increasing pressure.  That was why the only way to deliver lasting progress for everyone was to make better use of existing resources.  Decisions in that area should not be limited by past assumptions and should be guided by science, she said.

The most compelling results of Rio+20 were represented by examples of new thinking — “not just thinking big but thinking different”, she said, quoting Steve Jobs — about how to harness the power of business.  Private sector investments had catalysed more balanced, sustainable growth.  She said that she had just launched an initiative to release hundreds of millions of dollars in private sector investment in sustainable energy through targeted funding.  Joint efforts on deforestation, waste reduction, healthier domestic fuels and clean air were also priorities.  Sustainable urban development was being promoted under an initiative jointly launched by Brazil and the United States.

Emphasizing the importance of boosting inclusivity in all areas, she welcomed the draft outcome document’s mention of sexual and reproductive health, but said bolder support was needed for reproductive rights.  “Women must be empowered to be able to make their own decisions on whether and when to have children,” she said, pledging United States efforts to ensure that such rights were integrated into international decisions.  In all areas, Governments must do their part, but business, civil society, faith groups and individuals must all be brought into the endeavour to deliver results and to keep faith with future generations, she said, pledging the United States Administration’s and her own personal efforts to that end.

NEVEN MIMICA, Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, said Rio+20 was an historic point for his country, which had recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary of United Nations membership.  Rio 1992, the first United Nations international conference that Croatia had attended as an independent country, had set an incredible first benchmark for its commitment to multilateralism, and the country continued to subscribe fully to Agenda 21 and subsequent important outcomes in the area of sustainable development.  Croatia would strive to further improve its efforts post-Rio+20.  He said that while progress had been achieved in several areas, the international community still faced considerable challenges in eradicating poverty and ensuring the full integration of the economic and social dimensions of sustainable development.

He said that the outcome to be adopted by Rio+20, while not meeting all expectations, contained valuable elements that could serve as strategic policy tools for translating Croatia’s policy commitments into concrete actions at all levels.  But the story did not end in Rio, he said, noting that the real job lay ahead.  Maximum efforts must be undertaken to use the draft outcome text in a range of actions.  Recognition of the green economy would set the course for the right kind of growth, which would shore up the sustainable management of Croatia’s resources.  The country’s adoption of a 10-year framework for sustainable production and consumption was imminent, he said, adding that Croatia had already embarked on the journey set out in Rio.

Princess CHULABHORN MAHIDOL, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, said the philosophy behind sustainable development was aimed at putting people and quality of life at the centre of the development agenda and addressing people’s needs while maintaining harmony with nature.  It stressed moderation and the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle as an overriding principle.  With that in mind, the planetary boundaries were at risk of being breached soon, with dire consequences for the welfare, well-being and security of humankind.  Development could only be accomplished with human resources, and it could only be sustainable if underpinned by a healthy population.

While the parameters for sustainable development goals must be further elaborated, the central role of human health and well-being must be included, she said.  The Conference provided a generational opportunity to forge an international consensus to respond urgently to global challenges, of which climate change was the major, if not the driving, force.  Rio+20 was an opportunity to agree on bold decisions and on a green economic policy towards sustainable development and poverty eradication, for which capacity-building in science and innovation, as well as the transfer of environmentally sound technology were critical.  The United Nations and its subsidiary bodies could play an important role in promoting those efforts, and Thailand would cooperate in that endeavour, she pledged.

ODILO PEDRO SCHERER, Head of the Holy See delegation and Special Envoy of Pope Benedict XVI, said that, with threats to the planet continuing to plague societies, the Holy See hoped that the Conference would provide the opportunity, at last, to set aside the suspicion underpinning partisan self-interest and protectionism in favour of true solidarity.  It was time to commit to a more just distribution of the world’s abundant goods and to the pursuit of a more integral development that corresponded to human dignity.  Standing at the centre of the created world was the human person; that was also true of sustainable development.  Every human life, from conception until natural death, was of equal dignity, he stressed.

He said that any new development model, such as the green economy, must be anchored in those principles that formed the basis for the effective promotion of human dignity, namely responsibility, even when changes must be made to patterns of production and consumption.  Emphasizing nutrition, health, education, security and peace, among others, he also drew attention to the unique and fundamental role of the family, saying it deserved special mention because education and development began in the family.  The right to water, food, health and education were intrinsically linked to the right to life and development, he said.  Therefore, all must be bold in affirming them and equally resolved to safeguard the reality that those rights were at the service of the human person.

The risk of obscuring that correct relationship seemed to be the case in the right to health, where a certain promotion of a conception of health could profoundly menace the dignity of the human person, he said.  Imposing death upon the most vulnerable human lives — namely, those in the safest sanctuary of their mothers’ wombs — could not conceivably be brought under the nomenclature of “health care”, or simply “health”, he emphasized.  Such an action performed no true service to authentic human development or its true appreciation; indeed, it constituted the greatest violation of human dignity and unjustifiable disservice because development, at all stages of life, was at the service of human life, he said.

PETER ŽIGA, Minister for Environment of Slovakia, said that looking back, accomplishments since the Earth Summit appeared to have fallen short.  Hunger and poverty, disparities in economic development and degradation of the environment were but a few examples of areas in which efforts needed to be strengthened.  What was needed was tighter international cooperation and support for those countries facing the greatest problems, he stressed.  While a functioning institutional system was a core requirement, duplication should be avoided, and resources should be focused on the most pressing problems, he said.

In that vein, he went on to stress that the Economic and Social Council should be strengthened, instead of creating a new administrative body.  In addition, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) needed to be transformed into a specialized agency and must receive consistent and adequate funding.  Regional measures should also be adopted with a view to achieving a global impact, he said.  The concept of a green economy, if accompanied by specific and concrete measures, could go a long way towards protecting the environment while supporting the global economy, he added.

PETER KENT, Minister for Environment of Canada, agreed that, while there was much to celebrate in the last 20 years, many challenges had yet to be met and mastered.  “All that has gone before … remains mainly prologue to our coming challenges,” he said.  The best way to operate going forward was to agree on targets that would enable Member States to achieve a balance between economic growth and sustainability.

Faced with another economic downturn and continued environmental challenges, “we must apply the mandate of sustainability to our approach as well as our intended outcome”, he said.  Canada’s achievements in the environmental arena were a product of teamwork, he said, noting that its private sector and non-governmental organizations continued to work together in many areas, such as the country’s green mining initiative.  Canada looked forward to meeting the coming challenges and to benchmarking new levels of success, based on the outcome of the present Conference.

TOMÁŠ CHALUPA, Minister for Environment of the Czech Republic, said the major changes that his country had undergone in 1989 had resulted not only in freedom, but a cleaner environment.  However, the Czech Republic had also faced challenges, such as presenting the new concept of living on credit.  With regard to the post-1992 landscape, he said there was a clear need to inject realism, practicality and prudence into decision-making.  “Every one of us would certainly write a different [outcome] document,” he said of the Rio+20 draft text.  However, the world could build on the elements contained in the current draft.

The success of the Conference would not be measured only by its immediate outcomes, but also by the world’s follow-up actions, he continued.  Creativity, expressed through innovation, would help to strengthen economies, while providing new employment opportunities.  It was therefore essential to create an enabling framework for business and investment.  Reviewing several concrete examples of measures that his country had undertaken, he went on to say that those initiatives devoted special attention to improving the environment and promoting environmentally friendly technologies.

ALI YOUSIF ABDULNABI ALSHUKRI, Minister for Planning of Iraq, said that ancient Iraqis had followed a system of sustainable planning for their cities and the management of areas around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  That spirit had persisted throughout the centuries until the 1970s, when the country had fallen under the rule of a regime that had cared little about the environment, resulting in environmental degradation and crumbling infrastructure.  After the fall of that regime, the new Government had placed a high priority on measures to reverse the damage wrought on the environment, including through the use of better and cleaner technologies to rehabilitate the waterways and sanitation infrastructure.

