South Africa participates in Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

Event date: 
2012-06-20 (All day) to 2012-06-24 (All day)

Introduction

South Africa will take part in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) referred to as Rio +20 in Brazil, from 22 to 24 June 2012, which will mark the 20 year follow-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, under the theme “Green Economy for Sustainable Development - The Future We want”.

South Africa’s stance on Rio+20

The Government of South Africa considers the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be a critical meeting that should agree on how to facilitate expeditious implementation of sustainable development agenda.

Therefore, the conference should build on the concrete and practical experience of approximately 20 years in the implementation of sustainable development agenda as outlined in Agenda 21 and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).

Rio+20 should reaffirm the Rio principles and establish focus principles for operating the green economy concept. Principle seven of common but differentiated responsibility should form the cornerstone of the implementation of the green economy concept.

This will ensure that countries will design their transition within their policy spaces and take into account their developmental imperatives.

The following principles are proposed for consideration:

  • All States should be allowed a policy space to define their own strategies towards a transition to a green economy as per their national priorities and respective stages of development
  • In order to maintain the balance of addressing poverty while securing natural resource base, green economy should be people-centred and inclusive, taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable (women, disabled and youth)
  • Recognising, the special capacity needs of developing countries for transition to a green economy, promotion of finance, research, development and innovation, science and technology, and capacity building measure to developing countries should be up scaled
  • Promote access to green technologies at affordable cost and work ensures that green economy creates new market opportunities, notably for developing countries
  • All States should build on existing programmes, indigenous knowledge, initiatives in key sectors and promote information sharing of best practices on policies and programmes that contribute towards the attainment of inclusive green economy
  • All States should recognise green economy as a means to achieve sustainable development agenda and integrate its dimensions.

Therefore, the conference should build on the concrete and practical experience of approximately 20 years in the implementation of the sustainable development agenda as outlined in Agenda 21 and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).

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Critical issues to be discussed at Rio

The United Nations has identified 7 key issues that will need critical attention at Rio, these are:

Jobs

The economic recession around the world has meant more people are jobless. It's estimated that there are 190 million unemployed people and over 500-million job seekers will flood the job market in the next 10 years. It means that there needs to be a strategy to produce and generate wealth.

The UN says: "Economic action and social policies to create gainful employment are critical for social cohesion and stability. It's also crucial that work is geared to the needs of the natural environment." The creation of green jobs will be key. The UN calls green jobs those positions in agriculture, industry, services and administration that contribute to preserving or restoring the quality of the environment

Energy

Energy is central to how the world functions from job security, climate change and food production. Sustainable energy is the central focus to strengthen economies, protect ecosystems and achieve equity among the planet's people. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is leading a sustainable Energy for All initiative to ensure universal access to modern energy services, improve efficiency and increase use of renewable sources.

CITIES

Migration to city centres and how these cities are managed are also a key priority. While cities are seen as hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, social development, there are challenges to ensure that there is a balance to accessing resources and infrastructure. Neglecting to do so will further divide people along socio-economic lines.

Modern cities have to tackle pollution, congestion, a lack of funds to provide basic services, a shortage of adequate housing and declining infrastructure.

Food

New thinking is needed in examining how 21st century people grow, share and consume food. While existing agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and also be a source to generate decent incomes, our resources have not been used wisely or managed properly. Soil quality has dropped, freshwater is scarce, oceans are polluted, forests are being destroyed and the loss of biodiversity is a bleak reality. This has all worsened because we operate in an era of climate change that puts further pressure on available resources.

Disasters

Natural disasters caused by earthquakes, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis and more can have devastating impacts on people, environments and economies. Preparedness can be the difference between survival or death and is also instrumental in ensuring that communities and countries recover quickly after disasters strike.

It means that governments need to have comprehensive disaster management plans in place and need to make smart choices quickly to minimise loss and damage, and speed up the recovery and rebuilding phase. It will come down to better technologies for early warning systems, better urban planning for human settlements and better co-operative strategies to rebuild and recover

Oceans

The world's oceans, with their complex temperature, chemistry, currents and life are at the heart of what makes the earth a planet suitable for humankind. We are dependent on healthy oceans for our drinking water, weather, climate, food and even the air we breathe. Oceans remain vital trade routes and channels for transportation, yet these watery realms have been dumping grounds, overfished and neglected in our plans to map out our future.

Water

Clean accessible water for all is an achievable target. But poor economic planning, badly managed infrastructure and wasteful practices has meant that ever year millions of people, most of them children, die from water-borne diseases. There is still inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene to millions of the world's people.

The UN says of water as a priority: "Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world." Drought continues to affect the world's poorest countries and leads to a cycle of hunger, malnutrition, disease and death. The UN estimates that by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.

 

Related media products

  • Media release:
21 June 2012 - Accolades for South Africa as Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and Water bows for Sustainability Leadership Awards
   

 

 
  • Speeches:
20 June 2012 - Deputy Minister of Water and Environment and Co-Chair of Network of Women Ministries and Leaders for Environment (NWMLE) Rejoice Mabudafhasi addresses the NWMLE: Gender and Sustainable Development Commitments sessions held on the sideline of Rio+20
 20 June 2012 - Deputy Minister of Water and Environment and Co-Chair of Network of Women Ministries and Leaders for Environment (NWMLE) Rejoice Mabudafhasi closing address to the NWMLE: Gender and Sustainable Development Commitments sessions held on sideline of Rio+20
 18 June 2012 - Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi addresses High-Level Panel Discussion on “Promoting Inclusive Green Growth and building a Green Economy as a means to achieve Sustainable Development"
   

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