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Rio+20 Decoded

Future We Want Exhibit at Rio+20

Sometimes it feels like you need to speak another language to follow what’s happening at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development – and it’s not Portuguese! With the official start of conference upon us, here is an explanation of some useful terms for decoding Rio+20.

Earth Summit
The UN Conference on Environment and Development – the Earth Summit – was a landmark UN conference held twenty years ago in Rio de Janeiro, where UN Member States adopted Agenda 21. The Earth Summit laid the groundwork forRio+20.

Agenda 21
Agenda 21 is the global plan for sustainable development that was unanimously adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations including local governments, civil society groups, the private sector, national governments, UN agencies and others.

Agenda 21’s aim is to create a sustainable future for everyone on the planet. It is about progressive thinking that moves us forward to better lives for everyone; however, Agenda 21 does not aim to infringe on individual rights or national sovereignty. If anything, Agenda 21 helps ensure and uphold national security and human rights.

Sustainable development
Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Seen as the guiding principle for long-term global development, sustainable development consists of three pillars: economic development, social development and environmental protection.

Green economy
A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the two themes ofRio+20. According to the UN Environment Programme, a green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

Institutional framework for sustainable development
One of two themes of Rio+20, discussion on the institutional framework for sustainable development focuses on how to improve international coordination for sustainable development, including how to step up efforts to bridge the gap between the international financial institutions, the multilateral development banks, and the rest of the UN system.

Priority areas

Preparations for Rio+20 have highlighted seven areas that need priority attention:

  • Jobs
  • Energy
  • Cities
  • Food
  • Water
  • Oceans
  • Disasters

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