TWN Update on Sustainable Development Conference 2012 (Aug12/01)
1 August 2012
Third World Network

General Assembly endorses Rio+20 outcome document
Published in SUNS #7423 dated 2 August 2012

Geneva, 31 Jul (Meena Raman) - The United Nations General Assembly, at its 66th session in New York, adopted on Friday, 27 July a draft resolution by the President of the General Assembly endorsing the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference entitled "The future we want".

The resolution comprised of only two main paragraphs. The first paragraph expressed "profound gratitude to the government and people of Brazil for hosting the Conference from 20-22nd June in Rio de Janeiro and for providing necessary support" and the second paragraph endorses the outcome document which was annexed to the resolution.

Following the adoption of the General Assembly resolution, Venezuela, Canada, Bolivia and the United States reiterated their reservations which they had expressed in Rio de Janeiro after the outcome document was adopted at the Summit on 22 June. Several other countries also expressed their views on the outcome document.

In presenting the draft resolution for adoption, the President of the General Assembly (PGA), Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, said that Member States had their work cut out for them and that by adopting the resolution, a new chapter was opened.

He said that the outcome of Rio+20 was not an end but presented a new beginning and had defined a new vision of development for the future, which would be equitable and inclusive and take into account the limits of the planet. He said further that what was important now was implementation (of the commitments made at the June Summit).

The PGA said that a number of processes had been launched in Rio and that the General Assembly (GA) will continue to play a central role in sustainable development.

Referring to the decision in the outcome document to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals (SDGs) to be agreed to by the GA and for an open working group to be constituted no later than at the opening of the 67th session of the GA, the PGA said that the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN in New York (Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro) will lead this process.

(According to the outcome document, the working group will comprise 30 representatives nominated by Member States from the five UN regional groups and will submit a report to the 68th session of the GA containing a proposal for SDGs for consideration and appropriate action.)

Apart from the SDGs, the PGA also outlined other important outcomes from the Rio+20 Conference including decisions to establish a universal intergovernmental high-level political forum to follow up on the implementation of sustainable development; to establish an intergovernmental process under the GA for an effective sustainable development financing strategy; for a facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies; and the adoption of modalities at the 67th GA for the convening in 2014 of a third international conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Mr. Ion Botnaru, Director of General Assembly Affairs, told Member States before the adoption of the resolution, that the Rio+20 Conference outcome could give rise to additional resource requirements. He said that consultations would begin with all stakeholders to determine how the decisions would be implemented, following which the Secretary-General would submit a detailed report on programme budget implications to the GA at its upcoming session.

Following the adoption of the resolution, several countries took the floor to make explanatory statements, express their reservations or make general statements.

Nauru, representing the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), welcomed efforts to assist the SIDS and said that the next SIDS conference would provide an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved and what more needs to be done. It also suggested that SIDS be adequately represented in the working group to develop the SDGs.

Papua New Guinea, speaking for the Pacific Small Island States, said that the outcome document was comprehensive and welcomed the recognition of oceans as an important ecosystem and for its conservation and sustainable use.

Venezuela said that there were still a lot of issues missing from the outcome document. It said that the speculative economy signifies predatory capitalism which preys on nature. Efforts must be made to prevent nature from being seen as a commodity to benefit a few. In adopting the document, it expressed reservations in relation to the following paragraphs of the outcome document viz. paragraphs 125, 126, 127, 129, 162 and 225.

(Paragraphs 125,126,127 and 129 relate to matters under the section on "energy"; paragraph 162 to the issue of conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas in national jurisdiction; and paragraph 225 to fossil fuel subsidies).

Venezuela also expressed concern that some UN bodies wanted to implement the Rio+20 outcomes in a fragmented way and referred to the issue of the "green economy". It said that it had been agreed in Rio that each country could have different approaches, visions and models to achieve sustainable development and that the "green economy" was not the only model available. The policies must be guided by all the Rio principles, Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

New Zealand welcomed the Rio+20 Conference and stressed that it was a success which demonstrated that the multilateral process can and does work. It welcomed the decision on oceans and fisheries and wanted to see an SDG on oceans. It was also pleased with the outcome on fossil fuel subsidy reform but was "less happy" with a lack of reference on agriculture subsidy reform and reproductive rights. It said that the road from Rio was going to be as challenging as the road to Rio.

Canada said that it had submitted an explanatory note to the secretariat where it had specified its position regarding the right to drinking water and basic sanitation.

Switzerland said that the success of Rio+20 would be measured not only by the outcome document but by actions which would be taken. It welcomed the SDGs and said that it was important to also take into account the work under the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) in the post-2015 development agenda.

Australia welcomed the SDGs and wanted the process forward to ensure the integration of the post-2015 development agenda, stressing the importance of the MDGs. It also welcomed the decision on oceans and seas and for enhancing marine biodiversity protection beyond national jurisdiction.

Bolivia reiterated its reservations. On the "green economy", it rejected it as a new model and tool for the privatisation of nature and society pretending to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication. It said that countries have the sovereign right to choose their own approaches, visions, models and tools for sustainable development.

On energy subsidies in paragraph 225 of the document, Bolivia reserved its position on the rationalisation of inefficient subsidies of fossil sources of energy, as this implied a restructuring of its tax system and royalties, and is contrary to its constitution. It could not accept any kind of assessment, monitoring, reporting and reviewing of its national energy policies and measures that affected its sovereignty.

On "innovative financing mechanisms", Bolivia had reservations that they could imply or be interpreted as sources from carbon markets, water markets and rights, payment for environmental services, and schemes for the commodification of the functions and cycles of nature. On the issue of "food security", it preferred the notion of "food sovereignty".

Morocco stressed the importance of the SDGs and the strategy for financing sustainable development.

South Korea, represented by Ambassador Kim Sook, who was one of the co-chairs of the Conference preparatory process, said that Rio was a success and reaffirmed the strong commitment to sustainable development and laid a firm foundation for a sustainable future for all.

He said that success will not be complete until all the follow-up actions are undertaken successfully and stressed the importance of the GA in relation to the development of the SDGs and in the strengthening of the institutional framework for sustainable development.

Brazil, represented by its Ambassador Ribeiro, recalled the many important outcomes of the Conference.

She referred to the launch of the SDGs; the high-level political forum that will coordinate the follow-up process; the strengthening of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the adoption of the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns; the decision to launch broader measures of progress to complement the GDP; and further steps on sustainable use and conservation of marine biodiversity areas beyond national jurisdiction.

She also referred to the mandates for various processes including the open working group on the SDGs, effective financing strategy and recommendations from the Secretary-General for a facilitation mechanism on technology development and transfer.

The European Union welcomed the creation of the high-level political forum in relation to the institutional framework for sustainable development, the upgrading of UNEP and the recognition that the "green economy" is a useful tool and promising pathway. It also stressed importance on the implementation and operationalisation of the decisions.

Japan also stressed the need to ensure coherence and integration between the SDG and the MDG processes.

The United States said that the outcome of Rio made real advances in sustainable development and reiterated that it had additional observations and clarification regarding the outcome document which it had submitted for the official records of the Conference. It did not elaborate further on its observations and clarification.