Rio+20 prevented reversal, salvaged key multilateral principles, concludes UNCTAD workshop

29 June 2012

At a lunchtime workshop discussion on the topic "Missed Opportunity or New Beginning? Sustainable Development after Rio", held 28 June at UNCTAD headquarters in Geneva, speakers concluded that while there were some disappointments in many quarters with the final outcome document, the Rio+20 Summit had prevented a damaging reversal in some areas and established a follow-up process that could provide the basis for real progress.

2012-06-28_discussion_250x121.gifThe workshop discussion was moderated by Her Excellency Angelica Navarro, the Ambassador of Bolivia in Geneva. Mr. Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Centre, identified four main areas arising from the outcome document that could be pursued over the coming years:

  • A high level political forum on sustainable development;
  • An intergovernmental process to examine a financing strategy in the framework of the UN General Assembly;
  • UN agencies to study options for related technology issues in climate change; and
  • Establishment of a 30-member committee to advance the agenda on sustainable development goals.

Presenting his recently edited book on Climate Protection and Development, Mr. Richard Kozul-Wright from UNCTAD argued that tackling the climate-development nexus required an integrated vision built around a structural transformation towards a low carbon future that would not sacrifice longstanding growth and development goals.

Doing so would require a green new deal that could tackle the interrelated crises in climate, development and finance.

The key to such a strategy, he argued, lay with a big investment push in to cleaner energy sources. He acknowledged that this would require significant efforts at domestic resource mobilization as well as major resource transfers from North to South but that there were lessons from history that could help in thinking through how to mobilize these resources.

Mr. Guillermo Valles, Director of UNCTAD`s Trade Division, argued that those attending Rio+20 with an ambitious agenda wanting to see a transitional roadmap with goals, target and deadlines may not have been realistic, given that the vision and leadership on the issues are still missing.

However, Mr. Valles believed the conference had been able to salvage some key multilateral principles and the outcome document clearly reaffirmed the continued role of the United Nations as the forum to formulate the required action programme.

He specifically identified areas in UNCTAD's work on trade and development that could contribute to fashioning that programme.