African heads of state have stressed the need for a common voice on sustainable development in the run-up to next year's major Rio+20 conference.
Heads of state and government ministers from 53 states were among 130 participants at a roundtable event held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea during the African Union Summit of Heads of States and Governments, which ended on 1 July.
Organised by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank, the roundtable event aimed to provide a platform of high level dialogue for African states to reflect on the continent's preparations for next year's UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
It served as a platform for the sharing of ideas, suggestions and recommendations which can contribute towards Africa's common strategy for Rio+20, according to a UNEP release.
Entitled ‘Mobilising African Leadership for an Effective Regional Preparatory Process for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)’, the event also included participants from UN agencies, regional economic commissions, the European Union and civil society groups.
The two main themes of Rio+20 - the Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development - were the focus of discussions.
“Africa is a region with perhaps the most to gain from a world-wide shift towards a Green Economy”, said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, addressing participants at the roundtable.
“Rio+20 could represent an evolution of sustainable development that recognizes and values Africa's assets in a way that reflects the economic, social and environmental realities of a world markedly different from Rio 1992. The challenge for Rio+20 is to accelerate and to scale all this up in a way that meets Africa's challenges, by unleashing its inordinate potential as a major force in a sustainable 21st century”, added Mr. Steiner.
The round table was moderated by Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission and was officially opened by Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of the Congo, with Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, and Jean Francois Bozize, President of the Central Africa Republic.
President Zuma of South Africa used the roundtable event to announce the official launch of the South African Renewables Initiative (SARI), which aims to catalyze industrial and economic benefits through a scaling-up of renewable energy in the country.
In closing the roundtable, moderator Jean Ping underlined the shared responsibilities of UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union Commission and African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) to coordinate the drafting of the common position on Rio+20. He also invited Kenya and South Africa to share their experiences in geothermal and in renewable energy with other countries.