(7 September 2011) Today, at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile, authorities and representatives of 28 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, international experts and members of the civil society initiated discussions to agree on a joint stance for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012.
The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Meeting Preparatory to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, which is taking place until Friday 9 September, was opened by Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, and authorities from the governments of Brazil, host of the global conference, and Chile, venue for this regional meeting, and senior officials from organizations of the United Nations system which work in the area of development and environment. It was attended by senior representatives from all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Representatives from the main groups in the region, including women, workers, peasants, indigenous people, businessmen, young people and other NGOs participated in the opening, each one with specific proposals.
In their discussions, the delegates will examine the progress and remaining gaps in the region in the fulfilment of several sustainable development commitments adopted at international level and they will formulate proposals for the global summit.
"This meeting gives us the opportunity to consider the South's development agenda, which is based on sustainability and which focuses on social equality. A more balanced agenda which includes the interests of developed countries, but above all developing countries," said Alicia Bárcena. "The agenda must respect this real and effective multilateralism in order to guarantee global public goods such as peace, financial stability, protection against pandemics and climate security, within the framework of the joint, but diverse responsibilities," she added.
She also added that the financial crisis and the food and climate crises, which have serious effects on the most vulnerable, also raise ethical dilemmas and it would appear that their effects will be of a structural nature. "This is, without a doubt, not an era of changes, but rather a change of era. We are living in times of great uncertainty and confusion," she stressed.
Fernando Schmidt, Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, stated that, "In the present international climate, this is the time for the region to reaffirm its commitment to multilateralism and to consolidate its role as a bridge between the developing world and the developed world."
Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Assistant Secretary-General for Environment, Science and Technology of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, stated that not only will the Rio+20 Conference analyse the progress made since 1992, but it will also look beyond 2012. "In Rio we will have the unique opportunity to look at the future and define the joint vision that we want to have as a region for the development of our people," he stated.
During the first day of the meeting, the inter-agency document Sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean 20 years on from the Earth Summit: progress, gaps and strategic guidelines was presented, and which was compiled by 19 organizations, agencies and programmes of the United Nations and coordinated by ECLAC.
The document was prepared by the following agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations: United Nations Environment programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD), World Food Programme (WFP), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), International Labour Organization (ILO), World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication.
This report analyses the regional situation and proposes strategic guidelines for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to make the transition to sustainable development.
The study reveals that while considerable progress has been made since the 1992 Earth Summit, there has still been no change in the model such as would allow simultaneous forward movement in building the social, economic and environmental pillars of development.
Over the last 20 years the countries of the region have experienced a decline in the percentage of people living in poverty, a decrease in the inequality in income distribution, a rise in the Human Development Index (HDI), an expansion of protected areas and success in eliminating the consumption of ozone-depleting substances.
However, many improvements have been tentative or only relative. For example, the number of people living in poverty or indigence in the region is still high (180 million in 2010) and the gap with developed countries has not been closed. There are still more than 100 million people living in slums and many still do not have access to basic services and adequate health care.
The number of people suffering from hunger decreased between 1990 and 2006, but this process was stopped by the food crisis of 2007-2008 and the economic crisis of 2008-2009, and has yet to recover.
Energy intensity has been declining much more slowly in Latin America and the Caribbean than in other regions and while the proportion of protected land and marine areas in the region doubled between 1990 and 2009 -which indicates a growing commitment to the conversion of biodiversity- it is under serious threat from human activities at all levels.
The report also reveals that climate change poses a new challenge to the region's development. If greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land-use change are excluded, the region contributes only 8% of global emissions. However, by 2050 it is expected to have a significant impact on agriculture, and extreme weather events are likely to exact a heavy socio-economic toll, especially in Central America and the Caribbean.
Among the strategic guidelines, the document highlights the need to align policies on social protection, decreasing the risks to human security and safety, and increasing the quality of life with environmentally friendly economic activities; heighten the visibility of environmental and social costs of economic decisions; build policies on a more informed, participatory basis; and strengthen education, science and technology in order to build human capital for sustainability.
Lastly, it states that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) represents an opportunity for the countries of the region to consider and adopt measures and reach agreements for moving toward a model of development that will meet the needs of the present without compromising the resources and prospects of future generations.
Likewise, it urges developed and developing countries to promote the joint efforts in a workable global partnership, to be defined in Rio in 2012, in order to ensure substantive progress toward sustainable development.
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