Speaking more broadly, he expressed hope that the Conference would correct decades of damage done to the planet.  Rio+20 must reaffirm the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and ensure the creation of appropriate mechanisms and institutional frameworks that would help developing countries achieve green and blue economies.  However, such mechanisms must not impose new burdens on developing countries, he emphasized, adding that they must explicitly set out the institutional processes that would assist those countries in transitioning smoothly to sustainable development.

JAMES FLETCHER, Minister for Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of Saint Lucia, said it was time for all nations to accept the inescapable truth that “we are the stewards, not the masters, of our planet”.  The scientific evidence was clear:  if humankind did not change its patterns of consumption and production, it would soon reach a point from which the planet might not recover.  At such a tipping point, it would be humankind’s survival hanging in the balance, a scenario that made it all the more important for issues such as production, consumption, distribution and common but differentiated responsibilities — all mentioned in the draft outcome document — to be confronted with the urgency they demanded.

He continued:  “The future we want is one in which the international community implements sound policies in ocean management, in which all nations have access to clean and renewable energy, and in which climate change is seen as a major threat that must be addressed comprehensively.”  Urging delegations to work together to effectively implement the Conference outcomes, he added:  “Rio+20 must neither deconstruct nor backtrack, but it must build on the solid commitments made at the Earth Summit to ensure proper stewardship of the planet now and in the future.”

SVANDIS SVAVARSDOTTIR, Minister for the Environment of Iceland, said that while nations might disagree on the path, they had a common vision of the destination — a society with equality between nations; a world where large numbers of people no longer lived in poverty; and a planet that was no longer ailing.  “Overall, we can be moderately pleased with the outcomes of Rio+20,” she said, adding that the Conference should be seen as the beginning of a major international process of cooperation towards sustainable development for all.

She went on to say that the health of ocean ecosystems and the sustainable management of their precious resources were as vital for her country as for the rest of the world.  Oceans covered 70 per cent of the planet and were home to a large amount of biodiversity.  They were also essential in mitigating climate change.  “We need clean, healthy oceans, and we need strong commitment to ensure their proper management,” she declared, pointing out that oceans did not recognize any boundaries, a fact that the framework for their protection must reflect.

DOUGLAS UGGAH EMBAS, Minister for Natural Resources and Environment of Malaysia, recalled that his country had pledged at the Earth Summit, among other things, to keep at least 50 per cent of its land under forest cover.  Today that figure stood at 56.4 per cent.  Malaysia had reduced emissions and designated the preservation of a number of islands.  Although the promised support had not materialized, the country had taken steps to fulfil its voluntary pledges, and was also promoting renewable energy.  The country was also on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, ahead of the 2015 deadline.

He went on to say that Malaysia had achieved the poverty eradication target, having reduced it to 3.6 per cent by 2010, in particular, through a rural development scheme implemented by the Federal Land Development Authority.  That, in turn, had led to an improved quality of life for 177,000 families.  The country had also exceeded gender parity goals at all education levels.  He stressed that technology transfer and capacity-building must be at the centre of the Rio+20 outcome, urging participants to recommit to new and additional financing for sustainable development.  The transfer of environmentally sound technologies on favourable terms was also critical.

SALEH AMNISSI, Minister for the Environment of Libya, said everyone agreed that equality and justice were the real dimensions of development.  The United Nations General Assembly had repeatedly called for effective implementation of Agenda 21 and for developed countries and international financial institutions to increase development aid in a way that would enable developing countries to achieve the desired progress.  Libya had revolted in order to put an end to a long-time regime that had failed to invest and to use its oil revenues to develop infrastructure, support productive sectors and raise the living standards of its people, while improving basic services.

That regime’s policies of “injustice and marginalization and corruption” had not only motivated the revolution, but had fed people’s fears for their future and aspirations, he continued.  Youth were very aware of the sustainable development concept and believed there was an over-reliance on oil, which was “like walking towards a dark future that did not guarantee a dignified and safe future”.  Libya was on the way to building a civil and democratic State, he said, adding that the country was determined to establish and implement sustainable development policies in all sectors.  Faced with expanding desertification, drought and environmental degradation, however, it needed sustainable agriculture programmes, as well as human and institutional capacity.

ROVANA PLUMB, Minister for Environment and Forests of Romania, said the preparatory process in the run-up to Rio+20 had been complex, as all stakeholders had been challenged to align diverse interests with “the future we want”.  Sustainable development required continuous adaptation of society and the economy, as well as a well-balanced approach that would allow for better management of potential future crises.  Achieving a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication was of key importance, she said, adding that the world was ready to move towards sustainable development, for which the inclusive green economy was the central pathway.

The institutional framework was crucial for effective implementation of the sustainable development agenda at the global, regional and national levels, she said.  Romania welcomed the launching of the sustainable development goals process, which it considered a necessary complement to the Millennium Development agenda, as well as the basis for the post-2015 blueprint.  In order to transform that vision into concrete action, measurable goals and targets should be developed with concrete guidelines and a formal mechanism for assessing progress.  Human development was the core of sustainable development, and full awareness should be given to the importance of women and young people in advancing society along that road, she said.

MARIO DE MARCO, Minister for Tourism, Culture and the Environment of Malta, said that two decades since the Earth Summit, the road had been bumpy.  It had been difficult to keep the long-term vision in focus, to persuade everyone that the long-term mattered and to accept why so many of that meeting’s aims had remained on paper despite common understanding of a sense of urgency.  Malta, with one of the world’s smallest per capita freshwater resources, had learned to survive things that were beyond its control, he said.

In 1967, Malta had piloted the ocean agenda in the United Nations, leading to the adoption of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said.  In 1988, the country had initiated consideration in the Organization of the need for global investment in environmental protection for humankind, leading to the adoption of Agenda 21.  Later, it had proposed the creation of a guardian for future generations, subsequently establishing such a mechanism at the national level.  Also at the national level, Malta had proposed legislation to mainstream sustainable development into all national development strategies.

He expressed support for upgrading UNEP to a specialized United Nations agency and for the initiation of an intergovernmental political forum on environmental issues.  However, Malta would have preferred a higher level of commitment in the draft outcome document, he said, warning that, unless the international community adopted a long-term sustainable development model, it would face perpetual crisis.  Greater efforts must be exerted to protect marine reserves and secure reliable and sustainable water supplies, he said, stressing that the warnings of civil society must be heeded.

LISEL ALAMILLA, Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of Belize, stressed the need to strike the appropriate balance between man and nature, and to improve the quality of life while maintaining the integrity of ecosystem resources.  Sustainable development meant ensuring that all segments of the population benefited as the country implemented sound socio-economic strategies, and the Government of Belize aimed to achieve that through enhanced economic growth, improved access to quality social services, good governance, safety and security.  While Belize had endorsed the Millennium Development Goals, the State’s ability to respond effectively to the challenges caused by the global financial crisis had been hindered by worsening poverty, high unemployment, increased homicide, drug trafficking and the illegal harvesting of fish, timber and other natural resources.

To keep the country on the path towards sustainable development, the Government had created the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Management in March, she said.  It had also created the “Vision 2030” development plan, a five-year development strategy, and a national poverty alleviation strategy.  Emphasizing the need to address such global challenges as fossil fuel dependency, the impact of climate change and the vulnerabilities of small emerging countries like her own, she said that small island developing States, in particular, needed specific interventions.  She also called for new methods of engagement between developing and developed countries in order to honour commitments to meet the proposed sustainable development goals.

ARSENIO BALISACAN, Secretary for Socio-economic Planning of the Philippines, affirmed his country’s commitment to sustainable development, saying that the Government had made efforts to mainstream it into national plans and strategies.  It had established a Philippine Agenda 21, the national Philippine Council for Sustainable Development as well as relevant local councils.  But much more must be done to sustain and enhance ecosystems, he said, noting that his country’s geographic location made it vulnerable to extreme climate events.  That was why the Government had made it a priority to develop disaster risk reduction and management schemes in order to improve resiliency to disasters.

