64th UN DPI/NGO Conference Prepares for Rio+20, Urges Civil Society to “Connect the Dots”

5 September 2011: Delegates to the 64th Department of Public Information (DPI)/Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Conference sent a message for civil society to “connect the dots” between local concerns and global issues. The Conference, which convened from 3-5 September 2011, in Bonn, Germany, was organized around the theme “Sustainable Societies; Responsive Citizens.”

The conference provided an opportunity for NGOsand civil society groups to interact in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20). The event was organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI), in partnership with the DPI/NGO Executive Committee, Germany, and the UN Volunteers (UNV) programme, and was chaired by Felix Dodds, Stakeholder Forum. Opening the conference, Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, underscored that the challenges of "food, energy, finance, water, climate" are “many, and complex.” He noted that climate change negotiations are at a crucial stage, with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increasing and "too many words and promises...broken."

During the conference, delegates heard an address by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner, in which Steiner urged civil society to consider the Rio+20 theme of an institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD), calling for civil society's “engagement and leadership in order to sharpen and shape a meaningful and forward-looking outcome.” Underscoring the role of civil society in the creation of UNEP, Steiner stated that the current institutional framework is “too fragmented, time-consuming and piecemeal,” and that the 500 multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) have become an administrative burden for developing countries.

Also addressing the conference, Kandeh Yumkella, UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Director General, noted that about 65-70% of GHG emissions result from energy-related activities. He added that the challenges of addressing climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be tackled without an energy revolution.

A key outcome of the conference was the declaration, which will be forwarded to the organizers of Rio+20 for consideration. On the theme of IFSD, the declaration, inter alia: calls for the establishment of a global sustainable development coordinating mechanism and parallel institutions at the national level, empowered to pursue system-wide policy coherence for Bretton Woods and UN institutions to advance sustainable development principles, pathways and policies in a coordinated manner; and calls for strengthening existing UNEP bodies and upgrading UNEP to the status of a high level body in the UN system.

On the theme of green economy, the declaration, inter alia, calls on governments to: phase out fossil fuel subsidies, set up environmentally and socially friendly fiscal incentives, and operationalize wide-ranging innovative sources of finance, like the proposed Financial Transaction Tax; and implement a just transition to sustainable economies as fast as possible through an unprecedented level of cooperation and policy coherence at the local, state, national and international levels, by sharing green technologies and know-how, restructuring regulatory, taxation and expenditure policies, and establishing democratic oversight of economic policy decision making. [UN News Center[Conference Website] [UNEP Executive Director's Address to Conference] [UN Press Release on the First Day of the Conference[UN Press Release on Roundtable Interventions, 3 Sep.] [UN Press Release on Roundtable Interventions, 4 Sep.] [Video Message by UN Secretary-General, 3 Sep.] [Statement by UN Secretary-General] [Declaration: "Sustainable Societies; Responsive Citizens"]