Event in German

9. Juli, 18.30 Uhr, am oiip (Berggasse 7, A-1090 Wien)
In cooperation with the oiip

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Keynote Speech: Gejsi Plaku, ACUNS Liaison Office

Speakers and participants to the Rio+20 Conference

  • Mathias JUREK, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Walter Maria STOJAN, Bundesministerium für europäische und internationale Angelegenheiten
  • Miroslav POLZER, International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches to Global Challenges (IAAI)
  • Julia RAINER, Österreichische Jungdelegierte und Vertreterin Jugendforum Rio+20
  • Gabriele PEKNY, ÖkoBüro
  • Philipp SCHÖFFMANN, Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) Vienna
  • Otmar HÖLL, ÖIIP (Moderator)


Speaker Power Point Presentations


Mathias Jurek considered the Rio+20 Conference a success, since it brought together a large number of people, among which a large number of NGOs, which had the opportunity to present their projects/outcomes and exchange information. In his view, this will be an important factor in raising the necessary political will to implement the final document, The Future We Want (https://rio20.un.org/sites/rio20.un.org/files/a-conf.216l-1_english.pdf.pdf). The document not only provides a specific political mandate for action, it also encourages more private-public partnerships. Another success implies the acknowledgement of mountains in the final document. UNEP didn´t participate in the negotiations, however, a broad mandate for future activities has been settled recognizing regional approaches as necessary. The Rio+20 Conference provided a platform to bring together relevant actors. Jurek also emphasized the chapter on mountains (paragraphs 210-212), recognizing that benefits derived from mountain region are essential for sustainable development; addressing the issue of indigenous communities, calling for greater efforts to preserve mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity. In the end he also called for the promotion of private and public partnerships.

Addressing the Brazilian contribution to the Rio+20 Conference including more than 45,000 participants and organizing 500 side-events within 10 days, Walter Maria Stojan made reference to crisis management and differentiated between factual and perception crises. The former refer to the administrative challenges Brazil had to face, achieving the wonder of that which was possible. The later refer to the fact that the input from NGOs was not included in the final document to the extent they would have liked it. This deception was then carried on in the media, leading to a somehow general impression that the Conference was not much of a success. Thus, to Stojan the perception crisis is made up of a factual solution and the (deficient) external communication. What is important is that a final document was decided upon, in contrast to Copenhagen. Despite this fact, a wave of solidarity with the NGOs was initiated by the media, not taking in account the achievements of the conference, such as the amount of 500 bn. $ attained for different projects and activities. The conference cannot be considered as enlightenment, but there was a clear dynamics. Between the Scylla and Charybdis of having Brazil achieve a final document and making the NGOs happy, there is not much else that could have been done. Concluding Stojan also pointed to the fact that The Future We Want still needs to be voted upon by the General Assembly this September. The final document ought to be seen as a work assignment and a basis for further negotiations. Hence, Rio+20 is an unfinished process.

Miroslav Polzer spoke of the UN system as an innovation system with limited resources. In his view, what is necessary is a process of systemic global governance innovation. Related to the Rio+20 Conference, he emphasized that whoever really wanted to actively participate, could have done it. He also praised the work of the Rio+20 Secretariat throughout the Conference. For him the UN system is too slow in meeting environmental challenges, there is a need to re-design it. Therefore, the responsibility needs to be taken up by each individual, and does not solely lie with politicians and the UN system.

Julia Rainer argued that, indeed, no big steps forward were made. Nevertheless, she does not consider the Rio+20 Conference a festival of lost chances. She criticized the fact that the Rio+20 Conference was prejudged, media coverage being predominantly negative – even before the beginning of summit. In her view, the EU had a progressive, even if somewhat not realistic position. The G77 and developing countries were split in their positions; the worldwide tensions hampered the success of the Conference. The youth could fill in the missing gap here and act as intermediaries. As an example of this she mentioned that in one afternoon, after intensive lobbying with the delegations of participant states, the Youth Task Force she was leading managed to have a paragraph on the importance of informal education reintroduced in the final text. Hence, obviously there were opportunities to induce change and chances to soften the hardened positions. Rainer concluded her contribution by calling for a greater involvement of the youth.

Gabriele Pekny considered the Rio+20 Conference a step back on the path towards global governance. The conference was a summit of the civil society and NGOs, the political actors played a secondary role. She made a distinction between global governance, as a set of rules meant to ensure a better life for all, and global government, the ruling political elite. In her opinion, the consciousness of current global challenges is more and more manifest, in particular with the civil society. Regrettably, however, the political capacity to act seems to be decreasing. The solution out of this conundrum is to reengage political leaders in responsible global governance. “Where there is a will, there are many ways!” she concluded, whereby the industrial nations should admit their responsibility.
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Philipp Schöffmann started off with a quote from Raymond Williams: “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.” Education was not explicitly defined as a core issue; nevertheless it found its way into a lot of paragraphs. He spoke of the need for education in relation to sustainable development and made reference to the chapter on education in The Future We Want (paragraphs 229-235). In his view, the Rio+20 Conference was a success, in that it gives mandates for different fields, and, most importantly, for education, not only for youth, but adults as well, through life-long-learning programs. The implementation certainly is essential and remains to be seen.

During the lively debate that followed, a number of questions were raised: What has been done in relation to children’s education (paragraphs 229-235) and gender equality (paragraph 45)? What concrete approaches are there to the reforming of the UN system? Three comments were also made, first on the achievements of the Rio+20 Conference, such as the legal prescription of the right to water, and the tremendous role that Brazil played in securing a final document. Second, the diplomatic efforts of Bhutan and Brazil were emphasized. The former managed to have a Day of Happiness declared (March 20), and the later had its delegation members talk with the representatives of all the other countries, so that, in an inclusive effort, all could have a stake in the final outcome. The diplomatic skills of the Brazilian delegates were exemplified with the establishment of the High-level political forum, replacing the Commission on Sustainable Development (paragraphs 84-86). In one coup, the Commission was thanked for its activity, was dismissed, making way for an “intergovernmental and open, transparent and inclusive negotiation process under the General Assembly” to discuss the make-up of the High-level political forum. Attention was also drawn to the fact that at present a shift of focus is apparent, from sustainable development to developing sustainability. Last, the panelists were complimented on their diversified and visionary views.

Whereas global governance is concerned, Miroslav Polzer emphasized the existence of “global commons” for which we all share responsibility. What we need to decide upon is which resources we want to ensure for the future and work on global literacy regarding sustainable development. It is not enough to put all responsibility on the shoulders of states. He agreed that each state has one vote, but each citizen has one too.

Walter Maria Stojan made reference to the initiative of the World Future Council, which proposed an Ombudsperson or High Commissioner for Future Generations (http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en&v=u2GmcKv-oHo).  In this respect, he emphasized the fact that resources, growth and sustainable development are interlinked. Making a distinction between the Millennium and the Sustainable Development Goals, he noted the imbalance and the distrust that exist between the North and the South. He also stressed that whoever attacks the results of the Rio+20 Conference attacks multilateralism itself.

Philipp Schöffmann underlined the importance given to capacity-building in the final document. Also, he recognized the need for critical thinking in order to address current challenges, not only related to sustainable development. Mathias Jurek brought into focus the question of implementation and enforcement. In his personal view, a set of standards and means to effectively punish their breach would be necessary, for example an international environment court. The Future We Want contains mandates for action at different levels, which should be seen as complimentary. Julia Rainer and Gabriele Pekny concluded the discussion by addressing the role of the media, which failed to properly cover the Rio+20 Conference.