The Philippine experience showed that the three pillars of sustainable development could be achieved globally, nationally and locally, he continued.  The green economy was a positive tool for achieving sustainable development, but facilitating the necessary transition required nations to undertake their common but differentiated responsibilities, in line with their respective goals, priorities and capacities.  He stressed the need to create a green development fund as well as the capacity to create institutionalized environmental resource accounting and environmentally sustainable transport systems.  The Philippines affirmed its support for a greater role for the Economic and Social Council and for clear, measurable sustainable development goals.

NARIMAN UMIROV, Minister of the State Committee for Nature Protection of Uzbekistan, said it was clear that the time had come to agree on a new framework to ease environmental pressures while promoting equitable social policies.  In line with the Millennium Development Goals, Uzbekistan had increased social spending, bolstered its education system — including by enhancing environmental training — and carried out large-scale changes within its health-care system.  Economic reforms had helped the country maintain economic stability and a nationwide modernization campaign aimed to improve energy access and use, as well as water management.  A number of other action plans and Government programmes were being implemented, including an environmental strategy covering 2008‑2012.

Through established regional cooperation initiatives, Uzbekistan was cooperating with other Central Asian countries to improve water management, he said.  The delegation of Uzbekistan had travelled to Rio looking ahead to the future and seeking to participate in the effort to achieve broad sustainable development for all.  Specifically, Uzbekistan wished to raise awareness about the cross-border nature of pollution, environmental degradation and climate change, he said.  Water was a critical resource for Central Asian nations and Uzbekistan’s national health depended largely on the water policies implemented by its neighbours.  He emphasized that the use of transborder water sources must take into account the needs of neighbouring States, who must adhere to international law.

PETER ALTMAIER, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany, said Rio+20 would be remembered as a paradigm shift, the moment when the entire international community rallied behind the notion of a “green economy”.  Indeed, a green economy combined economic growth with sustainable management and use of the planet’s precious and finite resources.  For its part, Germany had committed to a host of sustainable development and green growth initiatives, most prominently its decision to shutter all its nuclear power plants by 2022 and to ensure that at least 50 per cent of its energy mix was based on renewable energy sources by 2050.

That was a huge challenge, but one upon which Germany was fully committed to deliver, especially as the energy challenge was at the heart of economic growth and was thus critical to poverty eradication, he said.  Germany would have wished to see more ambitious goals agreed in the draft outcome document, especially in relation to protection of the world’s oceans, he said.  While the groundwork had been laid for the elaboration of a new instrument in that regard, the issue could not wait to be firmed up later as oceans needed attention “right now”, he emphasized.  Meanwhile, Germany welcomed the Secretary-General’s announcement of his intention to appoint an ambassador for future generations.  “ Rio+20 was just the beginning,” he said, adding that it was on behalf of future generations that commitments were being made at the Conference.

MOHAMMED HASAN MAHMUD, Minister for Environment and Forests of Bangladesh, said Rio+20 was being held at a time of increasing economic instability and inequality.  The scramble for precious resources was becoming increasingly desperate and “Mother Earth is indeed at risk”.  Bangladesh was seeking poverty reduction and gainful employment for its people by pursuing sustainable development plans and policies.  While simultaneously coping with the impact of frequent disasters, the country was addressing a range of other issues that would improve people’s lives and livelihoods.

As for the work of the Conference, he said the draft outcome document appeared to fall short of what was needed to address many serious issues, such as climate change and migration.  Yet Bangladesh saw a “silver lining”, he said, adding that it was still possible to change the world and build a future that was in harmony with nature.  The agreements reached at Rio+20 must be implemented, and the entire international community must remain committed to achieving sustainable development for all, he stressed.

MARCIN KOROLEC, Minister for Environment of Poland, said that over the last two decades, his country had gained significant experience in those areas, and had much to share.  The country had begun to consider the issue of a sustainable economy following its switch to a market economy more than two decades ago.  It had seen a 100 per cent increase in gross domestic product, and had cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Describing some of his country’s green initiatives, he said they included the creation of a fund to support environmental protection and the preferential loans used to finance it.  That financing mechanism ensured that the fund was renewable, he said.  Poland was certain that the exchange of views over the last few days would bear fruit, and that the political momentum identified in the declaration would help to ensure that Rio+20 was a success.

VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources of Singapore, recalled that the original Earth Summit had been a milestone for humankind, and 10 years later, parties had been able to agree on the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.  Now, back in Rio, “we need to make every decision count,” he said.  However, achievements in sustainable development should be made in a balanced manner and with prudence, he cautioned.  Singapore had long recognized the importance of a green economy, but there could not be a “one-size-fits-all” approach to implementing such initiatives, he stressed, describing Singapore’s unique environmental situation.  It was a “clean and green city”, which had managed careful population growth balanced with protection of the environment.

Singapore’s sustainable development strategy was based on long-term planning, a pragmatic and cost-effective mindset, and a reliance on technology, which allowed the country to respond more quickly to challenges, he continued.  It had developed the 2009 “Sustainable Singapore Blueprint” and the “Singapore Liveability Framework”, he noted.  Those development models might be used as guides for other cities as they carried the sustainable development agenda forward.  “This has not been an easy task,” he emphasized, noting, however, that the draft outcome text to be adopted at Rio+20 contained elements that could be built upon to implement “visionary” actions.

CATHERINE GOTANI HARA, Minister for Environment and Climate Change Management of Malawi, said the Government and people of her country were committed to pursuing the sustainable development agenda, as demonstrated by the creation of a stand-alone ministry and the national medium-term implementation strategy.  That strategy covered such areas as energy, industrial development, mining, education, science and technology, and public health, among other fields.  However, its implementation would require the assistance of development partners.

Describing poverty as one of the greatest challenges facing humankind today, she said there was a need to enhance productivity, boost capacity and increase technology transfer and access to markets, both to eradicate poverty and help developing countries transition to a green economy.  The Conference should strongly consider upgrading the world’s existing sustainable development institutions, she said, stressing that UNEP should remain in Nairobi.  The international community needed to recognize the social, economic and environmental challenges facing developing countries, in particular those that were considered least developed.  “It is time we walk the talk, and time we act with speed,” she said.

CORRADO CLINI, Minister for Environment of Italy, supported the conference outcome document.  The green economy was a fundamental tool to achieve sustainable development.  He wished that concept would have been embraced with wider support.  Nevertheless, Italy was keen to develop green policies as a common undertaking.  The role of private sector would be crucial towards that end.  He looked forward to the adoption of the 10-year framework of action for sustainable production and consumption.  He also acknowledged commitments in water and sanitation, sustainable cities, mountains, food security and nutrition, among other areas.  Italy gave special attention to food security and nutrition.  It had dedicated the 2015 World Expo in Milan to “Feeding the Planet.” 

Energy sustainability was another priority for Italy, and the country was strongly committed to relevant international cooperation and expertise sharing.  He supported the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, and efforts to mitigate climate change and protect fragile earth ecosystems.  He expressed strong concern over the future of small island developing States.  He confirmed Italy’s continued support for the small island developing States and the least developed countries and announced that it would give $6 million for sustainable development projects to address climate change. 

STANISLAS KAMANZI, Minister of Natural Resources of Rwanda, said in 1992 when the first Earth Summit was held, Rwanda was focused on policies of social, economic and political exclusion that culminated in the 1994 genocide.  The new Government had resolutely embraced the tenants of sustainable development.  With commendable support from partners, Rwanda had sought to ensure that its national development path was anchored on the principles of good governance, participatory decision-making, partnership with the private sector, a friendly investment environment, social protection, ecosystem protections, basic education for all, technical and vocational training to harness productivity, renewable energy and food security.  A recent evaluation showed that efforts from that process had helped slash poverty by 12 per cent by 2012.  Still, Rwanda was mindful of the remaining tasks and the cross-border challenges that impeded sustainable development within and outside its borders. 

