1st IGES Evening Cafe:
What happened and what comes next in the next decade after Rio+20?

photoThe first Evening Café, a newly introduced informal gathering of like-minded environmental practitioners in Bangkok, was held on 31 August 2012 organized by IGES. About 27 participants joined the event. Rio+20 was selected as the discussion topic. Below is a summary of the main discussion points.
Date
31 August 2012
Venue
Tetto Lounge, 12th floor, Anantara Baan Ratchaprasong serviced suites, Ratchadamri Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Organiser
IGES Regional Centre

photo<<Summary>>
Dr. Young Woo Park, Regional Director of UNEP, presented Rio+20 outcomes and implementation, including the key outcomes, its positivity and negativity, and the next steps for implementation and implications for Asia-Pacific. His presentation was followed by comments from three panelists.

Mr. Christer Holtsberg, Senior Advisor of AIT-UNEP-RRCAP, shared his view that Rio+20 could be considered as a modest achievement as the diverse parties actually agreed on a common text considering the multitude of opinions among the large number of countries and all the other civil society and other organizations making their voices heard. There was a renewed commitment to strengthen the environmental pillar within the sustainable development (SD) concept. UNEP’s increased role was acknowledged. Green economy was officially noted in the document, but how far it will take us towards a new economic world order was not made clear. From the global environmental point of view, for example, Rio+20 did not indicate any steps towards how to maintain consistency among numerous multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) and associated convention secretariats.

photo Mr. Winston Bowman, Regional Environment Director of USAID, noted with statistics that Rio+20 was considered as the most participatory conference ever held. Considerably more South-to-South discussions were held compared to previous similar conferences. It was noteworthy that even though there was no binding agreement, a large number of voluntary commitments came out of the conference. On the other hand, discussion on the green economy was somewhat hampered and it needs clear direction. Regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one significant aspect is that the process involves developing countries’ participation which is different from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), although it would need a long process to agree on.

photo Dr. Peter King, Senior Policy Advisor of IGES Regional Centre shared his analysis that the necessary elements were all in the document to properly manage the environment, but there are two major weaknesses ? (i) lack of data , therefore a lack of ability to know whether we are making progress or whether what we are doing really makes a difference; and massive mismanagement and lack of commitment to implementation, and (ii) compliance and enforcement of the relevant laws and regulations ? in short a lack of accountability. He also sees the need to collectively get behind the effort to research and formulate the SDGs, and to create a similar regional institution to the European Environment Agency to keep track of progress.

The continued discussion received various comments. Some of the main comments were:

  • - Access to information is important and has already made progress in Asia-Pacific. This has large impacts on environmental governance.
  • - Rio+20 brought about clearly the national-level implementation, but at the local level, the agenda has not been moved forward. Lack of financial resources and failed communication with the general public are challenges.
  • - There is a need to improve governance in the governments at all levels. Environmental management is a cross-sectoral issue and there still is no good governance in the national and international levels. A real need is integrating the regional environmental data. The involvement of civil society and NGOs is a key.
  • - There are few environmental agreements effectively implemented in the region, which is surprising compared with those in Europe.
  • - Information and data help moves resources, so it should be in place so that we know the results of actions that we are taking. There is inadequate access available for the data and the ASEAN countries should make it public as much information already exists.
  • - We asked ‘why Rio+20 was a failure?’ The answer must be that we, as environmental leaders, should make its follow up a success because we know better, even though we often cannot differentiate between social responsibility and personal behavior.

photoDr. Park concluded with an inspiring thought: Even though we have a common goal but there is still a huge gap because we do not listen - we must listen to the countries’ needs. There has been a lot of partnership and collaboration or “synergy” rather than working alone. We must become larger rather than duplicated. And we have to do more with less. We have to communicate to the unconverted ?to bring change in mindsets although this may take some time.

Contact
  IGES Regional Centre
604 SG Tower 6F, 161/1 Soi Mahadlek Luang 3. Rajdamri Road,
Patumwan, Bangkok, 10330, Thailand
E-mail: regionalcentre@iges.or.jp

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