Rio+20: Briefing on UN and US preparations

UN Conference on Sustainable Development

In Washington, D.C., representatives from a range of environmental groups filled the small meeting room at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) yesterday to hear and discuss the latest news about the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) planned for 2012 -- the twentieth anniversary of the Earth Summit.

20 years after Rio

This new UN process is of special interest to the CitNet audience as it marks two decades of history and efforts since the historic gathering in Rio de Janeiro which brought American sustainability and environmental advocates together to help shape the global "program of action on sustainable development" for the 21st century. At that time CitNet was the "U.S. Citizens Network for UNCED" and only in the follow-up process the name changed to "Citizens Network for Sustainable Development" and efforts turned to the multiple focus on the new Commission on Sustainable Development, the President's Council on Sustainable Development, and the various local and regional work to develop "sustainable communities" across the country.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 was the first major reflection point for CitNet and the sustainability movement, looking back over a decade at the "implementation gap" stretching out between the hopes and promises of 1992 and the "worsening social and environmental trends" confronting Summit participants. Now, in the afternoon before President Obama's speech about one of the worst environmental disasters in history, we are looking back on two decades of an ever widening implementation gap and new additions to the worsening trends.

First Preparatory Meeting

Yesterday's meeting follows in the wake of the First Preparatory Meeting for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as "Rio+20," involving discussions and side events over a three-day period (May 17-19) at UN Headquarters in New York. The first speaker, John Matuszak, is the Division Chief for Sustainable Development and Multilateral Affairs in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) at the US Department of State. He gave an overview of the basic approach and plan for the meeting, as well as a US perspective.

First, he pointed out that the Rio+20 event is not a "summit" but a "conference," focusing in particular on two main themes: the institutional framework for sustainable development and the green economy.


To be continued...