Officials from nearly 200 countries renewed their commitments to sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 22 June 2012, resolving to promote economic growth, social development and environmental protection. Heads of state and government called for ‘holistic and integrated approaches to sustainable development that will guide humanity to live in harmony with nature’.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as Rio+20, recognized the importance of the Conventions on Biological Diversity, Climate Change and Desertification that resulted from the renowned ‘Earth Summit’ held in the Brazilian city 20 years ago. This year’s conference, attended by more than 45,000 in person while 50 million people took part through social media, agreed on a process to establish sustainable development goals and underscored the importance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
At the close of the three-day meeting, country representatives approved a 49-page outcome document called ‘The Future We Want,’ resolving to increase sustainable agricultural productivity globally. A green economy, the text says, should contribute to eradicating poverty while ‘maintaining the healthy functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems’. The summit also called for ‘urgent action on unsustainable patterns of production and consumption’.
Rio+20, seeing the need for ‘urgent action’ on land degradation and climate change, resolved to support and strengthen the implementation work of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), of which the Global Mechanism is a subsidiary body. The body of nations ‘will strive to achieve a land degradation neutral world,’ having ‘recognized the economic and social significance of good land management’.
“We were pleased to see the general support for mainstreaming the consideration of the socio-economic impacts and benefits of sustainable management and use of natural resources and ecosystems that provide essential services as it ties to our work on the economic valuation of land,” noted Elisabeth Barsk-Rundquist, GM Director of Programmes. Also pertinent to the GM’s work, countries were asked to give priority to sustainable development in their budgets while financial resources and mechanisms from a variety of sources were invited and further exploration of innovative sources of finance was encouraged.
Along the sidelines of the plenary sessions, civil society groups, businesses, governments and universities made about 500 voluntary commitments on sustainable development activities. Further, the private sector submitted more than 200 commitments addressing topics such as carbon footprints, reforestation and water at the close of the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum. Fifty-seven countries and 86 private companies have signed a communiqué on Natural Capital Accounting, urging the value of natural assets be factored into business decision-making and national accounting systems.
Acknowledging its deep concern that more than one billion people still live in extreme poverty and that other significant challenges remain, the world summit returned the spotlight to development that benefits both people and the planet.