The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, popularly known as “Rio+20,” concluded here on Friday almost 20 years to the day when the first such conference was held at this very same venue. More than 100 Heads of State and government, including Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. W. Baldwin Spencer, participated in Rio+20, which sought to shape new policies to promote global prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.
The conference was a culmination of over two-years of intensive and protracted informal negotiations on how to accelerate the implementation of sustainable development, which were conducted in a Preparatory Committee co-chaired by Antigua and Barbuda’s UN Ambassador Dr. John W. Ashe. With two-days before the start of the conference, 191 countries reached agreement on the Conference’s outcome document, the text of which will now be put forward for adoption by Heads of State at the conclusion of Rio+20 on Friday.
“I am pleased that my country was able to make a positive contribution to the successful outcome of the negotiations,” said Prime Minister Spencer, who himself chaired one of the conferences Round Tables for heads of State and governments.
“At the end of the day, Rio+20 is a stark recognition by all concerned that the old model for economic development and social advancement needs to be made right and, working together, we must develop a new model that truly balances the imperatives of robust growth and economic development with the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable prosperity and human well-being,” he said.
More than 40,000 people – including parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders – attended Rio+20, which ran from 20-22 June. The event followed on from the Earth Summit in 1992, also held in Rio de Janeiro, during which countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.
“Rio+20 provided us with an opportunity to assess the changes, including the gaps in the implementation of outcome from the Earth Summit of twenty years and devise ways and means to address the challenges and opportunities within the two themes of the conference, namely, (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development , said Ambassador Ashe, who served as Chairman of the Main Committee.
At the conclusion of the conference on Friday, participants adopted an outcome document, entitled “The Future We Want,” which calls for a wide range of actions, including: beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals; detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development; strengthening the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures; taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country; developing a strategy for sustainable development financing; and, adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production.
It also focuses on improving gender equity; recognizing the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development; and stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy; among other points.
In addition to the outcome document, there have been nearly 500 voluntary commitments on sustainable development activities by civil society groups, businesses, governments and universities. The UN’s Global Compact initiative, which concluded its Corporate Sustainability Forum yesterday, announced more than 200 commitments to sustainable development by businesses.
The Honourable Hilson Baptiste, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing, Physical Planning and the Environment, who is also a part of the Antigua and Barbuda’s delegation, noted that the international community needs to keep its eyes on the prize and act with vision and commitment, given that the scarcest resource of all, time, is running out.
Also included in Antigua and Barbuda’s delegation are Ambassador Anthony Liverpool, Director-General of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Diann Black-Layne, Chief Environment Officer, Mr. Tumasie Blair, Third Secretary, Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and Ms. Nadia Spencer-Henry, Debt Manager, Ministry of Finance.
While at the conference, Prime Minister Spencer undertook a number of bilaterals and meetings on debt swaps, GEF project development and implementations, renewable energy development and deployment and sustainable housing, concluding arrangements for two projects with UNDP, valued over US $3 million USD over the next 4 years, and advancing discussions on debt for nature swap with the Government of Brazil and the The Nature Conservancy (TNC).