Rwanda was ready to play its respective role in forming global and regional strategies to overcome obstacles to sustainable development mechanisms, he said.  He subscribed to all options to tackle obstacles to development.  He urged the international community to engage in effective global and regional cooperation towards that end.  To tackle global challenges, Rwanda had taken steps to fine-tune its long-term and medium-term development framework.  It had recently finalized a national green growth and climate resilience strategy.  The Government had set up the Rwanda Fund for the Environment and Climate Change.  It was working with partner countries and organizations to define a functional framework for national economic progress.

ZALMAI RASSOUL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, said that through effective collaboration, sustainable development could be realized.  Poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, and economic woes were part of daily life for many Afghans.  One third of people in the country lived below the national poverty line.  They faced meagre employment opportunities, terrorism from outside actors and environmental and geographic vulnerabilities.  Still, the Afghan Government had made considerable historic progress to improve the lives of its citizens so that they could live safe, prosperous lives.  Today, more than 8 million children attended grade school and 50,000 students were enrolled in universities.  Almost 90 per cent of the population had access to primary health services.  The Government had carried out extensive work in rural development with a special focus on local community development.  Afghan women were increasingly involved in planning and had an increasing role in culture and politics.

The Afghan Government had restored democratic governance, he said.  The country had an elected Parliament and Council and a free, independent media.  It was trying to make the best use of untapped resources.  It was now focusing on making that progress irreversible and sustainable.  National ownership was crucial for that to happen and it was a top priority.  Afghans were poised to have full control for national security by 2014.  Despite aspirations for sustainable growth, the task would be impossible without sufficient means of implementation.  He strongly supported implementation of a 2011-2020 action programme for least developed countries.  He called for greater financial support and development assistance for such countries.  He supported the Almaty Programme of Action on the Special Needs of Landlocked Developing Countries and stressed the importance of South-South cooperation.  He expressed hoped that Rio+20 would prove to be a success to socio-economically bolster least developed countries.

ROXANA SOBENES, Minister for Environment and Natural Resources of Guatemala, hoped that the conference would achieve a more promising future for humanity.  There had been increasing efforts by the international community to protect natural resources and to reverse the deterioration of the environment; however, the current conditions had changed, and new and emerging factors were threatening sustainable development.

Guatemala, for example, was one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters.  It had initiated several programmes in that respect, in particular those related to food security, climate change, the protection of water, the conservation of forests, and others.  On 21 December, she pointed out, Guatemala was planning to hold a Mayan ceremony calling for reflection on the environment and reminding all that there was still time to improve the current situation for future generations.

KOSSOVI AYIKOE, Minister of Environment and Forestry of Togo, said that, despite the many efforts made under many United Nations conventions, climate change and desertification continued to worsen.  The Millennium Development Goal achievements were uneven, and the new trade and economic order that the world was waiting for had not yet arrived.  Regional and sub-regional conflicts undermined development efforts in many countries around the world, including Togo.  Meanwhile, floods and droughts were threatening lives and widening the gaps between the global North and South.  All progress, therefore, must emerge through sustainable development.

It was necessary to assist developing countries in mobilizing resources, he stressed, questioning the traditional ways of funding economies.  Major financial institutions such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and others must give that matter serious thought.  Indeed, the financial crises of the developed world were negatively impacting developing countries; the nature of global relations must change for the better if true sustainable development was to be achieved.  “The world cannot go on in the same way,” he concluded in that vein.

FRANCISCO ALVAREZ DE SOTO, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Panama, agreed with Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the Conference, that consistency and the integration of the three pillars must be at the heart of efforts towards sustainable development.  Panama welcomed the fact that all nations had agreed to decide on the objectives that would guide global sustainable development, meanwhile retaining the power to captain that development in their own way.  Rio+20 reaffirmed the human commitment to the future we all want, he said.

Panama had come to Rio with the positive message that, with determination, all nations and all peoples would be able to make a better world.  One of the most important steps was to strengthen the mandate of UNEP while creating a new political body to examine its three pillars and to ensure follow up with objectives.  The Panamanian Government had implemented a plan for the conservation of the environment, including green employment, environmentally sustainable energy sources, and appropriate levels of growth.  He also described specific initiatives in the field of water conservation, which would diminish the need for combustible fuel and result in quantifiable reductions in carbon emissions.

CLAUDIA SALERNO, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said human suffering was a consequence of a bad economic model.  Capitalism was marked by a false relationship between human beings and Mother Earth.  The present time was a “most unbelievable point in history; the planet cannot take any more”.  It was the point of no return, as perverse capitalism imposed “economic colonialism”.  It was clear that social and environmental problems had worsened, she said, adding that she could not accept developed countries’ arguments that they were not ready to make the necessary transformations because their economies would not tolerate them.  On a finite planet, it was not possible for people to consume ever more to save their own economies.  Consumption must be rationalized as models of capitalist development were simply not sustainable.

Indeed, capitalism was the cause of “the greatest genocide in the world”, she said.  “Let’s pay the ecological debt but not the external debt,” she urged.  In that way, it would be possible to get rid of hunger, but not man himself.  The irrational consumer model had perpetuated “sub-development”, which, in turn, had perpetuated the most flagrant violation of ecology and human rights.  While the right to development was non-negotiable, there were certain harsh truths:  the capitalist North sought to find a new agreement to elude its responsibilities, but had taken no steps to transform the current model.  The Copenhagen climate change summit and huge defence spending, particularly by the United States and at the expense of development aid, were particularly egregious.

SILVIA REVORA, Under-Secretary-General for Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, said participants were in Rio to honour the principles of Agenda 21, which had established the universal right to health and a balanced environment for human development, which should be sustainable.  It had also been agreed that sustainable development required sustainable economic growth and social inclusion.  Appealing for concrete, clear and global measures to eradicate poverty, she said that 20 years after the Earth Summit, Argentina had voluntarily implemented relevant policies and financial measures, financed almost entirely from its national budget.  Today the country reaffirmed the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, which two decades ago had entailed justice and the logic of negotiation with the environment in mind.  National obligations must correspond with their own specific circumstances and history, she said.

Emphasizing that sovereignty underpinned the three pillars of sustainable development, she said her country had taken action recently in “taking back for all Argentina our largest oil company” in the context of the dispute over the question of the Malvinas ( Falklands).  Argentina rejected unilateral British activity in that zone — which included exploration and use of natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable — and which contravened resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly.  Sovereign power included the right to protect the environment, including maritime areas.  Managing that area was not new to Argentina, which had been able to “work with” the whole of its continental platform.  Its activities in that regard were carried out in full conformity with the International Convention on the Law of the Sea.

YAGUB EYYUBOV, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, said his country was implementing its national sustainable development strategy in line with the Millennium Development Goals, with the primary aim of ending poverty, boosting employment, pursuing safe development and preserving the environment.  The process enjoyed the increasing involvement of civil society and young people.  Azerbaijan had achieved much socio-economic progress, reaching record levels of poverty eradication and job creation.  Three major international agencies had upgraded the country’s credit rating, thereby underscoring Azerbaijan’s stability against a backdrop of global financial and economic turmoil.  Expressing concern about ageing nuclear power plants, such as the one in neighbouring Armenia, which posed a danger to the whole region, he said such plants should be built to provide regional nuclear safety and operational reliability.

Responding to the “provocative” statement made by the delegation of Armenia, he said that its representative had tried to draw the world community’s attention away from the situation at hand and to legitimize his country’s its occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory.  The latter was a peaceful country, yet more than 20 per cent of its internationally recognized territory was occupied by Armenia, which was chasing thousands from their homes.  Instead of withdrawing its occupation forces, it was nurturing its “utopian claims” to land, resulting in environmental degradation and destruction of Azerbaijan’s historical heritage.  The representative should not seek to deceive the international community with such statements, he stressed, adding that Armenia should simply withdraw from the territory as per several resolutions of the Security Council, and relinquish its “pointless attempts to annex another country’s lands”.

