New York

28 June 2012

Secretary-General's press encounter following his remarks to the Genral Assembly on Outcome of Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming.

I just spoke to the General Assembly about the outcome of Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Let me be clear.  Rio+20 was a success.

It was an important victory for multilateralism after months of difficult negotiations.

We saw the further evolution of an undeniable global movement for change.

More than 100 Heads of State or Government had participated.  Many others engaged directly from their capitals.

And civil society and the private sector played an unprecedented role.

The Rio+20 outcome document – the Future We Want – provides a firm foundation to build on, so that all of us can move toward the greater sustainability.

The first important point is that it renewed and strengthened political commitment to sustainable development.

Second, Member States agreed to launch a process to establish universal sustainable development goals that will be an integral part of the post-2015 development framework. 

Third, the document emphasises the importance of partnerships. 

Governments alone cannot get the job done.  We need the active involvement and support of all major groups of civil society, including the private sector.

These partnerships will enable us to achieve Sustainable Energy for All by 2030, and they will help us to meet the Zero Hunger Challenge which I launched in Rio.

Rio was also notable for the many commitments announced there.

If the outcome document is the foundation for the next stage of our journey to sustainable development, the commitments are the bricks and cement.

They will be a concrete and lasting legacy of Rio+20.

They include commitments on sustainable transport, Sustainable Energy for All and education.

Rio+20 was also the first UN conference to focus on engaging people through social media.

Hundreds of millions of people from all around the world joined the online conversation to share their visions for the future and demand action.

The conversation will continue, and we will listen and engage.

Rio+20 has given us a new chance.

It was not an end, but a new beginning – a milestone on an essential journey.

It has given us a new set of tools. 

Now the work begins. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me briefly now turn to Syria.

Tomorrow I will travel to Geneva to participate in the Action Group for Syria.

I fully support the work of the Joint Special Envoy Mr. Kofi Annan.  Mr. Annan has undertaken a highly complex and difficult task.  I commend his diplomacy and perseverance, and look forward to progress at Saturday's meeting.

I sincerely hope that this Action Group for Syria will be a turning point in our common efforts to address the crisis in Syria.

Q:  Mr. Secretary-General, on Syria, the Russian Foreign Minister has placed into doubt, with a few comments, about the acceptance of the Russian Federation of the Kofi Annan plan.  What is your view if it will be possible to have a final communiqué if Russia does not accept, as it appeared to have accepted, the Kofi Annan plan, particularly the transition?

SG:  At this time, I am not in position to prejudge what will be the outcome of the discussions, but it is true that Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan has his own roadmap for the transition and it has been shared by the participating delegations.  We will discuss all these matters.  This will be the major focus of the Action Group for Syria.  At the same time, first and foremost, we will discuss how we can bring this violence to a halt, complete cessation.

Q:  Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, for a very long time, has been emphasizing that Iran should be included in any talks, over and over again.  But the exclusion of Iran in talks in Geneva seems that it has been done under certain pressure because semantics have now been used as justification for not inviting Iran.  So do you think that not inviting Iran it is going to help the process?

SG:  Whether Iran should be a party to this Action Group meeting has been discussed among the parties concerned.  And Mr. Annan has been consulting on this matter with several key Member States.  The agreement among the parties on the participation of Iran was that Kofi Annan, as Joint Special Envoy, will brief the Iranian Government about the result of discussions in Geneva and will continuously be engaged in that way.

Q:  Given that none of Annan’s six points were adhered to by any side and that the observers are not observing, what kind of action or non-action do you expect from this Action Group?  I mean, it seems like this whole direction is not going anywhere.

SG:  The Six-Point Peace Plan is still supported by the Security Council, by the Member States of the United Nations, and those six points should be implemented.  Unfortunately, for very obvious reasons of security threat and non-cooperation of both parties – the Syrian Government and the opposition forces – this Six-Point Peace Plan has not been implemented, particularly the first point, the cessation of violence.  Because of that, the second – political dialogue – has never been able to even commence. That is why we are meeting in Geneva. This small group will be very much focused.  This group is the most involved key stakeholders in resolving this crisis.  Therefore, I sincerely hope that we will create a decisive momentum on the basis of which we can really move ahead for the implementation of the Six-Point Peace Plan. 

Everybody knows why the monitors had to suspend their activities.  It’s not that they have been completely suspended; they have been engaging in a very limited way.  That was a decision because of the inevitable situation where our monitors had been targeted by both sides and this is understood by all the parties and all the communities of the world.  I sincerely hope that they will be able to resume their activities.  For that, we have to talk in Geneva.  I sincerely hope that this will be a turning point.

Q:  On the Rio+20 conference, I heard what you said, as I’m sure you know that NGOs like Oxfam said it was a hoax, Greenpeace called it an epic failure and said that the corporations ran wild in Rio and that the US and others blocked efforts to stop mining of the sea and to impose human rights obligations on corporations.  I just wonder – you were there and obviously put a lot of effort into it.  What’s your response to that critique?  What human rights obligations do you think the corporations have?

SG:  I am aware of those concerns and criticisms about the outcome document. I had, on two occasions, very extensive meetings with members of civil society and, at one point, I met with nine major group representatives.  These discussions were very extensive and very constructive.  I listened very carefully to their views and their concerns and I explained the position of the United Nations, as well as Member States.  And I have fully explained the contents of the outcome document.  I explained to them that when I was a young student, I was taught by my teachers to ‘put your head above the cloud, but have your two feet firmly grounded on the soil, on the ground.’  If you don’t do that, however ambitious the ideas you may have, you will fall and you will tumble.  We have to be very practical, very realistic.  These are the outcomes, result of 193 Member States’ many, many months’ long process of negotiations, taking into account all the limitations, all the constraints and all the resources, and how much we can do. I think it is very fair that this outcome document is very balanced, concrete and result-oriented. 

As I said many times in the past, this is not the end, this is just the beginning.  We have many important processes to follow.  First of all, we have to agree on Sustainable Development Goals.  Members States have made a very clear timeline and also they asked me, as Secretary-General, to provide full support, including inputs and technical and logistical support to this process.  I am going to establish a High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons to present the visions and recommendations for the post-MDG 2015 visions.  And there are many nations, they have established their high-level political fora to follow up on all of these sustainable development recommendations, replacing the Commission on Sustainable Development.  And they have agreed to strengthen the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with universal membership, with steady and strengthened resources provided.  And there are many, many other good recommendations with clear timelines and very concise issues.  However, I made it quite clear that I will continue to listen to their views.  We will work together with civil society.  And, in the course of the coming negotiations and processes, we will fully reflect their concerns and views.

Thank you very much.