Friday 6 July 2012

To be successful, Rio+20 goals need to be localised and actioned - Samoan PM

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor

04 JULY 2012 SUVA ---- In the words of the Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi - 'the real measure of what was achieved at the Rio+20 is not in the outcomes document but how these goals are localised  when we return home.'

While addressing world leaders in Rio de Janeiro on 22 July, the no-nonsense Pacific Leader said while the outcome is not perfect, 'the shortcomings gives Samoa a level of comfort that made his government lend its support.'

"There is never a perfect document, and Rio is not the first time to achieve one. Trying to satisfy everyone's interests is an exercise in futility.

"Some are satisfied while others feel betrayed. Critics see it as lacking in ambition and selective in its coverage while supporters hail it as an important breakthrough in tune with today's challenges and realities. Some lament it as missed yet another missed opportunity, said PM Tuilaepa.

He said no matter how ambitious Rio+20 is, "if we elected leaders are not committed to lead and drive sustainable development, we lose the trust and confidence of partners and our credibility will suffer."

Samoa, like Fiji, has put to the table the island nation's interest to host the third international conference for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in 2014.

Convening the third SIDS international conference is one of the many outcomes of the Rio+20 conference. Parties recognised the need to call a meeting two years after Rio to consider a coordinated, balanced and integrated approach to address the sustainable development challenges of SIDS.

It is now up to the United Nations 67th General Session to determine the modalities of the 2014 conference.

"Co-incidentally, 2014 is a significant year for my own government as we will become the first Pacific nation to graduate from being a Least Developed Country (LDC).

"While hosting a global meeting is a privilege and an honour, there will be more other equally able countries also bidding. Samoa has nevertheless made known to Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Pacific sub region its interest to host this event if given the opportunity, revealed the Samoan leader.

He said it's just hosting a big international conference but an opportunity for Samoa to share its story with the rest of the world.

"It is about primacy and the importance of partnerships that demonstrates Samoa's progress. Moreover, we want to demonstrate that being a SIDS and an LDC should not discourage poor and vulnerable nations from advancing to achieve economic, social and political progress, Tuilaepa said.

Fiji, on the other hand is equally confident of its bid to host the same international gathering, which is expected to bring together over 10,000 delegates.

Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama, also speaking in Rio expressed Fiji's strong interest. 2014 will election year for the military-led Fijian administration.  Both governments will now work on their bids in anticipation of the modalities to be set out by the UN General Assembly which meets from September to November every year.

Regional action
Now that the 'Future We Want' has become a living document for the globe, what happens next for the Pacific?

The Head of the UN ESCAP Pacific Office, Iosefa Maiava said the real work begins in the different regions of the world. The ESCAP Pacific Operations Office was instrumental in convening Pacific PrepCom meetings en route to the Rio+20 conference.

Maiava said UNESCAP regional commissions will help compile national inputs into the establishment of sustainable development policies.

"The document is also very clear that green economy for sustainable development and poverty eradication is to be implemented in accordance with certain countries circumstances, which means that it's now up to each country to decide on how it implements the outcomes from Rio, said Maiava.

In addition, regional organisations in the Pacific have been given strong mandate to co-ordinate the implementation of sustainable development at the regional level.

"Given those strong mandates, there is a clear role for regional organisations and the UNESCAP regional commission. There are plans already with regional organisation on how to organise the process developing the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

One of the major outcomes of Rio+20 is the agreement to launch a process that will lead to the establishment of SDGs to merge with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"The MDGs will continue up until 2015. There are already some discussions on the post2015 agenda and what it will look like. This outcomes document says the sustainable development goals will be considered launched in a way that is co-ordinated and coherent with the post2015 development agenda. So I think the feeling right now is that the SDGs and MDGs will be merged into a post2015 development agenda into what is going to be one set of global goals for sustainable development."

The proposed SDGs, according to Maiava are going to be different from the MDGs because the Rio+20 outcomes refer to some new thematic areas like renewable energy, oceans and climate change.

"For Small Islands Developing States these kinds of issues are not clearly articulated in the MDGS because there are no targets. The other difference is the recognition of the need to balance the three pillars of sustainable development.  It's not very clear from the MDGs that there is clear balance between the use of economic instruments to bring about greater protection of the environment and social equity, which is what green economy is really about, said Maiava.

