UNGA President’s Retreat Addresses Partnerships, Rio+20 Outcome

9 January 2012: The President of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, has released a summary of the retreat he convened regarding preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20). Titled “Paving the Way for a Successful UNCSD,” the retreat aimed to allow key negotiators and actors in the Rio+20 preparatory process to discuss two topics: Partnerships for Sustainable Development; and Envisioning the Rio+20 Outcome.

The retreat took place from 17-18 December 2011, in Long Island, New York, US. Following opening remarks from President Al-Nasser, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General for the UNCSD Sha Zukang, and Co-Chair of the UNCSD and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN Kim Sook, delegates participated in discussions on the two topics.

On Partnerships for Sustainable Development, panelists included: Klaus Topfer, Former Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Germany; Jeffrey Sachs, Earth Institute, Columbia University; Munir Akram, Former Ambassador of Pakistan, Chair of Group of 77 (G-77) ; Yiping Zhou, Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, UNDP; Amir Dossal, Founder, Global Partnerships Forum, Former Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships; and Brice Lalonde, Executive Coordinator for Rio+20.

Participants expressed the view that energy is a key issue for Rio+20, particularly in regard to the green economy, and discussed how to reach needed partnerships in the energy sector, as well as for financing the transfer of green technologies. Others noted the need for: increased official development assistance (ODA) and leveraging of the private sector; frameworks to ensure that private sector investment avoids negative impacts; creation of a global human sustainable development credit system to list public investment opportunities; implementation of a national levy on countries' greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; partnerships to help Africa increase its growth capacity; use of regional mechanisms in partnerships with Africa; city partnerships; South-South partnerships; and recognition that partnerships are not an action in themselves, but a means to generate action.

On Envisioning the Rio+20 Outcome, panelists included: Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary, UN Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Michael T. Clark, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Melchiade Bukuru, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); and Barbara Adams, Global Policy Forum and Social Watch.

Participants noted that, inter alia: the market alone will not solve environmental problems; the initiative by Colombia and Guatemala to establish Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is valuable, and the goals should address land degradation; finance, resource mobilization, implementation, and measuring progress are central issues. On governance, participants suggested that the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) must be reformed, synergies with regional non-UN bodies should be strengthened, and strengthening the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) alone is not enough.

Keynote addresses were given by Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment and 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), and Ashok Khosla, Former Director of UNEP, President, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In closing comments, President Al-Nasser said the idea of creating a platform, at the UNCSD, for announcing concrete partnership initiatives by private sector actors and other stakeholders was “gaining traction.” [PGA's Summary of Retreat]