Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, is a landmark for the future. As more than 190 countries gathered in Rio, we witnessed a historic moment. The recent global crisis has shown that old-fashioned views about development are misleading. It is now time to rethink the very foundations of how we consider development, well-being and wealth.
Over the past four decades, the world has increasingly realised that our natural resources are under serious pressure. A growing awareness of the need to ensure sustainability has led a whole new generation to consider the requirements of sustainable development in its decisions to produce or consume. This is no small achievement. Rio 92 was a major step forward in this regard as important legal texts on key issues were adopted at this summit. These conventions ensured important progress that we must maintain and build upon.
We now face a complex challenge. Protecting the environment is not enough. We need to encourage public and private decision-makers to incorporate environmental and social concerns into economic planning and growth strategies. This will require a new thinking from policymakers, experts, business people, project managers and many other public and private actors, in order to plan and implement sustainable development initiatives.
From now on, a three-dimensional approach to development is crucial, one that combines social, economic and environmental concerns. Rio+20 endeavoured to become the launch pad for this new development model. This is why one of the main topics discussed at the conference was building consensus around the need for ‘sustainable development goals’. These will offer a blueprint for international cooperation on sustainable development for years to come. Future strategies, be it for governments, entrepreneurs or civil society, must offer a balanced and integrated approach encompassing the three pillars of sustainable development.
In order to achieve this result, Brazil decided to adopt new methods. Innovative tools for multilateral meetings were introduced, bringing national governments and global civil society together. The Dialogues for Sustainable Development, a Brazilian initiative enthusiastically embraced by the UN, opened straightforward means of communication between interested groups and civil society on key aspects of decision-making. Through an online platform, more than one million votes were cast, expressing views on 10 issues related to the conference. Topics ranged from energy and water to sustainable cities and food security. During the four days in Rio, experts, businessmen, activists and journalists engaged in live debates and streamlined the proposals that will be handed to the heads of state and government. The ‘Rio dialogues’ were so successful that the UN is now considering turning this initiative into a standard practice for future summits.
Another key objective of Rio+20 is the strengthening of the UN framework for sustainable development, with a view to bringing greater efficiency and consistency across issues.
Rio+20 has launched an important debate on green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, based on the understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A green economy only makes sense for developing countries if it is accompanied by a significant improvement in the living standards of the population, with special attention to the most vulnerable segments.
Rio+20 involved an assessment of the past 20 years and looked into the next few decades. We are confident that this message will echo through the years, fostering new initiatives which can lead to a more sustainable future for all.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2012.
More in OpinionThe PPP, the military or Imran Khan?