RIO+20: sustainable development FAQsUpdated 16/10/2012, published online 15/11/2011
From June 20th to 22nd, 2012, the city of Rio hosted the Earth Summit, the United Nations’ fifth international conference on sustainable development, which brought together leaders and representatives from civil society. The aim was threefold: to ensure the renewal of political commitments as regards sustainable development, to assess progress made towards achieving the internationally set aims for sustainable development and to overcome new and emerging challenges.
Who is behind the Earth Summit?
In 1972, the United Nations (UN) organized the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Stockholm. This led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which encourages sustainable development initiatives throughout the world. The participants also agreed to meet every 10 years to pursue joint, concerted initiatives. This is the aim of the Earth Summit.
Why was this conference called RIO+20?
After Stockholm, the event was held in Nairobi in 1982. It was held in Rio in 1992, when it was named the Earth Summit. It then took place in Johannesburg in 2002. In 2012, the summit was again set in Rio, 20 years after the first Rio conference. This is why the conference was called RIO+20. It was also an opportunity to make an impression, to assess how far we have come and to draw up a road map for the next 20 years.
Who took part and how was RIO+20 organized?
Almost 50,000 participants were expected to attend, including over a hundred heads of state, thousands of political and social stakeholders, experts, researchers, etc. Also in attendance were heads of environmental protection associations, large corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and opinion groups, all coming to bear witness and advance their points of view.
Around the official summit (from June 20th to 22nd), to which heads of state and government were invited, many events involving civil society also took place, including symposia, forums, debates, exhibitions, etc. Representatives of civil society attended the Peoples' Summit, which was held from June 15th to 23rd, in high numbers.
Who chaired RIO+20?
Rather than a chair, the Earth Summit has an organizing secretary general. For RIO+20, it is Sha Zukang, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who performed these duties. To assist him in organizing this event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, appointed Brice Lalonde from France and Elizabeth Thompson from Barbados as executive coordinators. They drew up the program with representatives from each continent.
What were the program and aims of RIO+20?
The two major themes of this summit were the green economy in the context of sustainable development and eradicating poverty and the institutional framework for sustainable development.
Before the Summit, a declaration was drawn up based on a text negotiated over a number of months, The Future We Want. This text is to be used as a basis for negotiations over the next few years. It contains a number of new commitments to encourage sustainable development:
• Sustainable Development Aims (article 248)
Launch of an intergovernmental process open to stakeholders to draw up global sustainable development aims to be adopted at a later session of the United Nations General Assembly.
• International Environmental Governance (article 88)
Stepping up of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as a world authority on the environment.
• Stepping up the role of civil society (article 84)
• Oceans and seas (article 162)
Commitment to deal with the issue of marine biodiversity.
• Funding Sustainable Development (article 255)
Launch of an intergovernmental process to assess funding needs.
|The Stockholm conference in 1972 raised awareness of environmental issues and instigated international environmental law. Twenty years later, the first Rio summit opened the debates to civil society. An action plan, Agenda 21, was launched to support local authority initiatives and a convention on climate change was adopted. This led to the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It came into force 2005 and has now been ratified by 168 states. The summits in Nairobi (1982) and Johannesburg (2002) facilitated contact and exchanges of points of view between developed and developing countries.|