SI/E Attends Rio+20 Regional Preparatory Meeting for Europe


The Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) took place in Geneva on 1 and 2 December 2011 to prepare the contribution from the UN Economic Commission for Europe region to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. This conference will be held from 20 – 22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20).

The objectives of the Rio+20 Conference are to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges. Substantive discussions will focus on two themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development. These two themes informed the discussion at the RPM in Geneva.

Suba Parthiban, SIE Programme Executive, attended the meeting. The overwhelming discussion was based on green economy. The most interesting session was the side event on green economy entitled: “From Brown Economy to Care Economy: Women’s Priorities for Rio+20”.

This was a one hour event which included an engaging and insightful presentation on green jobs for women. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) representative presented a social housing and sustainable construction project in Brazil as well as a rural employment project in India to demonstrate how a green economy is a caring economy, capable of meeting the specific needs of marginalized women without compromising the environment.

Other women’s organizations presented their initiatives and ideas around target setting for the inclusion of women in protection schemes. One example was the right of women to work 100 days a year in India.

The main regional preparatory meeting addressed four broad questions:

1)      How can sustainable development be effectively reflected in financial and economic decision-making at the national level and how can inter-sectoral cooperation and decision-making be enhanced?

2)      How can the major groups effectively engage in decision-making processes at the national level?

3)      How can progress towards sustainable development be measured effectively?

4)      How can the efforts of individual countries be best supported through regional cooperation?

Various government officials shared their experiences and views on green economy, sustainable development and the role of women within this debate. The main argument was that sustainable development, more than any other challenge, can only be achieved through collective action – at international, national, regional and local level.

The co-chair of the meeting made the following observations:

"In his address to the meeting, the Secretary General of UN Conference on Sustainable Development observed that the ECE region had a very important role to play in advancing the transition towards a green economy, as many countries were already implementing the required policies and measures and thus had good practices and experiences to share. Developing countries and countries with economies in transition were therefore counting on the support of developed countries in the ECE region.

Seven priority areas had been identified during the global preparatory process and had been reaffirmed in the submissions for the compilation document: combating poverty, including through green jobs and promoting social inclusion; advancing food security and sustainable agriculture; sound water management; energy access, including from renewable sources, as well as energy efficiency and sustainability; sustainable cities; management of oceans; and improving resilience and disaster preparedness."

On the issue of gender and equity, the following summary remarks were made:

"Many delegations underlined that the challenge of addressing equity issues in a number of areas in the ECE region still remained. In spite of some progress, there were a great number of people living in poverty in the region without access to affordable, safe and reliable energy, sanitation and basic commodities, or receiving a fair distribution of wealth and the benefits of development. In that regard, unequal societies had a series of problems that equal societies did not have: higher rates of mental illness, more people imprisoned, lower life expectancies and more children dying before they reached their first birthday.

The larger the gap between rich and poor, the greater the social problems. Equal societies laid the foundation for a better system of education and better education meant a country was more competitive in a knowledge economy; it was also suggested that the role of education should be stressed in the region and for development cooperation to be strengthened.

The issue of gender inequality, in particular, still remained a challenge, speakers noted, as women were still the majority of the poor and had not been taken into consideration in sustainable development strategies. When women were afforded equal access to resources and opportunities and participated in decision-making processes they could become drivers as well as beneficiaries of equitable economic growth, environmental sustainability and poverty eradication. For women to become active agents of change and catalysts for sustainable development, their economic, social and political rights needed to be strengthened."

To read the full summary of the meeting, click here. Select 'Co-Chairs Summary', available in English, French and Russian.

The meeting provided a valuable opportunity to network with other organisations involved in the women’s major stakeholder group, including the chair, Sascha Gabizon, and to collectively emphasise how important it is to educate, empower and enable local women to contribute to these crucial discussions. Discussions will continue this week in New York at the second intersessional meeting for Rio+20. SI's UN Representatives in New York will be attending and will follow the debate closely.

More reports to follow!

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