La Sostenibilidad del Desarrollo a 20 Años de la Cumbre para la Tierra Sustainable Development 20 Years on from the Earth Summit

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This report describes the progress achieved in relation to sustainable development since 1992 and the gaps still remaining. It draws attention to a pressing environmental, social, economic and institutional situation. Above all, however, it highlights the vast potential for advancing economic management towards a more comprehensive model in keeping with the notion of inclusive and sustainable development. The guidelines proposed aim to seize the opportunity Rio+20 offers to redefine the vision of future development to which the countries aspire.


The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development of 1992, also referred to as the EarthSummit or the Rio Summit, marked a turning point in awareness of environmental issues and laid the foundations for the global advance towards sustainable development. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean —represented by their Governments, civil society and the private sector— eagerly adopted the agreements reached at the Conference and implemented various measures in pursuit of the various goals. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in 2012 (labelled Rio+20 in reference to the time elapsed since the Earth Summit) will seek to secure a reaffirmation by countries of their political commitment to sustainable development, following an assessment of progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and consideration of the new and emerging challenges.


As a contribution to this assessment, this report, written from the Latin American and Caribbean perspective, describes the progress made and the gaps that remain in implementing global commitments on sustainable development since 1992. Bearing in mind these gaps and the challenges that continue to arise, it proposes guidelines for advancing sustainable development. The preparation of the report was a multidisciplinary effort involving various organizations of the United Nations system that operate in Latin America and the Caribbean1 under the umbrella of the Regional Coordination Mechanism. This Mechanism was established pursuant to Economic and Social Council resolution 1998/46, “Further measures for the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields”, with a view to enhancing coherence between the programmes, funds and specialized agencies of the United Nations Secretariat and reports at the global level through the Economic and Social Council.




The frame of reference for this assessment is the set of principles defined in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992). Other reference documents, which have guided implementation of the principles of the Declaration, include Agenda 21 (1992), the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (2002), the Rio de Janeiro Platform of Action on the Road to Johannesburg (2001); the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (1994) and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (2005); the Climate Change and Biological Diversity Convention signed in 1992, together with the multilateral environmental agreements and the international cooperation commitments reflected in Goal 8 of the Millennium Development Goals (2000).  The Rio Declaration contains 27 principles, which are reproduced in full in box 2 and, for the purposes of this assessment, can be grouped under broad headings. The first group refers to the central nature of the human being in sustainable development, the link between the three pillars of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental), the fight against poverty and intergenerational equity. These topics are addressed in chapter I, which reviews development in the region in the past 20 years and identifies relations between the trends in each of the three pillars. The second group refers to strengthening of the environmental pillar, considered in chapter II. The third refers to participation by civil society and specific groups in the transition towards sustainable development, a subject that is discussed in chapter III. Principle 6, considered in chapter IV, refers to the special situation of the least developed countries and small island developing States (SIDS). Lastly, the fifth group of principles concerns the means of implementation of sustainable development, which involve both international cooperation and trade, and also local scientific and technological capacities. This last group is addressed in chapter V. Guidelines for advancing towards sustainable development in the region, based on the assessment presented in the preceding chapters, are set forth in chapter VI.