SHEIKHA LUBNA AL QASSIMI, Minister of Foreign Trade of the United Arab Emirates, said that the first Rio Summit had had many beneficial results in her country.  In 1992, the United Arab Emirates was a young nation; 20 years later, it was joining the world in making progress towards sustainable development.  In the area of economic development, her country had diversified its economy; oil and gas production now accounted for only about a third of gross domestic product.  On the social front, it was now among the top 30 countries as measured by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Human Development Index; she pointed, in particular, to the active role the United Arab Emirates had taken in the empowerment of women.

With regards to the environment, the country had created protected areas, and had made clean energy a central part of its development strategy.  It was investing in energy efficiency, water efficiency, better building standards and other ambitious activities.  The United Arab Emirates had announced this year that it would adopt a green energy strategy, she said; that plan was driving a range of initiatives across the country, she added, describing several such projects.  The United Arab Emirates was also a generous donor of international assistance, which was helping to drive the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goal targets.  While the scale of the sustainable development challenge was large, the experience of countries such as hers showed that success was possible.

MOHAMMED ALTOBI, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs of Oman, said that his country’s participation in the Rio forum was demonstrative of its commitment to sustainable development and to international efforts being made to protect the environment.  In implementing its five year plan for growth, the country had adopted a balanced approach based on the harmonization of the three pillars of sustainable development, as well as the conservation of its natural resources.  In that context, the Government had enacted legislation that sought to reduce the impact of climate change, integrate sustainable development requirements into all production and to use renewable energy, among other goals.  There was an urgent need to take measures to slow climate change, reduce environmental degradation and help people around the world overcome the twin crises of poverty and hunger, he said.  Oman looked forward to the outcomes of the summit with optimism.  It confirmed its support of the objectives of the conference, which it saw as an opportunity to build a future to which humans truly aspired.

MARIA MUTAGAMBA, Minister for Water and Environment of Uganda, said that the conference was being held at a “critical juncture for mankind”.  While some progress had been made in achieving sustainable development, it was uneven; the African continent lagged behind other regions due largely to the lack of adequate means of implementation.   Uganda, for its part, had more than halved income poverty, and its safe water access reached 65 per cent in 2010.  It had steadily reduced infant mortality rates, though those remained short of achieving the related Millennium Development Goal target.  Challenges across the region remained, including widening disparities.

Moreover, she said, the important point of convergence now was the strong view that sustainable development was not only about the environment but also about social injustice.  It was time to discard outdated growth models, and to support people to move out of poverty; in that regard, many States required support in developing infrastructure and other related areas.  Uganda stressed the critical importance of “means of implementation” for the Rio+20 outcomes.  In that vein, she applauded the proposals to strengthen the Economic and Social Council, establish a forum on sustainable development and upgrade the status of UNEP.

JOSEPH SAM SESAY, Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security of Sierra Leone, said that his country, having emerged from a decade-long civil conflict in 2002, was a success story of peacebuilding and peace consolidation efforts — a good example of how countries could move from conflict to peace.  The policies had been put in place to accelerate interventions in the public sector, protect the environment and improve the social safety net.  The development agenda was being implemented and a second strategy paper had been elaborated.  Moreover, all development partners had aligned their assistance with Sierra Leone’s strategies in fields such as energy, agriculture, health and education.

Achieving development objectives involved bold and sometimes risky investments, but the effort was paying off, he said.  For example, the country had seen a ten-fold increase in the use of hydro- and biomass energy, while agricultural production had increased, and with that, food security and improved nutrition.  Also in place was a free health-care programme for pregnant mothers and children under the age of five, which had contributed to halving infant and maternal mortality.  Bold actions were required by all to achieve the common global vision, and the Conference should put mechanisms in place to prevent back-tracking, he said.

MOK MARETH, Senior Minister and Minister for Environment of Cambodia, said his country had taken steps towards “greening” the economy, which included the National Green-Growth Master Plan, developed in cooperation with the Republic of Korea.  The Government had recorded high gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the last decade, meeting its poverty-reduction target in the context of its national road map on green growth.  At the national and local levels, Cambodia had based development plans on the environment, with a focus on eco-tourism, organic fertilizers for agriculture, renewable energy production, the Great Lake Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, and community-based resources management.  The country’s exposure to climate change impacts was particularly burdensome since the economy was heavily reliant on agriculture and Cambodia had only limited resources for adaptation.

Calling on both developing and developed countries to manage their economies for the global good, he urged an increase in investment for building the capacity of developing countries.  Cambodia had created a new development paradigm based on the sale of carbon credits.  The Government was carrying out policies of decentralization and “deconcentration” for poverty elimination and sustainable development through strong public engagement in environmental protection, at both the national and local levels.  It was also continuing national efforts towards green goals, aimed at the sound, balanced and coherent integration of social, cultural, environmental and economic dimensions.  Cambodia supported upgrading UNEP into a stronger, more relevant body, he added.

JUMA BIN AHMED AL KAABI, Minister for Municipality and Urban Planning of Bahrain, said numerous challenges to Agenda 21 remained on the economic, social and environmental fronts, primarily relating to poverty, food security, desertification and water scarcity.  The global economic crises had also impacted development, he added.  Rio+20 was occurring at a historic crossroads and represented a step forward in the effort to protect the planet and reduce poverty while providing education for all, leading to women’s empowerment and a reduction in child mortality.  Despite achievements in those and other areas, much remained to be done, particularly with regard to the environment in light of the impact of population growth on natural resources.

Noting that the “green principle” had become the lynchpin of sustainable development, he said Bahrain had introduced pioneering economic and social development measures, and had given priority to the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development under the Constitution.  It had also established several Government institutions and enacted legislation to that end.  Efforts had been bolstered to guarantee a life of dignity to Bahrain’s citizens, and education had been improved, making the country a leader among Arab nations in terms of enrolment.  Extensive resources were devoted to health, and drinking water was offered to all.  The country was also improving infrastructure and providing decent housing, he said, expressing hope that Rio+20 would lay down a new blueprint to optimize natural resources and forge green economies.

RAYBURN BLACKMOORE, Minister for Public Works, Energy and Ports of Dominica, said the only chance for Dominica and other small islands to achieve sustainable development was to pursue low-carbon growth and environmental protection, he said, explaining that climate change and associated disasters were the major obstacles to their progress.  With those factors in mind, he said, the Governments of Dominica and other island nations in the region were deeply committed to the Secretary-General’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative.

Indeed, reducing dependence on fossil fuel and introducing renewable energy into the region’s energy mix would be the key to progress in other areas of sustainable development and poverty reduction, he said.  As for the work of the Conference, he said his delegation was pleased that the draft outcome document reaffirmed the international commitment to addressing the special circumstances of small island States, as well as the decision to convene an international conference on that issue in 2014.  He concluded by saying that the failure of developed counties to deliver on commitments, especially those relating to capacity-building, had been a major disappointment, and that issue must be addressed as the global sustainable development agenda moved forward.

ALFRED LADU-GORE, Minister for Environment of South Sudan, said the new country’s Government and people were totally committed to the shared ideals that would be reconfirmed by the Conference.  When world leaders had gathered at the Earth Summit 20 years ago, the people of South Sudan had been locked in a protracted and costly war, yet today, they had been liberated.  Thanks to the assistance, support and solidarity of the international community, the South Sudanese delegation had come to Brazil to state boldly their commitment to “building the future we want”.

During the 20-year-long North-South conflict, some 5 million people had lost their lives, and Sudan’s dynamic but fragile biodiversity had been grievously depleted, he recalled.  Today, it was important for people to understand “just what this new South Sudan is”, he said, describing his country’s diverse geographical landscapes, which ranged from savannah, to Nile-based deltas and equatorial forests extending to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The people of South Sudan were largely dependent on the resources derived from those areas, so it was necessary to balance their increasing needs with environmental protection, he said.

