Knapen on Rio+20: less than hoped for, more than expected
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, has delivered less than the Netherlands had hoped for, but more than was expected. International affairs minister Ben Knapen gave this verdict after arriving in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday.
The minister is heading the delegation from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He had hoped for hard-and-fast targets and deadlines for ‘greening’ the economy. ‘These did not materialise,’ he said, ‘but the summit still achieved more than expected. For the first time in history, governments at a UN summit have recognised sustainable development as a priority objective. We now need to work out ways of making it a reality.’
The focus on the private sector and civil society also exceeded Mr Knapen’s expectations. ‘This is the first time a UN document has acknowledged the leading role played by the private sector. The UN has abandoned its misgivings in this regard.’ During the private sector meeting in Rio, Dutch multinationals such as Unilever, Nobel and DSM took a more ambitious stance than many governments.
‘The summit highlighted the importance of corporate sustainability reporting,’ said Mr Knapen. ‘Puma’s CEO told us how his company’s annual report now includes all relevant sustainability information. This is one of many examples that should serve as an inspiration to us all.’
The summit also decided that global sustainability goals should be drawn up and that the UN system should be strengthened for this purpose.
Governments, businesses and civil society organisations from all over the world are gathered in Rio de Janeiro to discuss sustainability – 20 years after the first major UN summit on this issue. The aim is not to conclude a new convention but to set an agenda for the future. The world population is expected to grow from 7 billion people now to 9 billion people in 2050. ‘Better stewardship of the earth is not a luxury but a bitter necessity,’ said Mr Knapen. ‘If everyone today were to enjoy the same standard of living as the average westerner, we would already need three earths instead of one. The great strength of Rio+20 is that we are creating an environment, a way of thinking, in which the ambitions of all the participants – civil society organisations, companies and governments – will thrive. New agendas were also set 20 years ago, and terms such as sustainability are now commonplace.’
In addition to Mr Knapen, the delegation from the Kingdom of the Netherlands includes State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment Joop Atsma and the prime ministers of Aruba and St Maarten. Civil society is represented by Louise Fresco, chair of the National Rio+20 Platform. The delegation also includes representatives of women’s and youth organisations as advisers