Progress at the Rio+20 negotiations halting

Bern (Federal Office for the Environement), 27.03.2012 – From the perspective of Switzerland a satisfactory outcome of the United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainability remains out of reach. The countries participating in the first round of negotiations, held between 19 and 27 March 2012 in New York, were very far apart in their positions. The actual conference will take place from 13 to 22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.

The first round of negotiations on the outcome of the UN sustainability conference ended on 27 March 2012 in New York. The negotiating delegations discussed the zero draft of the outcome document compiled by the UN and introduced their own ideas and proposals for the resolution to be passed on 22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro. The countries remain very divided in their views. The volume of the suggested changes and additions resulted in an increase in the size of the draft declaration from around 20 pages to 200.

The topics for debate included the green economy and poverty eradication, the reform of the UN institutions responsible for the environment and sustainability, the definition of global sustainability objectives, and the adoption of a package of actions for the promotion of sustainable development. Switzerland is playing an active and ambitious role in the negotiations and pressing hard for solutions.

International roadmap for a green economy

The Swiss proposal for a comprehensive international roadmap for a green economy (Green Economy Roadmap) is supported by the EU in particular. In contrast, several developing countries are sceptical about the idea of the green economy and are not yet ready to work on concrete, focused draft proposals for the outcome of the Rio summit.

Consensus exists as to the fact that efficient institutions are needed to support and steer the implementation and further development of the sustainability agenda within the UN. However, agreement has not been reached on whether this should be attained through the establishment of a global sustainability council, as proposed by Switzerland, or through other measures, such as boosting the UN’s Economic and Social Council. There was support for the concrete measures for strengthening the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) proposed by Switzerland. The question as to whether a separate UN environmental organisation should be established remains open, however.

Global sustainable development goals

Switzerland supports the definition of global sustainable development goals that would replace the millennium development goals. Global sustainability goals would reinforce the commitment in the area of sustainable development, support its implementation and enable the monitoring of the progress attained. This idea enjoys significant support in principle, and a basic decision in favour of the adoption of global sustainable development goals could become one of the most important results of the Rio conference. Nonetheless, the negotiations on this point have proven complex and have been slow to progress as a result.

According to the leader of the Swiss negotiating delegation, Ambassador Franz Perrez, Head of the International Affairs Division of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), progress at the negotiations is halting: the conference leadership and Brazil, which will host the summit in Rio, have failed to provide ambitious guidance and direction. Most of the Member States also displayed little ambition and vision for the negotiations.

However, success could still be attained. Although it is becoming increasingly clear that the differences in some areas are intractable, common causes are emerging in many areas. «For the Rio conference to be successful we need more countries like Switzerland which is highly motivated in seeking long-term solutions,» says Franz Perrez.

Switzerland will participate in an informal meeting of a small group of countries to be held in Rio de Janeiro in mid-April. Together with Brazil, the group will continue the quest for a solution for the negotiations. The next informal round of negotiations will begin at the end of April. The final round of negotiations will take place from 13 to 15 June in advance of the actual summit.


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