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2012/03/09: Federal Council issues negotiating mandate for UN «Rio+20» sustainability summit

Bern, 09.03.2012 - Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainability, will take place in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) from 20 to 22 June 2012. One of the aims of the conference is to define the contribution of a green economy to sustainable development and poverty eradication. The negotiations on the Rio+20 resolution will commence on 19 March 2012 in New York. The Swiss Federal Council issued its mandate to Switzerland’s negotiating delegation on 9 March 2012.

The main themes of the UN Conference on Sustainability in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 are the contribution to be made by a green economy to sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the improvement of the institutions that deal with sustainable development at international level. In addition, the UN would like to renew and strengthen the political commitment to sustainable development. The negotiations in advance of the summit in June, which takes place for the second time since 1992 in Rio de Janeiro and is thus referred to as Rio+20, will begin on 19 March 2012 in New York. The negotiations are based on the so-called "zero draft", which was published by the UN on 10 January 2012 and is entitled "The future we want".

The Swiss delegation, which is led by Ambassador Franz Perrez, Head of the International Affairs Division of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), will support the balanced consideration of all dimensions of sustainable development at the Rio+20 negotiations. This was decided by the Swiss Federal Council on 9 March 2012 in the context of the Swiss mandate for the negotiations. The Federal Council will decide on the government's representation at the ministerial meeting from 20 to 22 June 2012 in early June, at the latest.

Green economy roadmap

In accordance with the Federal Council mandate, Switzerland will support the reaching of an agreement by the international community at the Rio+20 Conference on a series of concrete objectives and measures for a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the definition of the temporal framework for their implementation. This process shall be defined, if possible, in a green economy roadmap. Switzerland will support the reaching of an agreement on the following concrete objectives and measures:

development of national action plans for a green economy that take the requirements, priorities and political processes of the countries into account and are in tune with poverty eradication strategies;
improvement of resource efficiency and reduction of the environmental impact of economic activities throughout the entire lifecycle;
greater consideration of and reporting about sustainability by large private and public enterprises;
promotion of sustainable public procurement;
improvement of the transparency of markets and trade through the provision of information about the environmental impact of products throughout their entire lifecycle and the possibility of differentiating products according to their production conditions;
gradual abolition of subsidies for fossil fuels;
improved measurement of the environmental effects of macroeconomic production and consumption as a contribution to comprehensive welfare evaluation.
The last chapter of the draft negotiation document contains provisions for an action plan. It is intended that the action plan will include measures in the areas of food security, water, energy, disaster risk reduction, education and equality, and green jobs. For example, as a concrete measure, Switzerland supports the creation of a ten-year programme for the promotion of sustainable consumer and production behaviour.

Improvement and strengthening of international sustainability governance

To achieve sustainable development, corresponding institutions are required at national and international level. The institutions established after previous major conferences - the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) of 1972 and the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) of 1992 - are not effective enough and must be reformed.

Switzerland will support the strengthening of international sustainability governance. Progress should be assessed regularly and dealt with at the highest political level. Switzerland also supports the better integration of civil society into the debate, development and implementation of sustainability policy. Switzerland advocates the establishment of a Global Sustainability Council which would be under the direct authority of the United Nations General Assembly.

The draft text for the negotiations also includes the idea of  sustainable development goals, which are supported by Switzerland. These sustainable development goals should deal with all aspects of sustainable development (environment, economy, society) in a balanced way and be quantifiable, temporally limited and universal. In addition, they should be voluntary and their concrete implementation should be a matter for the individual states on the baiss of their capacities.