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World > International Organizations > Wen attends Rio 20 summit and tours Latin America

Rio+20, new beginning of global sustainable development

2012-06-23 03:38:42 GMT2012-06-23 11:38:42(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Niu Hairong, Ye Shuhong

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 22 (Xinhua) -- After three-day heated discussion, the highly-anticipated United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) ended Friday with a final document entitled "The Future We Want," laying out a roadmap for global sustainable development.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he was "happy and satisfied" with what has been achieved during the meeting, and called the summit "a great success."

RIO PRINCIPLES REAFFIRMED

At the very beginning of the document, agreed by leaders and high-level representatives from over 190 countries, the Rio Principles were reaffirmed, renewing the world's commitment to sustainable development.

The Rio Principles served a historic agreement that was reached in 1992, when world leaders met in the exactly same city of Rio de Janeiro, at the first Earth Summit. The Principles, along with another document called Agenda 21, were regarded as a milestone in history for their ambitions to build a sustainable world and as a good example for successful international partnership and cooperation.

However, after 20 years, the concept of sustainable development was familiar around the world, while actions to implement those commitments were far from satisfying.

On one hand, the sustainability of developing countries was weakened due to the global economic crisis, climate change, and lack of fund and technology.

On the other hand, some developed countries were not willing to shoulder their responsibilities to provide essential assistance to the developing world.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), total net official development assistance (ODA) from the 23 OECD's Development Assistance Committees (DAC) amounted to 133.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, accounting for 0.31 percent of the countries' combined gross national income, which is far lower than the goal of 0.7 percent set by the UN in the 1970s.

Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, told Xinhua that the current economic crisis was testing each country's political will to stick to their commitment and the reaffirmation of the Rio Principles is even more meaningful at the moment.

"The outcome document has comprehensive content with positive, balanced tone, basically reflecting of major concerns of participating countries, and is of great significance for promoting international cooperation for sustainable development," said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu.

The document reaffirmed the Rio principles, especially the "common but differentiated responsibilities" principle, which is the guiding principle to maintain the basis for international development cooperation, he said.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said in her speech that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities must be respected in order to reach any consensus down the road of sustainable development.

GREEN ECONOMY DISCUSSED

In the past three days, "green economy," a new concept officially ushered into a UN podium at the Rio+20 summit, became one of the hot topics among participants, showing the world's eagerness to have a more ambitious future for sustainable development.

Most of the world leaders were quite open to the new concept, considering green economy as a positive option to achieve sustainable development.

However, facing such a brand new concept and a potential industry behind it, people from both developed and developing countries have doubts in their minds.

French President Francois Hollande said green economy is only "a concept" that needs to be better defined and can not be placed as a solution for everything, while Bolivian President Evo Morales even called green economy as "new colonialism."

Without a clear explanation of the new concept, it seems no one would like to risk all the uncertainties.

Speaking at Friday's general debate, Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol of Thailand pointed out that the development of a green economy should "reflect differences between developed and developing countries with enough flexibility for countries to develop their own policies."

Joseph Sam Sesay, minister of agriculture, forestry and food security of Sierra Leone, said green economy presents new development opportunities which should not become a burden on development or conditionality for investments.

Reflecting these concerns, the final document encouraged each country to consider the implementation of green economy policies, but also asked member states to take into account the needs of developing countries, particularly those in special situations, with particular emphasis on the importance of technical and technological assistance to developing countries.

Moreover, the final document stressed that green economy should not be a rigid set of rules nor a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade.

In order to prevent the abuse of the concept and avoid unexpected risks, the document also added a series of preconditions to the term, emphasizing that it should contribute to eradicating poverty as well as sustained economic growth, enhancing social inclusion, improving human welfare and creating opportunities for employment and decent work for all, while maintaining the healthy functioning of the earth's ecosystems.

INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK STRENGTHENED

Apart from focusing on how to build a green economy in the context of sustainable development and overcoming poverty, the final document also strengthened the institutional framework for sustainable development, reflecting the two themes of the Rio+20 summit.

According to the final document, member states decided to establish a universal intergovernmental high-level political forum, building on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and subsequently replacing the Commission.

The high-level political forum, regarded as a concrete move to ensure sustainable development, will follow up on the implementation of sustainable development and thus avoid overlapping with existing structures, bodies and entities in a cost-effective manner.

The high-level political forum will be gradually taking the leading role in the process of global sustainable development, said Du Ying, chairman of the Chinese preparatory committee for the Rio+20 summit.

"The forum will not only help promoting the importance of sustainable development mechanism but also help strengthening the leadership of the United Nations in the affairs of global sustainable development," Du told Xinhua.

As a key step to push forward the Sustainable Development Blueprint, member states also agreed to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals, that is open to all stakeholders.

During the process, an open working group will be constituted no later than the opening of the 67th session of the Assembly, and will submit a report to the 68th session, containing a proposal for sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action, which will provide important guidance for the establishment of the post-2015 international development agenda, said Du.

"I firmly believe as the secretary-general of the United Nations, this is a great success and a good document which can put us all toward greater sustainability," said Ban Ki-Moon. "This outcome document contains many recommendations, good recommendations. What is important at this time is to implement them."

"The speeches are over, now, the work begins," said Ban at the closing ceremony of the Rio+20 summit.

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