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The fourth major conference to address the issue of sustainable development will take place in Rio de Janeiro from 4 to 6 June 2012. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be held under the heading Rio+20, as twenty years ago the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) was also held in Rio. At Rio+20 the international community wants to renew its commitment to sustainable development. The two main themes of the conference are the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development (see box).
Switzerland is also actively involved in this process. The Federal Council has appointed the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN to coordinate the work. Over the past few months, the FOEN has worked with other federal offices and representatives of the cantons, communes and environment, development and youth organisations, political parties, business associations and academics to draw up a Swiss submission to contribute to preparations for the conference. The actual mandate for negotiations will be approved by the Federal Council at the beginning of 2012.
Renewing commitment to Sustainable Development
On 1 November 2011 Switzerland submitted its proposal to the Secretariat of the Rio+20 Conference within the set deadline. The submission, along with those of other countries, civil society, scientific and economic organisations, will now be incorporated by the conference secretariat into an initial draft of the negotiating text. This will be elaborated at regular negotiation sessions in the run up to the conference in Rio.
With regard to the green economy, Switzerland proposes a Green Economy Roadmap which will help the international community towards developing a greener economy. The roadmap is to contain a political part with a shared vision, common goals and clear milestones. At an operative level, the roadmap will suggest instruments necessary for achieving the transition to a green economy, which contributes to all aspects of sustainable development. According to the Swiss submission, this will require national strategies, national data on environmental pollution caused by production and consumption, ecologically transparent markets and trade, education, sustainable agriculture and resource-efficient and clean production techniques. We also need to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels.
Improvement to institutional framework
The current structures for achieving sustainable development policy are inefficient at all levels and in all areas. Switzerland therefore proposes a comprehensive review and reform of structures at the international level. Among these, the UN Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) should be restructured and have a stronger focus on monitoring and supporting national sustainable development policies and encouraging the greater involvement of civil society. Switzerland would like to see a stronger international environment policy. It also stresses the importance of national and local governance.
www.rio20.ch: Swiss website on the UNCSD
To coincide with the submission of the Swiss proposal, the www.rio20.ch website went online on 3 November. This site provides an overview of the themes and objectives of the conference, along with up-to-date news on the main issues. It provides a platform on which the major actors (federal, cantonal and communal authorities; environmental, development and youth organisations, political parties, business associations and academics) can present their activities related to Rio+20.