What Rio +20 meant for South Africa

The Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 20 to 22 June 2012. A key outcome for South Africa was the recognition of green economy policies as a viable tool for advancing sustainable development and poverty eradication.

The conference had two themes: "A green economy within the context of sustainable development" and "Poverty reduction and Institutional framework for sustainable development".

Delegates hoped to renew political commitment to sustainable development, assessing the progress and implementation gaps in meeting already agreed upon commitments as well as addressing new and emerging challenges.

According to South Africa's minister of environmental affairs, Edna Molewa who attended the conference,the South African Government viewed the Rio +20 conference to be a critical milestone in the Global Sustainable Development regime, especially on key elements that included an agreement on the need to establish a Sustainable Development Council at general assembly level and to upgrade the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to become the authoritative voice on environmental governance to promote coherence in the coordination of the environment leg of sustainable development.

She also applauded the establishment of a sustainable development finance mechanism and that a clear process towards such a mechanism has been defined.

"Furthermore, the global community has agreed on the establishment of a "High Level Political Forum" that will build on the functions of the Commission on Sustainable Development. This decision is aimed at strengthening the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development at a global level and promotes effective implementation of the sustainable development agenda."

The South African government is already working towards promoting coherence in the initiatives that are aimed at promoting sustainable consumption and production and the country will be moving into the implementation phase of the green economy initiatives as one of the tools to achieving sustainable development. To this effect, an acknowledgement of sustainability reporting for publicly listed companies and institutions is also seen as a significant milestone taken at Rio +20 and the South African Government will provide the necessary enabling framework for corporate sustainability performance and reporting.

South Africa has extended an invitation to its fellow member states to come together to contribute to the process created under the Finance "Means of Implementation" in the Rio+20 agreements. The process provides for the launch of an intergovernmental process to propose options on an effective Sustainable Development Financing Strategy to be considered by the UN General Assembly by 2014.

Creating an equitable and inclusive sustainable development finance landscape is a critical component of creating the Future We Want. Therefore, the South African government will lead a member states engagement during the fourth quarter 2012 to reflect on the critical elements to activate work towards the development of a Sustainable Development Financing strategy to facilitate mobilization of resources and their effective use in achieving sustainable development objectives.


"Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. In this regard we acommitted to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency." Agenda item 10

Outcome of the Conference : The future we want"

'We therefore acknowledge the need to further mainstream sustainable development at all levels, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognizing theiits dimensions.'

We recognize that opportunities for people to influence their lives and future, participate in decision-making and voice their concerns are fundamental for sustainable development. We underscore that sustainable development requires concrete and urgent action. It can only be achieved with a broad alliance of people, governments, civil society and the private sector, all working together to secure the future we want for present and future generations.

We are deeply concerned that one in five people on this planet, or over 1 billion people, still live in extreme poverty, and that one in seven — or 14 per cent — is undernourished, while public health challenges, including pandemics and epidemics, remain omnipresent threats.

We recognize that many people, especially the poor, depend directly on ecosystems for their livelihoods, their economic, social and physical well-being, and their cultural heritage. For this reason, it is essential to generate decent jobs and incomes that decrease disparities in standards of living in order to better meet people's needs and promote sustainable livelihoods and practices and the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystems.

"We had hoped for a more ambitious outcome," adds Cyriaque Sendashonga, IUCN's Director of Global Policy. "I hope that the work of civil society and businesses will inspire governments to agree on goals and set the right incentives. We are impressed by the initiatives announced by many local authorities and hope these will carry through into national and international action. We would also like to congratulate the Brazilian Government for its hard work in bringing all countries together to finalise the agreement here in Rio."

Eminent African scientist Youba Sokona, the co-chair of Working Group III (mitigation issues) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the document and the conference lacked any "new ideas and did not really set a vision on how to check unsustainable consumption at an individual level".

"One would have hoped that, given the substantial knowledge on the state of our planet, the unacceptable poverty of billions, the continued steep declines in biodiversity and the changing climate, governments would have approached Rio+20 with a renewed sense of urgency", said Melanie Heath, Head of Policy at BirdLife International. "Bold and decisive actions were needed to steer us along the pathway to sustainable development."

Kruger National Park - South African Safari