Background

The Chair noted that the Secretary-General assigned high priority to issuing a CEB statement to the conference as well as to holding a high-level CEB side event on 21 June 2012. He recalled that a joint preamble, prepared under the aegis of the Chair of HLCP, had been approved by CEB at its fall 2011 session, as an input to the Rio +20 preparatory process. That document served as a framework for the UN system to signal its collective readiness to Member States to “support the world’s nations and peoples to make sustainable development a reality.” 

In addition, CEB recommended that a second joint statement, to be issued as a “clarion call” to the Rio+20 conference itself, be submitted to CEB for its endorsement at its spring 2012 session.  

Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, DESA, and Secretary of CEB, provided an overview of the status of preparations for Rio+20. He noted that Member States were concurrently gathered in New York to commence negotiations on the draft outcome document on the basis of amendments on the earlier zero draft document. He pointed out that the current compilation text had expanded to almost 200 pages from the 17 pages of the original text that had been prepared by the UN Secretariat. He also noted that inter-agency coordination in the lead-up to the Conference was organized through monthly ECESA-Plus meetings of Rio+20 focal points. At these meetings, agencies were briefed on political and substantive issues as well as logistical concerns related to the Conference. Country-level preparations involving national authorities and UN country teams were being supported by UNDP and UN-DESA in 79 countries.  

Highlighting activities in which UN agencies could be involved during the Conference period, he noted the holding of a Partnership Forum and the organization of thematic days (16 – 19 June 2012) which would provide agencies with opportunities to showcase sustainable development initiatives and to forge new partnerships. All new commitments announced during the Conference would be included in an on-line registry to improve follow-up and accountability among stakeholders. He added that UN agencies were invited to contribute to the registry.  

Mr. Navid Hanif, Director, ECOSOC Support and Coordination Division, DESA, presented draft elements for a CEB statement to the Rio+20 conference. Mr. Hanif noted that the draft before the Committee was built around eight key messages to create a compelling narrative for sustainable development intended to lead to concrete actions and effective implementation of sustainable development commitments.

Those messages included: 

  • Recognizing that some progress had been made in addressing the challenges of sustainable development while also acknowledging existing gaps and risks to people and the planet;
  • Noting that the global economic landscape had changed in fundamental ways over the past 20 years, leading to accelerated economic growth and poverty reduction, but at a high environmental cost, and with rising inequality and exclusionary policies; 
  • Underscoring that enhanced international cooperation and collective action at the global level was necessary to address these problems, in particular by focusing on:(a) renewing political commitment; (b) integrating the three pillars of sustainable development; (c) accelerating implementation; and (d) improving accountability.  
  • Recognizing the need to move the current economic model onto a sustainable pathway using the tool of a green economy while recognizing the key principles of national sovereignty, common but differentiated responsibilities, country ownership in the process of transformation, as well as the need for increased funding from the international community, capacity building, technology transfer, and technical support. 
  • Focusing on accountability, measuring progress and defining precise goals for advancing sustainable development, including Sustainable Development Goals at Rio+20 which needed to be universally applicable, and complement and reinforce the MDGs.
  •  Strengthening the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development by reinforcing the environmental pillar of sustainable development and UNEP.
  •  Ensuring greater coherence in the sustainable development activities of the UN system as a whole, including those of the International Financial Institutions which would lead to better coordination in delivering policy advice, finance and capacity building to governments.
  • Reviving the “Spirit of Rio” and emphasizing that Rio+20 must be an implementation conference that identifies a framework for action, including an increase in and allocation of new, additional, predictable financial resources, and provides the road map to the “future we want” - a future with dynamic economic development, universal social well- being and a healthy environment for present and future generations.  

Mr. Hanif concluded by noting that Rio+20 must effect transformational change. The UN system needed to look beyond individual themes and mandates and take a broader view on the actions and changes that were necessary. 

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, Committee members expressed support for the eight messages presented, which represented a “compelling narrative” for sustainable development leading to effective implementation of sustainable development commitments. Members felt that the draft should be refined to more closely follow this narrative.  

Members were also of the view that a CEB statement needed to take a broad view, which would emphasize the linkages and interconnectedness of the different dimensions of sustainable development. The statement also needed to highlight the UN system’s capacity to come together in a coherent and coordinated manner in support of Member States’ decisions and efforts to develop and implement sustainable development policies and practices.  

A number of HLCP members highlighted individual issues that needed to be incorporated in the statement, including the centrality of human rights, trade, education, science, information technology, tourism, sustainable industrial development, resource-efficient production and consumption, gender equality and the empowerment of women, food security and sustainable agriculture, population, and oceans. Participants also pointed out that it was important for the statement to convey the synergies and linkages that existed among the various critical areas for action.

Members agreed that a CEB statement should serve as a key advocacy tool for the Secretary-General as well as the UN system as a whole to sharpen the system’s focus and messages, demonstrate complementarities of mandates and programmatic activities, and showcase the value-added of the UN to sustainable development efforts of Member States. A joint statement would also present a common reference point for the UN system and convey the system’s readiness to support Member States in advancing sustainable development at the global, regional, national and sub-national levels. 

The Committee also supported the proposal to hold a high-level CEB side event at the Rio+20 conference, with the participation of the Secretary-General and Executive Heads, as an opportunity to demonstrate the capacity of the UN system to deliver as one in supporting Member States in the implementation of the Rio+20 outcome. HLCP members agreed that the side event needed to be forward-looking and focus on concrete actions and initiatives through which the UN system would advance sustainable development objectives. 

Action

HLCP decided to revise the draft statement taking into account suggestions made by HLCP members. Once finalized, HLCP would recommend the draft statement to CEB for endorsement (Annex III). HLCP also decided to recommend to CEB the holding of a high-level side event at Rio+20.