Moving forward along a path of sustainable growth would be difficult for such a young country, he continued.  However, the Government was committed to progress, even in the face of the “naked aggression” unleashed against South Sudan by Khartoum.  “What can we do?  Fold our arms?” he asked.  “No, we must protect ourselves through whatever means necessary,” he said, emphasizing that no one in the country wished to return to war, even if the “aggressors try to retake what they have lost”.  He called on the international community to help South Sudan rehabilitate the polluted areas in and around its oilfields and to improve its cattle-grazing ranges, while urging the Conference to adopt a solid document that could guide his country in implementing multinational environment agreements.

MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, Minister Adviser on International Relations and Borders of Nicaragua, said the important goals set forth at the Earth Summit had not been achieved and, as a result, Mother Earth stood on a disastrous precipice.  Rio+20 must adopt “heroic” measures to save the planet because a major species was in danger of becoming extinct due to the destruction of its habitat — humankind.  Thanking Brazil for having taken on once again the task to “reconcile the irreconcilable” by hosting another conference aimed at saving the planet, he said he was pleased that the draft outcome document reaffirmed the centrality of the need to eradicate poverty.

He went on to say that he was wary of calls to promote the “green economy”, which, to some, seemed really to be modern capitalism masquerading as so-called sustainable development.  “If we follow such policies, we will all but assure our own destruction,” he warned.  He went on to commend the policies of President Evo Morales of Bolivia and other South American leaders who were leading the charge to save Mother Earth, while also defending democratic ideals and the rights of indigenous peoples.  Expressing solidarity with Cuba, Argentina, Honduras and Venezuela, he said the Nicaraguan delegation was drafting a declaration on the “well-being of Mother Earth”, which was generating much more excitement and enthusiasm throughout his country and the rest of Latin America than the outcome of Rio+20.

JOSE RAMOS-HORTA, Special Envoy of Timor-Leste, said that to avoid failure at the Rio+20 Conference, the world was told it had to lower expectations to the lowest common denominator.  There was limited political will among the rich countries in the North.  Not everyone was happy with the outcome document, which fell far short of addressing the magnitude of the problem and the urgency needed to deal with alarming levels of climate change.  Instead of trying to reach an international agreement without substance, he asked if would not be more realistic to consider regional agreements.  In Asia, home to half the world’s population, more than half of the planet’s resources were exploited.  He called for creation of an Asian fund for sustainable development that could be managed by the Asian Development Bank in partnership with relevant United Nations specialized agencies.  Such a fund could be made available to low-income countries vulnerable to climate change.  Its resources could be drawn on to fight poverty, illiteracy, tuberculosis, malaria, and other obstacles to sustainable development.

Timor-Leste had signed the major international agreements concerning climate change, he said.  The Ministry for the Economy and Development had produced three strategies for sustainable development.  He pointed to an action programme for climate change, approved by the Council of Ministers in 2011, a national biodiversity protection strategy launched in 2012, and a national action plan for sustainable land management.  The Council of Ministers also had approved a base law on environmental protection, which established the foundation for Timor-Leste to meeting international obligations concerning sustainable development.  Furthermore, the Timorese Government had set up a system to define national development priorities for exploiting oil and gas deposits offshore.  The Government was devising low-carbon initiatives, renewable energy programmes and projects for clean development.

MARTIN FRICK, Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said Rio+20 was a milestone for advancing the sustainable development agenda.  But much work remained to ensure creation of national institutional policy measures to implement the agenda.  Bold and visionary common action was needed.  There was no alternative to inclusive multinational processes in the United Nations to define and coordinate such action.  Rio+20 was an important step forward, and he welcomed the launch of a process to devise a set of concrete sustainable development goals and to guide the efforts within the post-2015 development framework.  Devising those goals went hand in hand with rigorous achievement of the Millennium targets. Liechtenstein already invested 0.67 per cent of its GDP for ODA and it remained committed to reach the target of earmarking 0.7 per cent of GDP for ODA.  The sustainable development goals must be built on the experience gained from the millennium targets and they must respect the principles of good governance and the rule of law.

The Conference had helped to advance the process of reforming the United Nations institutional framework for sustainable development, he said.  A new framework must allow for broader participation of all stakeholders.  He called for creation of a new coordinated body.  There was no time to lose.  The momentum to strengthen UNEP must not be lost.  He called for further substantial measures to ensure policy coherence.  The transition to a green economy was essential for achieving sustainable development.  He was disappointed that political scepticism had prevented conference participants from tapping the green economy’s full potential, and was equally disappointed by the caginess in discussing ways to implement green economic policies.  At the national level, Liechtenstein had committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 per cent from 2013 to 2020; over the same period it would slash carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption by 20 per cent.  Furthermore, by 2020, it would increase the share of renewable energy from 8 per cent to 20 per cent. 

SEBASTIAN MARINO, National Environmental Planner of the Office of the President of Palau, said climate change affected every aspect of sustainable development in Palau.  It affected the economy, food security, social development and social cohesion.  By 2020, Palau would derive 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources.  It had created a successful “green” mortgage programme to finance greener homes.  But Palau faced the stark reality that it could not solve problems on its own.  Cutting Palau’s emissions to zero would not stop the rising seas.  Palau depended on the international community as a whole to tackle climate change.  Palau would continue to advocate for action in every corner of the globe.  “There is no way to adapt when your very survival is at stake,” he said. 

Oceans were Palau’s lifeline, he continued.  Their bounty had sustained the island nation for thousands of year.  “For Palau, it has always been and it will continue to be the blue economy or no economy are all,” he said.  The country had limited fishing capability.  Fully, 58 per cent of the marine areas were protected areas.  Palau had created the world’s first shark sanctuary.  But global fisheries must also do their part and be fair.  Global fisherman must respect Palau’s law.  Their practice of bottom trawling and other reckless practices that harmed Palau’s fisheries should stop.  Fisheries should also be closed when necessary.  He lamented that 85 per cent of global fish stocks were now fully exploited or overexploited.  Those were the worst numbers of record.  Fish stock management must improve.  Today’s declaration by Palau was strong.  It called for more globally responsible sustainable development and acknowledged the grave threats of climate change.  The third international conference on the sustainable development of small island developing States to be held in 2014 in the Pacific was a positive first step.  He called on the international community to turn its lofty words into permanent action.

LUCY BOGARI, Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs and Trade/Special Envoy for the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, said that his country hoped to ensure an economically and environmentally sustainable future for its people and for the people of the planet.  Papua New Guinea had joined the consensus on the Conference’s outcome text, but, at the same time, urged the world to remain committed to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Like other Pacific Island States, the country recognized the importance of the blue economy, which complemented the green economy.  The concept of sustainable development was firmly enshrined in the country’s constitution, he said; its official development assistance programme was closely aligned with its sustainable development strategy, seeking to increase growth while protecting the environment.

In the last 12 years, there had been unprecedented economic growth in Papua New Guinea, he said; in the national budget for 2012, $2 billion had been allocated to the areas of education, infrastructure, health and law and order. The goal was to effectively translate the financial windfall into improved sustainable development indicators.  The country’s development challenges remained complex, he said, as it had to preserve its history while simultaneously trying to connect to today’s world.  Describing several of Papua New Guinea’s nature preservation initiatives, he said that a country’s wealth could not be solely measured by GDP or human development index ranking.  As such, another indicator, taking into account a wider scope of factors, should be elaborated in that respect.

MARLENE MOSES ( Nauru) said that Rio had become synonymous with the multilateral effort to improve the world.  All people of the world shared certain characteristics, including the desire for a life of dignity.  However, the theme of the week suggested that all had the power to affect change; and while that was true for some, she said, it was not true for all.  The smallest and most vulnerable, such as Nauru, had been forced to ride out human-made disasters for which they bore almost no responsibility.  Nor had the fruits of globalization been shared equitably.  Rules had been written by the elite, while many simply struggled to survive.  She had seen the imposing statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio, she said, and was reminded that “to whom much is given, much will be required”.  In that vein, multilateralism itself was plagued by mistrust, as so many around the world had been given so little.

