22 June 2012
As the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development entered its last day in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, South African President Jacob Zuma called on world leaders to renew political efforts towards achieving growth without further harming an already imperilled environment.
The meeting, which opened in Rio on Wednesday, follows the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, during which countries adopted Agenda 21, requiring them to pursue economic growth that advanced social equity and ensured environmental protection.
Zuma, addressing the opening plenary of the conference on Thursday, urged the nearly 100 heads of state from 193 countries attending the gathering to implement the goals of a similar summit held in Johannesburg 10 years ago.
The conference in Rio should build on the “concrete and practical experience of approximately 20 years of the implementation of the sustainable development agenda as outlined in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation”.
Zuma said delegates should also draw lessons from the Earth Summit, adding that “then we collectively agreed that unless we did something, our future as a species was doomed”.
“The world adopted the Agenda 21 and the Rio Principles as a blueprint for human development living in harmony with nature. The Earth Summit had alerted us to the unprecedented levels of poverty, underdevelopment and inequality in developing countries.”
But despite these principles and their noble intentions, Zuma said the path to a sustainable world had been confronted with major global challenges.
“In the main, the world has not done justice to the spirit of the Rio Declaration. The commitments of making sustainable development a reality have not been fully honoured,” he said.
Zuma said Rio+20 “has the potential to outline a process beyond the maturity of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015”.
The sustainable development goals should “build on, be integrated in, and strengthen the MDGs which will inspire the community of nations for action towards sustainable development”.
Emphasising the need to move towards climate-friendly developments agreed on at last year’s climate summit in Durban, Zuma said green economy policies should be developed in accordance with the principles in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.