SI Attends Rio+20 Intersessional Meeting in New York


Soroptimist International attended the Second Intersessional Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which was held in New York 15-16 December, 2011. Bette Levy reports on behalf of the SI delegation:

In 2012 the UN will convene the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). This will be a 20 year follow-up to the historic 1992 Earth Summit / UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, where Agenda 21 was adopted.

Rio+20 is a milestone in a series of major UN conferences which seek to establish sustainable development as a top priority on the agenda of the UN and the international community. Rio+20 will bring together the UN, governments, international institutions and major groups (Women, Children & Youth and NGOs are three of the nine major groups) to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and equitable use of resources.

The objectives of the conference are:

  1. Securing renewed political commitment to sustainable development.
  2. Assessing the progress and implementation gaps in meeting already agreed commitments.
  3. Addressing new and emerging challenges.

The conference has two themes, agreed upon by member states:

  1. Green economy within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
  2. Institutional framework for sustainable development.

A series of three Preparatory Committee meetings and three Intersessional Meetings were set up, starting in May 2010 and continuing through to the Rio+20 conference in June 2012. The purpose is to develop a draft Outcome Document for further discussion during Rio+20, and to establish the groundwork for the upcoming conference. The focus for the 2nd Intersessional Meeting was the introduction and subsequent discussion of the complilation document, as well as the structure and format of the zero draft of the Outcome Document.


SI Rep Bette Levy, Sascha Gabizon (Chair - Women's Major Group) and SI Rep Lois Beilin

During the 2nd Intersessional meeting several governments spoke about women and the need to include them in sustainability planning, especially rural women in the Global South. They touched on the need to educate and empower women in order to enable them to take part in such debate. However, the Women’s Major Group is concerned that while women's issues are represented in all eight areas of the Rio+20 agenda, none of the areas are specific to women and so gender issues risk being lost in the maze of discussion. Currently, governments speak about gender indications in their oral statement but none have written women specific issues into their texts.

The Women's Major Group held a side meeting with Mrs Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary General of UN-Women which I was able to attend. Mrs Puri welcomed a collaboration with Women's Major Group and reviewed UN Women’s strategies, concerns and goals for Rio+20. Some of the main points include:

*  Gender equality and empowerment is already in Article 21 (1992). Although it is in need of updating, there is little international will to add new issues at this stage. The focus must be on reaffirming and strengthening what is already there.

*  Women need to be explicitly integrated into the zero draft document so it is an integral part of the debate.

*  The definition of 'Green Economy' is still much debated. It is important to reach agreement on what is meant by the term so international agreement on measures related to Green Economy can be reached.

The focus of all the meetings I attended was on the need to educate women and youth about sustainable development, green economy, food security and climate change. The key role these two groups play was acknowledged, especially in the Global South and rural areas. There were many discussions about new ways to engage women and youth, utilising social media for example. By educating and engaging women and youth we can empower them to change the way things are done now. This way, we won't have to wait another 20 years.

Related articles:

SIE Attends Regional Preparatory Meeting for Rio+20 

SI Attends Forum on Sustainable Development in Beijing

SI Signs Women's Major Stakeholder Group Submission

SI Additions to DPI NGO Rio+20 Submission Accepted

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