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Two decades after Rio Summit

28 May 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Rio + 20 is short name for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) due to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -20 years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. This event will provide us with an opportunity to look ahead to the world we want for the next 20 years.

Rio + 20 Conference of world leaders along with thousands of participants from the private sector, NGOs and other groups will come together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection in a already crowded planet.

The official discussions will focus on two main themes namely how to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift the people out of poverty and how to improve national and international coordination for sustainable development.

It is a historic opportunity to define effective pathways to a sustainable future – a future with more jobs clean energy, greater security and decent standard of living for all.

Why do we Need Rio +20?
If we are to leave a livable world to our children and grand children, the challenges of widespread poverty and environmental destruction should be tackled now.

The world today has 7 billion people and by 2050 there will be 9 billion. One out of every five people – 1.4billion lives on US $ 1.25 (Rs 150) a day or less. A billion and a half people in the world have no access to electricity and two and a half billion do not have a toilet. Further a billion people go hungry every day. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and more than a third of all known species could go extinct if climate change continues unchanged.

According to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the Earth Summit gathering in Rio 20 years ago, world leaders agreed on an ambitious blueprint (Agenda 21) for a more secure future and sought to balance the imperatives of robust economic growth and the needs of a growing population against the ecological necessity to conserve our planet’s most precious resources –land, air and water. The leaders also agreed to break away from the old economic model and invent a new one called sustainable development.

Two decades later we are back to the future and the challenges facing humanity today are much the same as then, only larger. Global economic growth per capita combined with the 7 billion populations has put unprecedented stress on fragile ecosystems. It is evident that the world leaders have not embraced the only possible solution 20 years ago namely sustainable development.

However we have a second chance to act when over 130 heads of state and government and over 50 000 business leaders, mayors, activists and investors will gather again in Rio after 20 years to galvanize global support for a transformative agenda for change to set a new course toward a future that balances the economic social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human well being.

Priority attention at conference
The member states and other major groups at the Preparatory meetings have identified the following areas for priority attention.
  • Management of the oceans ,fisheries and other marine resources
  • Water.
  • Energy access, efficiency and sustainability.
  • Green jobs, youth employment and social inclusion
  • Food security and sustainable agriculture.
  • Sustainable cities.
  • Improved resilience and disaster preparedness
It must be recalled that Agenda 21 –programme of action for sustainable development worldwide, containing 27 principles with a global consensus and sustainable development of all types of forests, was adopted by more than 178 governments at the UNCSD known as the Earth Summit in Rio in June 1992.

Agenda 21 – Blueprint for action for global sustainable development based on the Rio Declaration of 27 principles has 40 action plans (Chapters) in four sections.
  • Strengthening the role of Major groups – 10
  • Social and Economic Dimensions  - 8
  • Conservation and Management of Resources – 14
  • Means of Implementation  -8
Each of the above plans has program areas, objectives, activities, means of implementation and providing adequate financial resources to developing countries wherever appropriate.

CSD was established by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in December 1992 to ensure effective follow up of UNCED- the Earth Summit.

CSD is responsible for reviewing progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; as well as providing policy guidance at local, national, regional and international levels to follow up the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) which was the outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September 2002 focusing on the  review of UNCSD specially the implementation of Agenda 21 after 10 years.

The CSD meets annually in New York, in two year cycles, with each cycle focusing on thematic and cross sectoral issues outlined in its multi year programme of work (2003-2017).The CSD has opened its sessions to broad participation from governments and non governmental actors, and it supports a number of innovative activities such as the Partnership Fair, the Learning Centre and a series of panels, roundtables and events. It functions under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Sri Lanka and Rio +20
There were reports in the local press that the Minister of Environment is actively pursuing the preparation of the country report to UNCSD to be held in June 2012. Since the issues to be deliberated and the progress made in implementing Agenda 21 are not in the public domain, I presume that the report has taken into consideration the areas for priority attention described earlier.
However I wish to elaborate on two thematic areas that will be having an overarching effect on the priority areas.

Knowledge Sharing Platform
The submissions to the Rio+ 20 compilation documents were for the elaboration and implementation for country-specific green economy strategies or the integration of the green economy into the existing development strategies. This would provide the member states to elect, design and implement a set of green economy policy measures according to their own needs, priorities development plans and political processes.

Accordingly, a green economy knowledge sharing platform could have a variety of aims and objectives and these would ultimately influence its final components and governance arrangements which would require a strong political commitment with a dedicated support structure such as a secretariat with regular funding. To this end, the World Bank and UN ESCAP, WIPO (Green), UNDP, OECD and EU are involved in coordinating a number of knowledge sharing platforms supporting national green economy pathways and green growth.

Blueprint for Sri Lanka
The progress made over the past 20 years from Rio to Rio via Johannesburg has clearly raveled a lackadaisical approach towards any degree of integration among multilayered governance levels and the challenges to its application. The lack of top down vertical integration specially in implementing Agenda 21 in its local setting to improve people’s livelihood and environmental quality were the main objectives of the Earth Summit. The UNGA report for Rio +20 evaluating the progress of implementation particularly highlights the lack of a framework for vertical integration between local and national processes. In Sri Lanka the Centre administers the country through the 9 Provincial Councils under the 9th. Schedule to the 13th Amendment and the 25 Districts under the Provinces.  .The Local Government consists of Municipal Councils, Urban Councils and Prasdesiya Sabahas spread over the 25 districts.

National Sustainable Development Strategies    
The preparation for Rio+20 had high ambitions for a bottom –up process with stakeholders at all levels of governance providing their inputs. However the final reports have left out much of the inputs from lower levels and final negotiations are dominated by diplomats defending the country’s priorities and sensitivities linked to national sovereignty.

Proposed INSDC
It is proposed that a high level body called INSDC be set up under the Chairmanship of the President and ministers of line ministries with a separate secretariat for coordination of the inputs from the multilayered governance entities. Each district  should prepare its own Integrated Sustainable Development Strategy (ISDS) covering all chapters of Agenda 21 as well as the progress in achieving  Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focusing on poverty alleviation and the others which are inseparable from sustainable development. Further areas such as climate change and long term plans for a green economy should be dealt with under ISDS. The constitution of the ISDS headed by the District Secretary should include all stake holders bottom up.

When such ISDS reports are received from the 25 districts at the INSDC the home grown National Plan can be prepared for presentation to the UN CSD as the country strategy.

If such an approach is followed each district will be covered equitably without any discrimination.
It must be stressed that this approach will also be helpful in initiating a constructive dialogue at the proposed All Party Conference (APC) to achieve a political solution to the ethnic problem as ISDS will cover sustainable development of the entire country on an equitable basis which is of utmost importance leaving aside contentious issues such as land and police powers etc.

It is learnt that His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse will be visiting Brazil shortly presumably to attend the High Level Segment of Heads of State at Rio +20 of the UNCSD or Earth Summit from 20 -22 June 2012 and he will have the opportunity to deliberate the unique concept of INSDC. To this end, it is suggested that the experts in national planning for sustainable development prepare a briefing note for the President to facilitate deliberations.

(The writer is a retired Economic Affairs Officer United Nations ESCAP and can be reached at )
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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.