Mano River Union consultative meeting on the Rio+20 conference and way forward - Ms. Mia Seppo, UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director

15 Oct 2012

Statement by Ms. Mia Seppo, UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director

I wish to extend a warm welcome to all of you to this important consultative meeting on Reflection of Rio+20 Conference and the way forward. This regional meeting, hosted by UNDP Sierra Leone in collaboration with the MRU, EPA SL, and Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, aims to reflect on the Rio+20 conference outcome and to discuss their implications on different sectors in the Mano River Union countries.

The main objective of this meeting is examine the outcomes of the Rio+20 conference on the various different sectors, particularly environment, agriculture, forestry and energy, and charge a way forward. Another objective is promote coordination and information sharing at national and regional level.

The Rio+20 conference was initiated by the United Nations in pursuance of the General Assembly Resolution 64/236 to organize a conference on sustainable development. More than 150 heads of state and ministries kicked off the Rio+20 Conference on 20 June 2012. The total number of participants reached more than 45,000. In parallel with the pre-negotiations and the conference, an estimated 500 on-site side events as well as 3000 unofficial events were held. By and large, thanks to innovative conference events and social media, the Rio+20 was the world’s most participatory conference in history.

The objective of the Rio+20 conference was to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, to assess progress to date and remaining gaps on the implementation of the outcomes of previous commitments to sustainable development and to address new and emerging challenges. The conference focused on two broad themes; (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty reduction and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development. In addition, seven critical issues were recognized during the preparatory work for the conference that were given ‘priority attention’: Jobs, Energy, Cities, Food, Water, Oceans, and Disasters.

It’s increasingly clear that the well-being of our natural environment is fundamental to the wealth and health of our local, regional and global societies. Yet greenhouse gas emissions are rising, biodiversity is disappearing at an unprecedented rate, and many of our ecosystems are severely degraded – whilst unsustainable consumption and production continues to drive demands well beyond what our one planet can sustain. Clearly, our thirst for growth at all costs is unsustainable and is having a profound and devastating impact upon our present and future generation’s well-being. We need a rapid and fundamental change and we need to better integrate environmental concerns into development activities.

There is now a urgent need for follow-up on the sense of urgency from Rio, to ensure the commitments articulated in Rio are turned into action at local, national and international levels with an increased focus on empowering local communities to build resilience, tackle gender inequality and tackle poverty. A sustainable future for all requires bold actions and a new momentum by all stakeholders to tackle the twin challenges of delivering development and ensuring environmental sustainability. How can Rio+20 help us get there?

First and foremost, through appropriate follow-up and implementation of Rio+20 outcomes including the outcome document, voluntary commitments and side-agreements. The details of SDGs and clear functions and mandate of a high‐level forum for sustainable development needs to be discussed and identified.

Second, continuing and accelerating the world’s transition to green, low-carbon, and resilient economies. This can be done by accumulating good practices from on-going action in countries. It is also clear that  voluntary actions by the various stakeholders are promising and effective.

Third, investing in resilience. Building resilience reducing risk and the underlying factors that contribute to vulnerability – in particular poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation, preparing for and mitigating the potential effects of shocks such as natural disasters and financial crisis, and supporting a timely recovery that builds back better. Measures to invest in building resilience has to be a key consideration for national planning.

UNDP Sierra Leone initiated a study and development of a road map on the integration of climate change and disaster risk management concerns into the next national development plan and the development of an Energy profile in close collaboration of the MoEWR. These measures could decrease the fragmented and uncoordinated manner of addressing and mainstreaming of climate change, disaster management and environment issues into the development agenda in the past.

Meeting the MDGs and wider human development objectives, implementing a successful response to climate change and reducing losses to man-induced and weather related disasters are aims that can only be accomplished if they are undertaken in an integrated manner.

The challenges faced by Sierra Leone are shared with all MRU countries. All suffer from the adverse effects of external and internal pressures of environmental degradation, climate change and disasters that are causing major obstacles to efforts to promote economic independence and promotion of human security; and these factors continue to sink the government’s effort to move the country to an agenda for sustainable development and economic independence. 

Floods, Droughts, Soil Erosion, deforestation and epidemics are prominent and also interrelated environmental problems in Mano River Union member states. The current trend of environmental degradation seriously affected by socio-political problems and also impacts on the Mano River Union economies and on the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people.

Naturally, there is a very strong link between environmental mainstreaming/green economy and sustainable development. Mainstreaming environment, climate change and disaster management which is the central focus of Green economy is about promoting positive economic growth while creating a mechanism to build the resilience of the country and protect development gains.

This conference is an opportunity to discuss coherence in policy, coordinated action and to share best practices in natural resource governance for sustainable development. Member states can benefit substantially from sharing, coordination and cooperation among members and identify roadmap to sustainable development. 

I thank you all for listening and I’m looking forward to a day of open exchanges and forward looking ideas for a sustainable future for all.