News

UNECE Deputy Executive Secretary Shares Insights on Rio Experience

September 2011: The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) interviewed Andrey Vasilyev, Deputy Executive Secretary for the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), regarding his experience with the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).Asked about Rio 1992, Vasilyev noted that sustainable development was not an entirely accepted concept then, which is why the Conference was not called a “conference on sustainable development." He also underscored that practical implementation of the Rio outputs proved to be challenging.

With respect to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20), he noted that one of the challenges is still to understand what sustainable development is, citing the definition of difficult issues such as the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities. He also stressed that one of the challenges has been that sustainable development is approached from the environmental side, when, in his view, it is an economic concept that requires integration into economic policies.

Asked about the level of political will in Rio in 1992, he underscored the "romanticism involved" and great expectations as well as conceptual misunderstandings and concrete challenges, such as the expectations that the model for phasing out ozone depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons could be applied to carbon dioxide emissions.

On civil society, he highlighted that Rio 1992 provided an opportunity for civil society to engage beyond advocacy. Asked about the outcome document of Rio+20, he expressed the view that it would be good enough if it reconfirms Agenda 21 and noted that what matters is renewed political commitment with practical solutions. [NGLS News]