“We can no longer afford to wait for the most privileged to do what is required,” she stressed, adding that it was no longer enough to simply keep reaffirming the recognition of problems that had been identified long ago.  Time was not on our side, she stressed in that respect, “but we do have a chance to begin here, in Rio”.  For example, the Pacific small island developing States’ vision for a “blue economy” would help to protect the world’s oceans and fish stocks, and new energy had been infused into making islands a model for sustainable development.  “Though small island developing States might be small, we are doing what we can,” she said.  But those efforts must be backed by adequate financial resources so they did not remain words on paper.  Most of all, those efforts would require all people to fully embrace the future they wanted.

SONATANE TAUMOEPEAU-TUPOU ( Tonga) said that the world had returned to Rio to take stock of successes and challenges, as well as to collectively plot sustainable development for the future.  The first Rio conference had laid the foundation for the small island developing States blue print, he said, adding that he was pleased that an agreement had been reached for a third international conference for sustainable development in those States to take place in 2014.

The adverse impact of climate change continued to threaten the existence of small island developing States, in particular low-lying islands.  “Take the bold measures necessary to reduce green house gas emission to ensure a viable future for small island developing States like Tonga,” he urged, adding that accessible financing, technology transfer and capacity-building were necessary in that respect.  Tonga’s connection with the oceans and its marine environment was an ancient one, and while many spoke of a green economy, Tonga spoke of a blue one.  He welcomed the timely focus on sustainable fisheries, the development of national capacity and the need for action.  “Small island developing States cannot afford to be idle” in implementing initiatives to address common energy concerns, he stressed.

ELMI AHMED DUALE (Somalia), associating himself with the statements made by other senior African leaders, said that the Conference would lead to the complete well-being of mankind if it succeeded in accelerating the achievement of agreed-upon development goals.  His country had sunk to the bottom rankings of the least developed countries through instability, terrorism, piracy and widespread displacement.  The country also suffered from climate change, drought and desertification.  Thanking the international community for its assistance during the recent famine and its fight against piracy, as well as the contributors to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), he said that all was not lost for his country yet; “there is light at the end of the tunnel” due to such assistance and domestic political progress, leading to an end to transitional governance in the next 60 days, and hopefully an end to the nightmare of the past 20 years.


The Conference then adopted by consensus its outcome document, entitled “The Future We Want” (A/CONF.216/L.1*).

Taking the floor following the adoption, the representative of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the Group had contributed actively to the negotiation process.  Although some of the proposals it had put forward were not kept, the balance that characterized the document undoubtedly paved a new path for reaching agreements that would begin with the implementation phase.  The document demonstrated the rehabilitation of multilateral diplomacy as the best tool for achieving the future that everyone wanted.

The representative of Bolivia said his delegation had joined the consensus, but with several reservations and riders.  Those included a rejection of the concept of a “green economy”, and any derived interpretations.  There were different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, he stressed, and countries had the sovereign right to choose their own approaches to achieve that goal.

Additionally, bearing in mind the principles of international law — such as equal rights, the self-determination of peoples, sovereign equality of States, and others — Bolivia understood that there could be no conditions placed on those different approaches as adopted by Governments.  He further described other particular reservations to the outcome document, relating to the areas of energy subsidies, innovative financing mechanisms, food security and technology.

The representative of Denmark, who spoke on behalf of the European Union, said that the bloc supported the outcome document, but there were areas where it would have preferred other additions, including the inclusion of concrete timelines for implementation.  The document acknowledged the important role of the green economy, he said, which was a step in the right direction.  It also discussed the importance of broader measures of progress to complement the gross domestic product indicator.

“We must now turn these words into actions,” he said, welcoming the agreement to reinforce existing sustainable development institutions, in particular the United Nations Environment Programme, which “must become a global home to set the environmental agenda”.  The European Union stressed that democracy, human rights, the rule of law, good governance and gender equality were integral in achieving sustainable development.  The shared challenge for all now was to implement the document and to ensure that the conference led to “real action” for sustainable development and poverty eradication.

The representative of Ecuador expressed reservations to paragraph 225 of the outcome document, which referred to the rationalization of fuel subsidies.  He asked that the reservation be noted and included in the conference record.  Ecuador could not act in any way that was contrary to its national Constitution, which governed any action it made on issues discussed during the Conference.  The Ecuadorean Government had sovereign power over its resources and policies it implemented to reduce poverty, and it could not accept any such amendment to those policies. 

He reiterated Ecuador’s concept of development and the rights of nature, which were affirmed by its Constitution and public policies.  Ecuador would continue to work within that national framework.  He stressed the importance of continuing local, regional and national dialogue toward a new social contract, in line with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature, which was an instrument of global responsibility affecting civilization itself.

The representative of Venezuela said her delegation had adopted the document with the understanding that it could express reservations.  She noted its reservations to certain paragraphs that were contrary to Venezuela’s sovereignty and Constitution. 

On 19 June, Venezuela was attacked by a representative of Greenpeace while working hard with other delegates to achieve agreement on the outcome document.  In front of other delegates, the Greenpeace representative verbally attacked Venezuela’s Deputy Foreign Minister and “threatened to destroy us”.  The Greenpeace representative had to be physically restrained to avoid a physical assault. 

Such behaviour was not in the spirit of the conference, nor was it constructive.  She formally requested an investigation into the incident.  In line with the rules governing the participation of non-governmental organizations in the United Nations, such organizations must respect and observe a code of conduct.  Social movements should be respected in multinational forums.  She firmly believed in the right of peoples and social movements to participate in such forums.  But the conduct of the Greenpeace representative created a very bad example, and therefore it should be punished. 

The Conference Chair said the issue raised would be duly investigated by the United Nations. 

The representative of Iceland, also speaking on behalf of Norway, said both delegations decided to join consensus on the outcome document despite the exclusion of language on a collective commitment to women’s reproductive rights.  She strongly regretted the lack of such language.  But she noted that those rights were included in the Cairo Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action and said they were non-negotiable.

Also speaking after adoption was the representative of Peru, who hailed the agreement as one which reaffirmed all the commitments of the Earth Summit and issued an urgent call for their swift and effective implementation.  The text had gone even further, agreeing on instruments and mechanisms that would contribute decisively in attaining sustainable development goals.  However, Peru had hoped to be ambitious, feeling strongly that it was not a time to backtrack in any way.  The present instruments provided a pathway and the commitments set the bar high.  All would require great efforts, and Peru would vigorously pursue implementation.  He welcomed the balance struck in the text and the complex agenda that had been achieved.  “Now it is for us to carry out the necessary policies.”

The representative of Canada said the Conference had adopted a balanced, forward-looking outcome text.  It had struck the right balance, especially with regard to complex public policy issues; that was no easy task.  The document had to be viewed as a whole, as well as with regard to its individual parts.  Brazil had shown leadership, listened closely and shaped a balanced overall result.  However, concerning one specific item — the reaffirmation of the human right to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, paragraph 121 — Canada’s understanding was that that right was essential to an adequate standard of living under the right elaborated under Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and that that right did not encompass transboundary watery issues or the mandated allocation of international development assistance.  Canada would soon submit a written explanation of its position to the Secretariat.

The representative of the United Statessaid the outcome document marked a real advance for sustainable development.  That was due not only to the collective efforts of all delegations, but also to Brazil’s excellent leadership.  She was very pleased that the document endorsed sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning.  At the same time, women’s reproductive human rights must be ensured.  Her delegation would continue to advance that essential element in the context of achieving the sustainable development goals.  She would submit a short statement for the record to the Secretariat.