New initiatives
A wide range of actions have also been pledged during Rio+20. These include planting 100 million trees, empowering 5,000 women entrepreneurs in green economy businesses in Africa, and recycling 800,000 tons of polyvinyl chloride (commonly known as PVC) - one of the most widely used plastics - per year.

A key element of Rio+20 was its outcome document, entitled "The Future We Want" and agreed on by Member States.

"I'm very grateful and encouraged by world leaders for their strong political commitments to agree to a solid outcome document which puts all of us towards a greater sustainable path," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

The outcome document calls for a wide range of actions, such as beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals; detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development; strengthening the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures, taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country, developing a strategy for sustainable development financing, and, adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production.

Rio funding commitments
At the end of the  United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), some US$513 billion in funding has been committed by governments, the private sector, civil society and other groups to achieve a sustainable future.

"From the very beginning we have said that Rio+20 is about implementation and concrete action," said Rio+20's Secretary-General, Sha Zukang.

"The commitments that we share with you today demonstrate that governments, the UN systems, and the nine major groups are committed and serious about implementation."

Under the provision of finance in the 'Future We Want' document, Parties recognise the need to mobilize resources from various sources to give strong support to developing countries in their efforts to promote sustainable development.

The Rio+20 conference agreed to set up an intergovernmental committee comprising of 30 experts nominated by regional groups to prepare financing options on an effective sustainable development financing strategy. It will be established under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly with technical support from UN agencies.

The PACNEWS Editor was part of the SPREP Media team that covered the just concluded Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The project was supported by a partnership between the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme and Conservation International Pacific Island Program.

Culture and tradition can help Pacific nations deal with climate change: PM Lilo

By Evan Wasuka, One Television, Solomon Islands

5 July 2012, Solomon Islands - Cultural knowledge can help Pacific nations find solutions to dealing with the impacts of climate change and environmental problems, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, told delegates at the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in Honiara.

Twenty countries and over 2000 participants are taking part in the largest festival in the South Pacific.

Participating countries include some of the world’s smallest and most climate vulnerable countries, that have been affected by rising sea levels, increased extreme weather conditions and changes to weather patterns.

“Twenty years after the UN Earth Summit in Rio at 1992. Scientists have sufficient evidence to inform us that the earth has reached its planetary limits or abilities to contain global warming and climate changes.”

Lilo said while the world continues to look for solution to climate change, Pacific Island countries for generations have learnt to live in harmony with their environment.

“It is essential for us to explore with haste and progress appropriate actions and identify key strategic areas to save and protect our ocean and land for our generation and future generations.  Some of the solutions for these challenges are in the knowledge of our cultures.

The theme for the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts is ‘Culture in Harmony with Nature’.

Pacific Island countries will over two weeks showcase their culture and tradition including practices that promote environment sustainability.

“I believe the challenge for many is acquiring the knowledge of our cultures to counter the global warming and climate change issues.

“For us who live in low lying islands, our focus should be towards the management of our eco-systems. It is important that we remain strong, resilient and continue to practice our cultures to ensure sustainability of their originality as we journeyed through these waters of globalization.”

Lilo pointed out that although the Pacific region only accounts for a small fraction of the global population, it contains a quarter of the world’s known languages.

“The region is characterized by enormous ecological and cultural diversity; a human history so rich in rituals, travel, narrative and innovation.

The One Television, Solomon Islands Reporter was part of the SPREP Media team that covered the just concluded Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The project was supported by a partnership between the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme and Conservation International Pacific Island Program.

World leaders endorse Rio Declaration on sustainable development

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Rio de Janeiro

22 JUNE 2012 RIO DE JANEIRO --- More than 100 world leaders gathered in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro Friday have put their stamp of approval on the new United Nations declaration on sustainable development, titled the ‘Future We Want.

The approval came six hours after the plenary was convened to endorse the new global roadmap to eradicating poverty through sustainable means of development.

Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff attributed the success of the Rio+20 talks to the skilful art of negotiations by her team and through the collective compromises shown by Parties to reach a consensus outcome.

“The document we have today is not a setback from 1992 but a step forward, President Rousseff said.  Endorsing the consensus decision with some reservations, the United States, Canada and Venezuela, announced at the final plenary they will submit their specific concerns with the United Nations after the conference.

The 53 page Rio Declaration isn’t legally binding on all member States but a framework of commitments for countries to work towards sustainable development.

