RIO+20 Starts Wednesday

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Prime Minister Freundel Stuart

The scene is set in Brazil for the much anticipated UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – which is expected to be officially opened by that country’s President, Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting will bring together several world leaders, heads of government and environmental experts to tackle some of the more pressing and persistent issues that have dogged many countries over the years, thwarting the planet’s sustainable growth potential at the same time.

Barbados will be among several other countries, including some CARICOM states, that will make its voice heard on a number of issues that impact global development.

The United Nations, sponsors of this summit, that comes almost two decades to the date of the first Earth Summit in Brazil, and some 18 years after the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference in Barbados, is optimistic that the outcome will offer some hope for mankind in his quest for a more sustainable environment, despite the wide scope of concerns to be addressed.

These run the gamut from proposals for a transition to a green economy, to climate control issues and prudent environmental management.

The objectives of the conference are to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development; assess the progress, to date, and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development; and address new and emerging challenges

Barbados’ Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, who is heading a local delegation to the global meeting, has pointed out that it would be focusing on two specific themes – a green economy, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and devising an institutional framework for sustainable development.

The summit will also address a number of germane issues, including commitments made in other international forum and implementation successes.

An issue that has emerged in recent years is that of oceans; and this is expected to generate much discussion, particularly around the management of the seas and marine resources.

Only recently, Prime Minister Stuart in an address to a Washington DC audience noted that "it is essential that any new vision for global sustainability must encompass ???the blue economy’ – including the conservation and sustainable management of marine and ocean resources, which would enable developing countries to enjoy a greater share of the benefits derived from those resources."

Many environmentalists have argued that previous high-level UN conferences had brought environmental issues and pragmatic development to the fore, and had placed them squarely on the ???front burner’ as critical issues that would define and determine the future. This was particularly so of the Rio Declaration 20 years ago and Agenda 21. However, not many of these agreements led to legally binding conventions; for example, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Barbados delegation has been quick to assert: "that was then, this is now". Despite those failings, there is currently a renewed awareness and interest among many leaders and technocrats to tackle those issues that have been impacting their countries’ development adversely. Now, the will, politically and otherwise, is surely there.

Many persons submit that Rio+20 will be a success once it reaffirms old commitments and launches new processes to strengthen institutions, while initiating new goals and action plans to counter the issues, which are now more serious than 20 years ago.

The eyes of the world will, therefore, be on the summit, anticipating its discourse and eventual outcome.

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