Nations meeting in Rio this month must come together on ambitious sustainable development goals backed by specific implementation agreements to ensure the survival of oceans, the decent subsistence of farmers whose fields were drying up and other urgent priorities, representatives of non-governmental organizations said this morning.
“We need to see a real global rescue plan,” Rajiv Joshiv of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) said in a press conference ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20), which seeks to shape new policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection. A key area of discussion of the Rio+20 negotiations has been on the sustainable development goals to further those ends and to provide successors to the Millennium Development Goals, which were adopted by the United Nations in 2000 and set out a broad range of anti-poverty targets — from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education — all by the target date of 2015.
Joined by Remi Parmentier, High Seas Alliance, a coalition of 23 non-governmental organizations on ocean preservation, and Thomas Forster, of International Partners for Sustainable Agriculture, Mr. Joshiv warned of the short time that remained until the Rio Conference, due to take place from 20 to 22 June, and the “logjam” in reaching agreements and the lack of attendance commitments by leaders of major States. He stressed that “Delay is not an option.”
All three speakers agreed that political will, along with the attendance of world leaders, were critical to both develop a set of goals and to sign onto an all-important implementing agreement that would set out States’ commitments in reaching those goals, including a framework for regulatory measures Governments would continue to construct, for which the sustainable development goals, as voluntary targets, could not be a substitute.
Mr. Parmentier said that the good news was that a large coalition of Governments and regional groups had come out in favour of such an implementing agreement. It included such major players as the European Union, as well as nations as diverse as South Africa, India, Mexico and a large group of small islands States, he said. He added that only four nations had so far voiced opposition to such an agreement, but they were major players: the United States; Russian Federation; Japan; and Canada. He urged those countries to join the rest of the international community. “We need this agreement,” he said.
Speaking on the need for a sustainable development goal on ocean preservation, Mr. Parmentier noted that 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface was ocean, and 60 per cent of that area was beyond national jurisdiction, the so-called high seas. The seas were changing faster than anytime in history, threatening “the meltdown of the oceans and their resources”.
The Rio outcome, he said, should call upon countries to start negotiations in an expeditious way under the Law of the Sea for preservation of biodiversity on the high seas. It should also call for the elimination of subsidies for commercial fishing and combating illegal fishing. A network of protected marine areas should be created and acidification of the ocean, plastic pollution and other threats must be fought. Those key actions must be set in motion in Rio through implementing agreements, and could be supported via the sustainable development goals.
Mr. Forster spoke on the needs for goals in food security, nutrition security and sustainable agriculture, particularly since the world’s population was predicted to soon reach 9 billion and the planet’s resources were already under stress. For that reason, under discussion were a number of models for an ecosystem-based approach, since intensification of food production must be consistent with preservation of the resource base. A rights-based approach for vulnerable people, including indigenous populations, women, youth, and small-holder farmers was also under debate.
One promising focus for sustainable development goals targets, he said, was reduction of waste, as it was estimated that some 30 per cent of global food production wound up discarded. Also promising were the bridges being drawn between sustainable urban and rural development, since the two were linked by food.
However, as in all areas, in the area of food security targets, goals and concrete implementation agreements were needed. Those had been contentious, he said, and called for political will from the top, a push from the bottom and engagement from all United Nations agencies to make them come to fruition in Rio.