Rio negotiations; Human Rights Council opening; Sustainabile Cities intiative launched; and more

Rio +20 Negotiations: Expectations to produce a strong outcome document in Rio are still high, said Rio+20’s Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, adding that he remains optimistic that delegations will reach an agreement before tonight’s deadline.  On Friday, the responsibility of the negotiations was handed over to the Brazilian Government, which has since presented a shorter consolidated text for countries to work on until tomorrow, 18 June. It will then be put forward for adoption by Member States when they meet from 20 to 22 June.

Delegations working on the text are now concentrating in four key areas: building an institutional framework for sustainable development, agreeing on the means of implementation, oceans and the establishment of sustainable development goals.

“Delegates are not looking at linguistic refinement of paragraphs anymore, they are looking at the bigger picture” said Nikhil Seth, Head of the Rio +20 Secretariat.

Human Rights Council/Syria
: In her statement to the opening of the 20th session of the Human Rights Council today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights asked the international community to overcome its differences in order to put an end to the ongoing violence and human rights violations taking place in Syria. Over the weekend the UN Supervision Mission in Syria was suspended because of the increase in attacks against UN observers on the ground.

“All violations of the human rights of the Syrian people at the hands of all parties to the conflict must end. The Government of Syria should immediately cease the use of heavy armaments and shelling of populated areas, as such actions amount to crimes against humanity and possible war crimes. She also noted that efforts must be made to ensure accountability for all perpetrators, including those who have attacked UN observers on the ground.

SG at G20:
The Secretary-General left this morning for the G20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico. In the afternoon, he was due to participate in the first plenary session on “The Global Economy and Framework for Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth”, and he is also expected to hold bilateral meetings with a number of leaders. On Tuesday, he will attend the second plenary session, “Strengthening the International Financial Architecture and the Financial System and Promoting Financial Inclusion”. After his time in Mexico, the Secretary-General will leave for Rio de Janeiro.

Record number of refugees in 2011:
  A report released on Monday by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees shows 2011 to have been a record year for forced displacement across borders, with more people becoming refugees than at any time since 2000.In all, 4.3 million people were newly displaced, with a full 800,000 of these fleeing their countries and becoming refugees. Viewed on a 10-year basis, the report shows several worrying trends: One is that forced displacement is affecting larger numbers of people globally, with the annual level exceeding 42 million people for each of the last five years.

Sustainable Cities Initiative
: Today the UN and its partners revealed a new initiative to achieve sustainable urban development. The initiative will be open to cities with populations of 500,000 or more and will focus on promoting the efficient use of resources such as water and energy as well as reducing pollution levels and infrastructure costs.  There has been an increasing international focus on sustainable urban development and it will be one of the main topics of discussion at Rio +20.

The Global Initiative for Resource-Efficient Cities was launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners in Rio, just days ahead of the start of the high-level meetings.