Rio+ 20 summit requires bold leadership and commitment

“We are in a race against time. Persistent poverty, inequality, hunger, unemployment, ever-shrinking natural resources, increasing stress on our ecosystems and climate change are among the most urgent issues being addressed at Rio+20. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform ideas and aspirations into bold action,” stated Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) at the Rio+20 high-level meeting that opened today.

“Bold leadership and commitment are needed - the cost of inaction is unacceptably high, and will be borne by the most vulnerable states and people.”

The member States agreed outcome document for the summit identifies what has to be done to advance sustainable development - the means of implementation - and spells out action points, such as the need to establish sustainable development goals (SDGs) and mobilize financing for sustainable development, as well as the need to launch the process for the sustainable development and management of the oceans, among others.

It points to a number of very specific roles for the regional commissions and their sub-regional offices, including the initiation of an inclusive, transparent and open intergovernmental process to develop SDGs and promoting a balanced integration of the three pillars of sustainable development in the their regions.

Welcoming the progress made in the outcome document of Rio+20, Dr. Heyzer said: “We are pleased that green economy policies have been recognized as an important tool for sustainable development and poverty eradication. Our Asia-Pacific Member States have already moved to generate concrete policies and strategies supporting the sustainable development agenda.” A number of these specific examples were highlighted yesterday at a high level policy forum hosted jointly at Rio+20 by ESCAP and the Government of the Republic of Korea, with the participation of the Environment Ministers of Korea, Kazakhstan and Nepal.

The Asia-Pacific region has experienced rapid economic growth and made dramatic progress on poverty reduction - but recent multiple crises and an emerging “new normal” of high and volatile food and commodity prices, as well as growing inequality threaten these development gains. Additionally, Least Developed Countries and Pacific Island Developing States are most at risk.

In order to support member States in their efforts to advance sustainable development, ESCAP recently released its Low Carbon Green Growth Roadmap for Asia and the Pacific.

The Roadmap shows the road that has already been travelled and explores the opportunities that a greener growth path can offer. It includes a comprehensive list of policy options, practical implementation strategies, and examples of successful practices woven through more than 100 fact sheets and case studies. These case studies are concrete examples undertaken by various national governments using the concept of low carbon green growth as a tool.

“As the regional arm of the United Nations in Asia and the Pacific,” Dr. Heyzer said in closing, “ESCAP stands ready to assist countries of the region, but also to help build bridges between regions, with the goal of achieving more inclusive and sustainable shared prosperity.”

The Rio+20 conference runs from 20-22 June, and is expected to bring together over 100 heads of state and government (with more than 20 from Asia and the Pacific), along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders to shape new policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.