Rio+20: civil movements reflect desire for sustainable future, UN official says

13 June 2012

Amidst the preparations for Rio+20 next week, the UN News Centre spoke with the event's Executive Coordinator, Henrietta Elizabeth Thompson, in Rio de Janeiro.

The civil movements that have taken place over the past months in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere reflect a global call for a sustainable future, a United Nations official said today, stressing that governments should listen to their citizens and implement greener policies that that take into the account people’s well-being.

“The world witnessed an Arab Spring, we saw people Occupy Wall Street and other places. People took to the streets in Europe – at the core of all of these social uprisings has been a demand for people to be able to live in dignity, to have a sustainable quality of life and be able to pass that to their children,” the Executive Coordinator of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), Henrietta Elizabeth Thompson, said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro.

“The people of the world are asking for sustainable development, however they define it. They may not use that expression but what they are asking for is sustainable development,” she added.

More than 100 heads of State and government, along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders are expected to attend Rio+20, from 20 to 22 June, to shape new policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.

The last round of talks on finalizing agreement on the draft outcome document for the Conference started today, putting more pressure on countries to accelerate negotiations before the plenary meetings next Wednesday. Ms. Thompson, who has been working for two years on the event, is helping to facilitate the talks for the next three days.

“We are very concerned that the public thinks of this process as transparent and that we continue to keep people informed on what is happening,” she said, adding that during this last round of talks various countries will be leading groups on thematic issues such as water, oceans, food and energy, in an attempt to “break the deadlock” that has stalled negotiations.

In spite of slow progress, Ms. Thompson said she was optimistic about the overall outcome of Rio+20 as the future of the global community is at stake.

“Politicians understand that they have to deliver and if you look at recent elections, those governments that have been in place in the wake of the financial and social crisis have fallen, so politicians understand that we cannot come out of Rio and say to the expectant people of the world ‘We have nothing to offer,’ she said. “I believe they are going to rise to the challenge of delivering on the Rio agenda.”

Rio+20 follows on from the Earth Summit in 1992, also held in Rio de Janeiro, during which countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Rio+20 must result in ‘concrete’ decisions to advance sustainable development – Ban

With just two weeks until the start of a major United Nations sustainable development conference, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged countries to step up efforts to achieve concrete decisions to reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and more sustainable and fair use of resources.