Rio +20; UN Peacekeeping briefing; Lebanon; World Refugee Day; and more

Rio +20: After intensive and protracted informal negotiations on how to accelerate the implementation of sustainable development, 191 countries reached agreement yesterday on the Rio Conference’s outcome document. The text will now be put forward for adoption by Heads of State at the conclusion of Rio+20 on Friday. We are now in sight of a historic agreement,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his address to Rio+20’s opening session this morning. “Let us not waste this opportunity. The world is watching to see if words will translate into action, as we know they must.”

Rio+20’s outcome document, entitled “The Future We Want,” calls for a wide range of actions. These include: beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals; detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development; strengthening UNEP; promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures; taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country; developing a strategy for sustainable development financing; and, adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production.

It also focuses on improving gender equity; recognizing the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development; and stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy; among other points.

Security Council Briefing on Peacekeeping:
The Security Council discussed challenges facing UN’s ‘blue helmets’ as they seek to keep the peace and protect civilians in some of the world’s most troubled places today. Force commanders from UNMISS (South Sudan), UNFIL (Lebanon), and MONUSCO (DRC)took the floor to discuss new challenges they face in the field.

Today’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called on not only to maintain peace and security, but also to facilitate political processes, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights, and assist in restoring the rule of law.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resumption of the National Dialogue between political leaders in Lebanon, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said today.

“The Secretary-General commends President Sleiman’s initiative in re-launching the National Dialogue,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “He encourages political leaders in Lebanon to continue their work in this important process and looks forward to the next meeting planned for 25 June.”

The spokesperson added that Mr. Ban also welcomed the declaration issued following the National Dialogue meeting – between the leaders of the Hizbollah-led March 8 bloc and the opposition March 14 coalition – on 11 June.

According to media reports, that meeting, chaired by Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman, was the first session of the National Dialogue in some 18 months. At the meeting, leaders agreed to commit themselves to dialogue and avoid speeches that fuel sectarian hatred.

World Refugee Day:
The UN today marked World Refugee Day by focusing on the more than 42 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced from their homes, and raising awareness of the dilemmas facing this vulnerable group of people. “Refugees leave because they have no choice. We must choose to help,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to mark the Day, observed annually on 20 June.

Earlier this week the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released its Global Trends 2011 report, which updates the number of people of concern to the agency, including refugees, asylum-seekers, the stateless and internally displaced people. It showed that a record 800,000 people were forced to flee across borders last year, more than at any time since 2000.

The new refugees are part of a total of 4.3 million people who were newly displaced last year, owing to a string of major humanitarian crises that began in late 2010 in Côte d’Ivoire, and followed by others in Libya, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere.

People’s Summit in Rio:
Thousands of citizens and members of civil society organizations from around the world have been gathering in downtown Rio, to voice their concerns on the issues being discussed at the UN Conference. One of the gatherings, running in parallel to the official Rio+20 meeting, is the so-called People’s Summit, which has attracted environmentalists, unions, and indigenous tribes, among other groups, with the aim of making their voices heard.

According to its organizers, the People’s Summit offers citizens a chance to participate in various discussions on issues ranging from environmental rights to food security and energy, as well as workshops where they can learn about green practices.

Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon is expected to meet with a group of representatives from the People’s Summit on Friday, in order to talk about the results of their discussions throughout the week.