For the Pacific, the new declaration is celebrated because it reflects most of the positions of the Pacific and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Ambassador Beck, Solomon Islands
Ambassador Collin Beck of Solomon Islands said the Brazilian Presidency steered the negotiations to its successful outcome.

“It means a lot in the sense that we were able to come out with an agreement. Prior to that, five days ago, it was not possible to see an outcome. During the negotiations only 37 percent of the text was agreed. That speaks of the divided interests in the negotiations.

“The Brazilian Presidency took over the negotiations and tried to include everyone’s interests in the text. They did a good job because the text didn’t have to go to the leaders to negotiate, like what happened in climate change.

Another important milestone in the declaration is the inclusion of ‘oceans’ in the declaration.

“For the first time this document is talking about oceans. Apart from that we had side events bringing together our leaders and ministers talking about SIDS. This is a great achievement. When we look at the progress since 1992, we now have more leaders engaging on these issues, said Ambassador Beck.

His views are endorsed by the Head of UN ESCAP Pacific Centre, Iosefa Maiava, who welcomed the reaffirmation of SIDS special case in the declaration.

Pacific high level delegates
“I get a sense from Pacific Island delegates and regional organisations that they are fairly happy with the outcomes.

“Off course the document does not provide the specific ideas, tools and ways and means to implement this except in areas of finances, technology and capacity building.

But, Maiava said the side events during the two weeks conference have been very useful in discussing specific ideas and tools for strengthening sustainable development.

“In the case of oceans, there was a side even that discussed the importance of scientific studies to deal with degradation of the oceans. There was a side event on things like marine protected areas, and there were those on things like debt swap which is an interesting tool for helping protect the oceans.

“There was also side event on the use of economic concepts like perverse subsidies, an area highlighted by the Pacific in their outcomes. We may have to look at perverse subsidies as a way that we don’t over fish and over exploit because these subsidies under price and under value the fish.”

On the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Maiava said some of the concerns of SIDS are now incorporated into the post-2015 agenda.

“The SDGs are going to be different in the sense that the outcomes document refers to some new thematic areas like renewable energy, oceans and climate change.

“For Small Islands Developing States these kinds of issues are not clearly articulated in the MDGS because there are no targets. The other difference is the recognition of the need to balance the three pillars of sustainable development. 

Small Islands Developing States Focus
“It’s not very clear from the MDGs that there is clear balance between the use of economic instruments to bring about greater protection of the environment and to bring about greater social equity, which is what green economy is really about.

American Secretary of States, Hillary Clinton applauded the Rio +20 declaration, especially the effective leadership shown by the host nation.

“Let’s be honest with what we could do. Our future is not guaranteed. The resources that we depend on, the oceans, the arable land and so on are under increasing pressure. The only viable development for the 21st century is sustainable development.

“We need to preserve our resources and protect our environment.

Clinton said the Outcomes document identify practical ways for sustainable development.

“While our views may differ, we cannot be boxed in by orthodoxy of the past. Whatever our beliefs, it must be based on science and on what works.

A practical model for the future, she suggests is to partner with the private sector to access funds to finance sustainable development projects.

“70 percent of the capital flow to developing countries came from Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), it is now only 13 percent. While we are continuing assistance, the private sector has provided the balance of investment for sustainable development.

“We need to develop and expand partnership with the private sector, civil societies, faith based organisations. We will be judged not by what we say or intend to do but by what we deliver for our people, said Clinton, who represented President Barack Obama at the Rio+20 meeting.

Civil society groups from across the globe condemned world leaders - particularly from rich countries - for failing to live up to their promises of a new vision.   

"Just like in climate negotiations, the European Union (EU) dresses up its own economic interests as ambitious new ideas when in reality they came without the political will to make the changes needed to save the people and planet.

It is hypocritical for the EU to claim it has no money to help deliver the global transformation needed, when EU politicians have found billions to bail out the banks and give tax breaks to dirty fossil fuel industries. It is time all governments learn that for these important meetings to succeed they need to  put the interests of the people first not those of the polluters, said  Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate, Friends of the Earth.

"It is despicably disingenuous that Hillary Clinton came here to be applauded while her negotiators were ordered to object to language that reflected the principles and hope of the first Earth Summit in Rio. No thanks to the US, those principles are preserved in the final outcome here - but so is the attitude of inaction, delay and broken promises; to all of our peril, said Meena Raman of Third World Network.