The road to Rio+20: AU-conference on common African position and cooperation with the EU
On Tuesday 27 March, African Ambassadors met in Brussels to discuss their common position for the upcoming Rio+20 Conference. The African Union organised the meeting to promote African positions, exchange views and define common interests with representatives of EU, UN and other stakeholders. "As we move to Rio+20, the level of cooperation between AU and EU on a whole lot of issues augurs very well", Ambassador Ajay Kumar Bramdeo from the Permanent Representation of the AU in Brussels said, "For the outcomes it is also a sign of a very strong relationship that we have in the Africa-EU Partnership, charting our way forward towards our common destiny".
Representing common positions at Rio+20 is an important step in the implementation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, which calls for a joint approach in addressing global concerns such as climate change, energy security and sustainability. The participants of the workshop stressed repeatedly, that the EU's and the African position are similar and that both partners will join their efforts to reach concrete results at Rio+20. "The AU's framework and strategy decisions go along very well with what the EU is trying to implement", Karl Falkenberg, Director General of the Commission's DG Environment said, "We hope that the Durban experience, where the EU and Africa worked together and reached something could be repeated in Rio". An important objective which AU and EU jointly advocate is the upgrading of the UNEP to a specialized UN Agency with its Headquarter in Nairobi, Kenya. This new institutional framework should address the issues of financing, technology transfer and capacity-building for sustainable development.
Nevertheless, the conference also recalled that other participants in Rio+20 will have different views regarding the implementation and definition of a green economy and global environmental governance, which could significantly reduce the chances of achieving positive results. Chris Vanden Bilcke, Head of the UNEP Liaison office to the EU highlighted the importance of the AU in this context: "The specificity of the AU's position for Rio+20 and the strong political message it contains will highly contribute to having a success in Rio. Speaking as AU in New York settings is thus a key for progress."
Twenty years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio in 1992 and 10 years after the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002, Africa, like the other regions of the world, is preparing itself to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20 to 22 June 2012. The stated objective of the Rio+20 Conference is “to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, to assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and to address new and emerging challenges”.