By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Twenty years after the inaugural 1992 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – the Earth Summit – was held in Rio, the city will once again play host to the event. Now Rio is gearing up for the “Rio+20” (June 20th to 22nd), and on March 9th Conference Secretary-General, Sha Zukang was in Brazil to discuss the logistics with Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira.
The organizers are expecting representatives from 193 member states to attend, from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders.
The Brazilian Rio+20 Commission, which was set up in 2011, is responsible for coordinating the hosting of the event. The conference itself is an intergovernmental process, directed by United Nations Member States and overseen by the UN.
The debates will focus on two principle themes: the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development, which will look at ways to strengthen the effectiveness of global sustainability resolutions.
According to the organizers, its objective is to renew political commitment to sustainable development, by assessing the progress made on the goals set at previous major summits – including the 1992 Earth Summit and the 2002 Johannesburg Summit – and identifying gaps in implementation.
On March 9th, Teixeira said the elections in other countries should not hinder the presence of heads of state at Rio+20, stating that 79 delegations have confirmed their presence so far. She also reinforced that the goal of the conference is to come up with concrete decisions, and not just to debate. “[Rio+20] is a conference for stamping documents and saying that we approve.”
The organizers say, “[It] should help define the sustainable development agenda for the coming decades.”
The event will be built up in three stages, the first of which runs from June 13th to 15th,in advance of the official conference dates. This will be a Meeting of the Preparatory Committee to unite government representatives from around the world and negotiate the documents to be adopted at the Conference.
During the second stage, from June 16th to 19th, a series of events has been scheduled for the participation of civil society. So called “major groups” who are registered with the UN, are invited to take part, including: non-governmental organizations, business groups, indigenous communities, local authorities, community groups, and the scientific and technological community, as well as individuals.
The third and final stage is the High Level Segment of the Conference, scheduled for June 20th to 22nd, in which Heads of State and Government of various United Nations member countries will meet to agree on the conference outcomes.
Riocentro conference center, in Barra da Tijuca, will host the intergovernmental agenda and other event locations have yet to be decided. The Sub-Secretary General for Energy and Technology at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, said at a public hearing at the beginning of the month that, “The conference itself is extraordinarily complex [to coordinate].”
However, he considers the event an important demonstration of Brazil’s commitment to being a key player in solving world issues, saying – “It is a renewal of our commitment to multilateralism as a legitimate way of solving global problems.”