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National Participation at Rio+20 Conference

The Rio 20 Summit came to an end on Friday 22 June 2012 with the adoption of a declaration titled “The Future We Want”. The Summit was attended by representatives from 193 countries being members states of the United Nations and brought together over fifty thousand delegates from all around the world to reaffirm political commitment towards sustainable development. The Maltese delegation was led by Minister Mario de Marco.

The Summit registered a number of achievements:
  • The world has confirmed that it must move towards sustainable development and the inclusive green economy is now recognized as a central pathway to achieve this. It will enhance our ability to manage resources more sustainably.
  • The summit has accepted moreover that urgent action is required to tackle unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.
  • The outcome document contains a range of commitments, such as the right to clean water and sanitation, the need to address land degradation, and to achieve healthy oceans and tackle marine litter.
  • Agreement was also reached on strengthening the functions of the current UN Environment Programme and on initiating a High Level Forum on sustainable development governance.
  • The international community is now also committed to take a decision on negotiations on an implementing agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, something which is being considered as an important step for the protection of marine biodiversity.
  • Agreement was reached to launch a process on sustainable development goals, primarily driven as an inter-governmental process.
The EU welcomed the Rio 20 declaration, whilst acknowledging that a number of ambitions it had pursued during negotiation were not fully achieved. The Summit fell short of expectations on defining specific timeframes for sustainable development goals, as well as on establishing a High Level Representative for sustainable development and future generations, a proposal supported by Malta and other countries as well as by members of civil society.
In his intervention, Minister de Marco recalled how Malta in 1967, barely three years after achieving independence championed the concept of sustainability, by piloting the adoption of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Seas. In 1988, Malta placed on the agenda the concept of the protection of the global climate for present and future generation leading to the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In 1992 Rio Summit Malta highlighted the lack of an institution which could be entrusted with our collective concern for the planet Earth, which is our common heritage.
Minister de Marco stressed the importance of the “blue” economy and need to protect the oceans and seas, which for island states like Malta, are more than a source of economic livelihood. He added that more value needs to be given to marine protected areas and marine reserves to halt the loss of biodiversity and to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources.
In his speech, Dr de Marco stated his desire that the level of commitment achieved at the Summit could have been higher and warned that “without a strong inter-governmental stewardship for sustainable development, our commitments today risk remaining hollow”.
Referring to statements made by civil society and major groups, Minister de Marco urged the Summit to heed their warnings. “They have too often seen the proverbial writing on the wall before the political class has. The establishment of Sustainable Development Goals, accompanied by targets and indicators is an opportunity for us to provide those deliverables”, the Minister said.
Addressing the issue of poverty, Dr de Marco stated that poverty is a three dimensional problem and needs to be tackled holistically on the environmental, social and economic fronts.
Summing up his reactions to the Summit and to its conclusions, Minister de Marco said that as could be expected from, the summit has produced mixed results. “The outcome of the Summit has been generally positive, although perhaps not as ambitious as I would have desired. It demonstrates a broad consensus amongst the global international community on a wide set of issues. It is however expected that such a complex international negotiation process involving so many parties would tend to produce mixed results. These results should nevertheless drive us to be more ambitious in our approach to pursuing sustainable future for our country, the wider Mediterranean region, and ultimately – at the global level”.