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It takes the whole UN family - 12 Nov 2010
The dedicated secretariat for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is located in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Collectively, DESA possesses perhaps the best reservoir of knowledge and experience in coordinating support for UN conferences and summits on development issues.
After all, DESA served as the secretariat for UN conference and summits on aging, finance for development, population, women, sustainable development and small island developing States, as well as several Special Sessions of the General Assembly.
This pool of knowledge and expertise notwithstanding, DESA needs the broad engagement from other secretariat Departments, Regional Commissions, Funds and Programmes and specialized agencies ? in other words, the entire UN family organizations - in order to provide effective, efficient and coordinated support for the preparation and organization of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
There are a number of reasons for this imperative. As those who have worked on sustainable development know well, the range of issues covered within the framework of sustainable development is so broad that it goes beyond the expertise and competence of any single entity. Further, the three pillars of sustainable development and its inherent emphasis on integrated and balanced approach underscore the need for broad-based, inter-disciplinary and coordinated perspectives and solutions.
Sustainable development also requires multi-stakeholder participation at all levels ? local, national, regional and global. Governments alone cannot meet the multiple challenges they face. They need ownership and support from businesses, NGOs, scientific and technological communities and academia, among others.
Indeed, Member States are fully cognizant of the importance of this participatory approach. In resolution 64/236, the General Assembly invites relevant stakeholders, including organizations and bodies of the United Nations, international financial institutions and major groups involved in the area of sustainable development, to provide ideas and proposals reflecting their experiences and lessons learned as a contribution to the preparatory process for Rio+20.
We take this participation seriously. In my capacity as the Convener of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs, I have put preparations for Rio+20 as a standing item on the EC-ESA Principals? and Deputies? meetings. After consultations with members of EC-ESA, we have also invited Rio Conventions, Funds and Programmes and specialized agencies to join us in EC-ESA meetings (known as EC-ESA Plus).
In addition, we have been working, through UNEP, with the members of the Environment Management Group (EMG) on a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. We are also seeking to get the active engagement of the member entities of the United Nations Development Group in support of the preparatory process, in particular at the country level, through UN Country Team (UNCT).
This collaboration had already led to specific initiatives. DESA, UNEP and UNCTAD have organized expert meetings on green economy, with inputs from other organizations, including ILO, IADB, and civil society and business stakeholders. More expert meetings and workshops to be jointly organized by UN family organizations are under preparation. I have also had discussions with the executive heads of a number of specialized agencies, including ILO, UNIDO, WIPO and WTO. All expressed interest in supporting the preparatory processes.
In addition, UN entities are considering my request for seconding staff to the dedicated secretariat. ECLAC has already responded by seconding a senior staff member to work with the dedicated secretariat on green economy issues. UNEP also is in the course of making arrangements for seconding a senior staff member.
At Headquarters, we are working with the Department of Public Information (DPI) on outreach campaigns for Rio+20. An inter-departmental taskforce has been set up to review the logistic preparations for the Conference.
On 4 November EC-ESA Plus Principals met in New York to brainstorm on the strategic vision for supporting the preparations for Rio+20. A total of 37 entities, including agencies, Funds, Programmes and Regional Commissions participated.
The Principals engaged in an active discussion of the two thematic focuses: ?a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication? and ?the institutional framework for sustainable development? (IFSD), and shared their views on the expected results of the Conference, ideas on concrete initiatives that could be launched there, and on how best to support national and regional preparations, which are an integral part of the overall preparatory process.
Five major messages emerged from these discussions. First, there was a consensus among Principals that the Conference should refrain from re-opening Agenda 21 or the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI); rather, it should aim to uphold the principles of Rio and the JPOI framework, which remain relevant to sustainable development, and address the gaps and the reasons behind the lack of progress on relevant issues, i.e., the implementation deficit.
Second, there was a consensus that the concept of a ?green economy? should be interpreted in such a way as to enhance national strategies, especially of developing countries. In this regard, it should take into consideration national systems and policies that have proved successful in supporting sustainable development, and examine national experiences based on in-depth analysis from the ground up in developing countries. ?Green economy? should not be translated to ?green protectionism? or aid conditionality.
Third, several key sectors were identified as critical towards progress. These include access to energy services, sustainable management of water resources, agriculture and food security, sustainable urbanization, and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Similarly, the cross-cutting themes of gender equality and empowerment of women, employment, population dynamics, technology and financing were highlighted. It was hoped that the Conference would help in shaping a shared global vision for addressing these challenges.
Fourth, Principals called for further reflection on the issue of institutional arrangements for sustainable development; they emphasized that the better coordination among the existing arrangements should be promoted. There should be system wide effort to build synergies.
Finally, they identified a number of initiatives and concrete actions that each agency/entity would launch for this Conference. These range from analytical papers, studies to joint projects and programmes.
Overall, they agreed that the UN system should develop an integrated response to the challenges of sustainable development, which would be crucial for the success of the Conference. The participants agreed to continue this intensive engagement on substantive issues.
We had gotten off to a good start and we will continue along the path of collaboration. It is no exaggeration to say that it takes the whole UN family to support a successful UN Conference on Sustainable Development.