The representative of Kenya had joined the consensus adoption and associated itself with Nigeria’s comments on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.  The process had been open and transparent and had allowed for a balanced outcome, which charted the future to which everyone aspired.  Negotiations had been intense and difficult, but eventually, a balanced text had emerged.  The decisions reached in Rio would need to be translated into practical actions by all, and he was confident, based on the manner in which agreement had been reached, that all would play their part in order to secure a common future — the future we want.

The representative of Switzerland said the international community had come together to take the necessary political decisions.  It had approached the Conference with the ambition needed for a strong commitment to a green economy.  Decisions had been taken to strengthen the international framework for sustainable development and international environmental governance.  The Secretary-General had called the Conference a historical opportunity.  Yes, progress was made, but “we missed the historical opportunity”.  The agreement was on a negotiated text that reflected a compromise but not the vision, engagement and commitment needed; it avoided a major step back and made some progress in that it reiterated the commitment to sustainable development, but the strong commitment and important concrete elements “are still missing”.  The reflection on reproductive rights was just one example.  Hopefully, the debates would catalyse action beyond the outcome document.

A representative of the Observer of the Holy See reaffirmed his delegation’s position that the human person was at the centre of concerns for sustainable development, and so reaffirmed the rights to life, food, water, health, education and work. The family — founded on the marriage of one man and one woman — was indispensible for the right to development.  Regarding the sections entitled “health and population”, and “gender quality and the empowerment of women”, he reaffirmed previous reservations, made at other conferences.  Among those, he stressed that the terms “sexual rights” and “reproductive health” applied to a holistic concept of a person and described the achievement of personal maturity.  The Holy See therefore did not consider the right to abortion to be part of that concept.  Regarding the term “family planning”, the Holy See did not accept services or methods that the Catholic Church considered to be unacceptable. He hoped that Governments would promote greater solidarity, especially with the poor, and help to create a future that humanity truly needed.

The representative of Congo, conveying “the voice of Africa”, said that he had joined the fragile consensus because he felt it would lead towards the strengthening of sustainable development.  In that vein, the strengthening of UNEP, a major part of that consensus, should naturally lead all parties to work to implement the three pillars of sustainable development.

The representative of Chile said that the multilateral process had led the Conference to adopt a document that would aim for a future “that we want and need”.  In that regard, he said, Chile was fully committed to the concept of sustainable development.

The representative of Nicaragua said that the issues of the 1992 Earth Summit must continue to be a focus as the world moved forward with sustainable development.  “We should avoid changing the subject and diluting our efforts,” he said in that respect.

Closing Remarks

SHA ZUKANG, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Conference Secretary-General, expressed confidence that the outcome document would “provide an enduring legacy for this historic Rio+20 Conference”.  He thanked all stakeholders, including the major groups, for their participation and Brazil for its leadership.

It was now time to use the framework provided by the outcome document to guide action, he said.  Recalling the accomplishments of the 1992 Earth Summit, the resulting conventions and the World Summit in Johannesburg, he said Rio+20 carried on their tradition and had laid out a framework for action to expedite implementation.

Welcoming all the elements of the outcome document and the voluntary commitments to advance sustainable development, he said that “sustainable development is the only option for humanity… for our shared planet… and for our common future,” and called for the spirit of partnership and commitment exhibited at Rio to remain with all stakeholders as the shared journey to a sustainable future continued.  “May the Rio Spirit be with you,” he added.

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, calling the Conference a success and thanking the host authorities, said the outcome document provided a firm foundation for social, economic and environmental well-being.  “It is now our responsibility to build on it,” he added.

Describing the substantive accomplishments of the outcome document, the participation of major groups and the private sector in the Conference and the impressive number of voluntary contributions, he said:  “These huge numbers give a sense of the scale and growth of investment going into sustainable development.  They are part of a growing global movement for change.  Our job now is to create a critical mass — an irresistible momentum.”

He cautioned, however:  “The road ahead is long and hard,” pointing out that too many people remained poor, hungry and vulnerable to disease, and that the environmental base that could improve their plight was under unprecedented threat.  For that reason, humankind could no longer afford to recklessly consume scarce resources, pollute fragile ecosystems or trade the future for short-term needs.  He recalled a youth representative’s declaration at the opening of the Conference that a clock was ticking and that the future was in the hands of the gathered leaders.  “ Rio+20 has given us a solid platform to build on,” he said.  “The work starts now.”

In closing remarks, NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER, President of the General Assembly, said the international community had come a long way since the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.  Today marked a historic culmination of follow up to the 1992 Earth Summit.  Throughout the last 20 years, the General Assembly had played an essential role in fostering global awareness about the environment of the blue planet.  Fortunately, the international community had become increasingly cognizant about the link between maintaining environmental balance and fostering development.  The outcome document reflected that notion and provided critical guidance on the way forward.

He said he was aware of some disappointments, but noted that the equal distribution of disappointments was often the hallmark of successful negotiations, particularly those involving 193 countries.  Now was the time for implementation.  This fall, the General Assembly would dedicate its best efforts to make the right decisions to enable implementation of the outcome document.  Every Member State had the responsibility to take effective steps of implementation and to go beyond what was expected.  He was confident the international community would be able to act well and fast, and that its efforts would be energized by the spirit of Rio. 

DILMA ROUSSEFF, President of Brazil and President of Rio+20, said the outcome document, “The Future We Want”, had become a “landmark” in the broad array of United Nations documents on sustainable development.  A historic step had been taken towards a more just, egalitarian world.  Brazil was happy to have organized and chaired the conference.  Brazil had always sought to uphold a responsible balance.  It recognized that “collective constructions” were based on the difficult art of dialogue, and they were made stronger when they were gains for everyone.  The outcome document was the result of the consensus of all at the conference.  The very same effort should be used to build a sustainable future. 

The outcome was not at all a setback when set against the Earth Summit, the 2002 World Conference on Sustainable Development and other conferences on the issue, she said.  On the contrary, it was a great step forward as it clearly showed how shared sustainable development concepts had evolved from a conceptual perspective.  It had launched the basis for an agenda for the twenty-first century, bringing poverty eradication efforts to the centre and in line with protection and respect for human rights.  Through the document, the international community had devised the Sustainable Development Goals.  In addition, the high-level forum it set in motion would coordinate United Nations action on sustainability.

Moreover, UNEP was to be further strengthened by decisions taken at Rio+20 so that it would be in a better position to assist poor countries, she said.  A 10-year plan of action for sustainable consumption and production was adopted.  The international community had recognized the strategic importance of marine biodiversity and had pledged to now negotiate a treaty on it.  She praised the role of developing countries that had taken on sustainable development commitments.  Brazil would do its part as well.  It would contribute $6 million to UNEP and $10 million to efforts aimed at addressing climate change challenges in Africa and in small island developing States.  Every country could and should make progress towards and beyond their respective commitments in the relevant outcome documents on sustainable development.

“From day one, we said Rio+20 is a starting point to make progress.  It is not a ceiling,” she said, stressing that the conference had started a path, which should guide ambitious efforts to build solutions for the “sustainable solidarity that we want to leave as our legacy for our children today and tomorrow”.  She noted progress made during the forums on big cities, women’s rights and other issues.  Rio+20 stood as a landmark event.  It had set up a platform for voluntary commitments to action and provided transparency to private sector efforts while enabling social control.

It was the “most participatory conference in our history”, in which some 12,000 representatives from almost 200 countries had taken part, she said.  Every day, some 30,000 people participated.  There were almost 1,000 side events.  During the Sustainable Development Dialogues organized by the Brazilian Government, more than 1.3 million votes were posted worldwide.  Peoples’ spontaneous comments clearly illustrated the high level of citizen participation in the event and the ability of everyone to freely express their viewpoints. 

“This conference will have the effect of bringing about sweeping changes,” she said, as it aimed to foster sustainable growth and include previously marginalized groups in that process as well as its subsequent benefits.  “Rio has shown that the multilateral system is irreplaceable,” she said, adding that “now it is incumbent upon all of us to put into practice what we have decided in Rio.  Now is the time to act.”

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