I very much welcome the fact that we are taking time today:
- to assess our common activities related to Rio+20,
- to inform us mutually about on-going follow-up work, and
- to agree on perspectives for future common work.
Sustainable development is a long-term objective and needs continuous action, and in particular civil society involvement all over the world. Rio+20 was an important mobilising factor for civil society around the world, we need to keep up the momentum and to hold our governments accountable for what they have agreed to in Rio de Janeiro last June.
It has been one of the very positive experiences during my Presidency at the EESC to see how much we Europeans and you Brazilians agreed on key elements that were on the table of the negotiators at the Rio+20 Conference.
As you remember we had agreed in the first half of 2011 to discuss Rio+20 topics at our common meetings and already in November 2011 we realized that our views were so similar on the key questions that we decided to come up with a common report for the Rio+20 conference in June 2012.
We focussed our work on the social dimension of sustainable development and on the importance of civil society involvement. There were other topics as well – take for instance sustainable consumption and production. We decided to debate these questions also during the EU-Brazil civil society conference "What's at stake at Rio+20? Recommendations from Brazil and EU Civil society" that we organised jointly on 19 June 2012.
We have met each other also afterwards at Rio Centro, some of us listening together to interventions at the Sustainable Development Dialogues or at the Plenary Session, some of us attending side events together, some of you attending our side-event on models of civil society participation in sustainable development that we organised on 21 June in the EU Pavilion.
Before we decide on common perspectives for the future, I would like to share with you our views on the Rio+20 outcome and on our follow-up work in Europe.
The final document "The future we want" is less ambitious that we would have liked. In particular, the urgency of the crisis situation on our planet has not been sufficiently taken into account. However, the final document contains several elements which we want to be used as a basis inside the EU. Here I refer to the global agreement on a "green economy" as an important tool for sustainable development, including the social dimension. Also, the agreement on a process that is intended to lead to global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in close coordination with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was an important one.
So, the agreed text could have been stronger but at the same time we have seen that there was a real mobilisation of civil society that goes much further than the negotiations at political level. This mobilisation has to be exploited in the aftermath of Rio in order to further develop and shape the processes which began at Rio. Rio was after all not only a meeting of political leaders but also a meeting place for the many willing and creative people who are tirelessly arguing for a paradigm shift in our economies and launching and presenting numerous specific initiatives for change.
I think we are much part of this and we should continue being part of it!
At the EESC we strive for Rio+20 follow-up action by the EU institutions – Commission, Council and Parliament – and by the EU member states, always stressing the need to further involve civil society.
The European Commission has just finished a public consultation on the Rio+20 follow-up that we complemented with a joint hearing shortly before Christmas, in order to give further input to the Commission's upcoming Communication.
In our contacts with representatives of European civil society organisations and networks we observe that the issues of inclusive green economy and sustainable development goals are two major priorities for civil society.
We are currently working on an own-initiative opinion on green economy advancing sustainable development in Europe and on an exploratory opinion requested by the European Commission on key issues related to Sustainable Development Goals.
On this latter aspect you know that we had said already before the Rio+20 conference that the process leading to Sustainable Development Goals has to be integrated in the whole discussion about the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals till 2015 and about the post-2015 development agenda. That is why we at the EESC try to bring together the actors from these two processes.
We are also closely following the recent developments in the UN context. Without wanting to go too much into detail, there is one aspect where I am sure we all agree: we should claim again and again to open up these international processes to civil society participation. There will be no realisation of any new set of goals without large discussion and ownership by stakeholders!
Dear colleagues, as I said before, I was amazed by the level of common understanding we had on sustainable development issues during these last two years and I would like to suggest that we continue our common efforts to push for more sustainable development. My concrete proposal to you is that we work together on the SDGs and that we present the results at our next Round Table.