UNECE Meeting Concludes Regional PrepComs

2 December 2011: The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), the last of the five regions' preparatory meetings, reflected growing interest in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), strong support for a green economy roadmap, and continued lack of consensus over responses to weaknesses in the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD).

The RPM was convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1-2 December 2011, by the UN Economic Commission for Europe in close cooperation with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Participants engaged in discussion sessions on: an assessment of the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development as well as new and emerging challenges; a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and IFSD.

On outcomes from the major summits and specific progress in the region, participants recognized the implementation of the UNECE regional conventions and initiatives such as Regional Environmental Centers. However, they called for improvement in monitoring and evaluation of progress on sustainable development, better integration of the three pillars of sustainable development, and stronger regional coherence and cooperation. Proposals for consideration of SDGs, possibly drawing on the UN's experience with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), appeared to gain further traction.

On the green economy, the need for a roadmap was strongly backed, but accommodation of the unique challenges of different countries also was supported. The discussion clearly indicated that the concept cannot be separated from considerations of poverty eradication.

Participants noted that discussion on IFSD has gained momentum, with a virtual consensus on weaknesses in the current institutional arrangements, including fragmentation and limitations both in terms of resources and authority. But discussions reflected a lack of consensus on responses, with diverging views expressed on the future of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), approaches to enhancing the status of UNEP, and proposals for a Sustainable Development Council (SDC). There was both support for and opposition to proposals for a new international convention elaborating Rio Principle 10 on access to information and public participation.

A keynote intervention by Brazil indicated the likely direction and framing of some key UNCSD discussions, notably a permanent incorporation of poverty eradication and the prioritization of food security, equity, health and work in considerations of sustainable development.

The meeting's outcomes will consist of a Co-Chairs' summary and factual report of the meeting. The summary will be sent to the UNCSD Secretariat as an input for the UNCSD Compilation Document and presented at the Second Intersessional Meeting, taking place in New York, US, on 15-16 December 2011. Outcomes also are expected to be reflected in a UN regional interagency report for the Rio+20 Conference, “From Transition to Transformation: Sustainable and Inclusive Development in Europe and Central Asia.” [IISD RS Coverage] [UNECE Webpage on RPM]