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UN GA Second Committee Rio+20 event

Special event
Second Committee, 65th Session of the General Assembly
“Advancing Sustainable Development: What Should Rio+20 Achieve?”
Friday, 29 October 2010

The concept of sustainable development is like a bridge. It seeks to bring together not only the three domains — economic, social and environmental — but also developed and developing countries, Governments, businesses and civil society, scientific knowledge and public policy, the city and the countryside, and present and future generations. It has also created the awareness that the environment and development are not two separate agendas, but two faces of the same agenda. Development is the midwife of sustainability, just as sustainability is the life support system for development.

In order to secure a renewed political commitment for sustainable development, Member States decided at the 64th session of the General Assembly to organize, in Brazil in 2012, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) . The Conference is to assess progress and remaining gaps in implementation of commitments made at major summits on sustainable development. It is also supposed to address new and emerging challenges. The two themes of the Conference are: green economy in the context of sustainable development, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

To guide the preparatory process, a 10-member Bureau co-chaired by Permanent Representatives from Antigua and Barbuda and Republic of Korea has been elected at the First Preparatory Committee meeting held from 17 – 19 May 2010. Other Vice-Chairs are from Argentina, Botswana, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Italy, Pakistan and the USA. Brazil is a member ex-officio.

To support preparation for the Conference, the UN Secretary-General has nominated the Under-Secretary-General of Economic and Social Affairs as the Secretary-General of the Conference with the dedicated Secretariat at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. System-wide coordination in support of the preparatory process is pursued through the Executive Committee of Economic and Social Affairs , supported by the UN Development Group and Environmental Management Group .

Objective of Conference: Renewing political commitment
The political outcome of the Conference will determine its legacy.
Will it be an occasion to reinforce political resolve to tackle the main sustainable development challenges facing the international community?
What concrete outcomes should we be working for?

Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication
Green economy is a term which has generated much interest of late, particularly following the financial crisis and global recession and the “green stimulus” packages assembled by a number of governments. Also, in the run-up to Copenhagen, many countries developed plans and policies to promote low-carbon development, which can be encompassed by the term “green economy” or “green growth”.

The concept is used in several senses, to refer e.g. to promotion of structural change towards less energy-, resource- and pollution-intensive sectors, as well as to broad policies designed to shift all economic activities onto a more resource- and energy-efficient and less environmentally damaging foundation. Opinions differ on whether the economic adjustments involved will be gradual and small-scale or more transformational.

The newness of the concept means that many are still uncertain about how to interpret it and what its implications are for their own countries. Many countries have experience with policies which could be given a “green economy” label (e.g., eco-taxation, investments in green infrastructure, sustainable procurement, etc.). Some have pursued them more comprehensively and ambitiously than others.
• Does green economy offer a useful framework for capturing synergies among the three pillars of sustainable development, or are the trade-offs more apparent?
• What are the benefits, costs and risks of pursuing a green economy, green growth path?

Institutional framework for sustainable development
There exists a dense network of institutions and instruments related to sustainable development at the international, regional, national and local levels. The UNCED/Rio Conference marked the culmination of a fertile period in the development of institutions responding to concerns about sustainable development. UNCED saw the adoption of a number of crucial agreements, including the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, and the UNFCCC. It also created new international institutions, among them the Commission for Sustainable Development, tasked with the follow-up to UNCED.

The rise in social and economic interconnectedness (globalization), the failure to make adequate progress in eradicating poverty, and the impacts of global environmental change are some of the key drivers behind demands for strengthening the institutional framework for sustainable development. An effective and equitable framework would provide a way of ensuring adequate progress in the social, economic and environmental dimensions. Maximizing outcomes along more than one dimension is a challenging exercise. The response has been to advocate an integrated approach to strategy formulation and policy making – evaluating options in accordance with the three dimensions of sustainable development – and benefiting from multi-stakeholder engagement.

Some questions considered vis-à-vis the institutional framework for sustainable development included:
• What functions are existing intergovernmental bodies and processes currently performing well, and where are the major shortcomings?
• Where are the major gaps in the institutional architecture?
• How can the links between various intergovernmental bodies and processes be strengthened and made more effective?

Preparatory process
The Earth Summit in Rio and the World Summit in Johannesburg introduced important advances in the engagement of civil society in international decision making on sustainable development. Carrying on that tradition, multistakeholder engagement of Major Groups will be critical in the preparations for Rio + 20 and in maximizing the likelihood of a successful outcome.


Professor Subhan– Poverty eradication and Sustainable Development

Dr. Soogil Young, Chairman, Presidential Committee on Green Growth, Republic of Korea - Green economy in the context of sustainable development

Prof. Adil Najam, Frederick S. Pardee Professor of Global Public Policy, Boston University - Institutional framework for sustainable development

Mr. Felix Michael Dodds Stakeholder Forum – Key issues and Stakeholder engagement in the UNCSD Preparatory Process


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