Secretario General Adjunto de las Naciones Unidas
y Director Ejecutivo del PNUMA
This year’s UN General Assembly, starting in September,
takes on special significance for UNEP — and for the
urgency of accelerating sustainable development — as
member states begin to act on the decisions of June’s
Rio+20 summit, contained in the Future We Want.
A key area of focus will be defining and establishing
a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that
can bring developed and developing nations into a
new era of cooperative action. UN Secretary-General
Ban ki-Moon recently announced the Sustainable
Development Solutions Network — a new independent
global network of research centres, universities and
technical institutions — to provide ideas and solutions.
This will support a High-Level Panel, which will report
next year on the post-2015 development agenda.
Other potentially positive outcomes of Rio+20 include
a ten-year framework on sustainable consumption
and production covering fields from tourism to ‘agrifood’
(including food waste and losses) and sustainable
Across the OECD group of countries, public procurement
totals over US $4,700 billion annually, close to 20 per cent of
GDP. In developing countries the proportion can be slightly
higher. In India, for example, government procurement is
worth about US $300 billion and is expected to grow by
more than 10 per cent annually.
During Rio+20 over 30 governments and institutions
— including Brazil, Denmark, Switzerland and UNEP —
announced a new global International Sustainable Public
Procurement Initiative (SPPI), aimed at scaling-up the level
of public spending on goods and services that maximize
environmental and social benefits.
Another decision — to work towards a new global indicator of
wealth that goes beyond GDP’s narrowness — requests the
UN Statistical Commission to work with other UN bodies,
including UNEP, to identify new approaches for measuring
progress. Its work will draw on a range of assessments and
pilot projects ongoing across the globe.
Several countries — including Brazil, Colombia, Germany,
India and the United Kingdom — have carried out national
assessments of the value of their ‘natural assets’ — or are
doing so — drawing on work done globally by The Economics
of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, hosted by UNEP. And
Inclusive Wealth — based on the World Bank’s Adjusted Net
Saving indicator — is developing a more inclusive indicator of
national wealth, covering not only produced capital, human
capital, and natural capital, but also critical ecosystems.
Rio+20 also encouraged governments to push forward
on requiring companies to report their environmental,
social and governance footprints: this builds on the work
of the UNEP Finance Initiative and the Global Reporting
Initiative-co-founded by UNEP.
Meanwhile, the World Congress on Justice, Governance,
and Law for Environmental Sustainability — hosted by the
Brazilian Supreme Court and UNEP in partnership with a
number of international organizations — committed to use
international and national laws to advance sustainability,
human and environmental rights and implementation of
Strengthening and upgrading the environment programme
of the UN, including its financial resources, will also be an
important upcoming issue — not least for those nations
backing a transition towards an inclusive Green Economy as
an important pathway to a sustainable century.
Rio+20 also agreed that UNEP should have universal
membership and a more active role at the regional and
national level; and that it should build on its science-policy
interface — including through its flagship Global Environment
Outlook process — and on mechanisms to better engage
civil society ranging from farmers and women to indigenous
peoples, business, scientists and local authorities.
The outcome of Rio+20 fell short of many expectations: in
the light of scientific realities, people’s day-to-day struggle
simply to survive, the analysis of where development
is heading for seven billion people, and the inordinate
opportunity that exists for a different trajectory.
However, if nations, companies, cities and communities can
move forward on the positive elements of the Summit’s
outcome at the General Assembly this may assist in realizing
one day the Future We Want.