United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development


Hon. Sherry Ayittey
President of the Republic of Ghana
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
20 – 22 June 2012
Mr. President,
Secretary General of the United Nations,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have great pleasure in expressing my delegation's deep gratitude for
the warm welcome extended to us since our arrival in the beautiful and
historic city of Rio de Janeiro where the agenda of providing cohesive,
government-driven policy guidance on sustainable development and
identifying specific actions to fulfill sustainable development was set in
Excellencies, we applaud the great work carried out by the United
Nations and the government of Brazil to convene this important
conference under its two relevant themes for sustainable development
and poverty eradication for the world.
Twenty years ago, world leaders and civil society groups assembled in
this city for the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development. The Rio Conference resulted in the adoption of Agenda
21, a comprehensive programme of action to be implemented by
governments, development agencies, business and civil society, in
every area where human activity affects the environment.
Rio held great promise, given the high expectations at the time,
including the promise of a calm world enjoying the peace dividends of
the then cold war, the increasing awareness in the international
community of the imperative need to address poverty in the South, the
emergence of globalization as the engine of world growth, and the
promise of economic reforms and democratization in Africa.
However, taking stock twenty years down the line it has become
abundantly clear that the high hopes of Rio have remained largely
unfulfilled and so much remains to be done. The World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD) of 2002 has neither mitigated global
poverty which remains the over arching objective for ensuring
sustainable development.
Mr. President, persistence of challenges confronting sustainable
development is one of the reasons why we have come back to Rio to
renew commitments to sustainable development. Ghana expects that
while Rio would reinforce political commitments to sustainable
development for the wellbeing of mankind as well as for the integrity of
our planet the most critical action begins after this momentous
conference at global, national and at local levels.
On the theme on the green economy for sustainable development and
poverty eradication Ghana’s stand is clear. First, we all must have a
greater and common understanding of the concept and contextualize it
at national and operational level. The United Nations System must
further undertake the necessary studies to reveal the real identity of
the green economy and foster knowledge-sharing for a commonly
acceptable approach to its adoption.
Secondly, Ghana has undertaken a scoping study on the concept of the
Green Economy and prioritized sectors to enable us assess
opportunities and risk levels and thereby put in place the appropriate
returns on domestic investments for the requisite infrastructure to
reach a green economy.
Thirdly, the definition, scope and prioritization of green sectors must
inextricably be linked to the means of implementation. In this way
developing countries would be guaranteed the diffusion and transfer of
technology to embrace this new concept, the building of capacity and
assurance of the wherewithal to move forward with our national
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we note with great concern that
Africa’s progress towards sustainable development is being severely
compromised by new and emerging challenges including the adverse
impact of climate change, increasing water scarcity, biodiversity and
ecosystem loss, desertification, hazardous and electronic waste, low
resilience to natural disasters, energy crisis, food crisis, rapid and
unplanned urbanization resulting from rural-urban migration, piracy,
human trafficking, migration and the global financial and economic
crises. These challenges have led to the spread of new diseases,
worsening poverty, and unemployment, especially of the youth in the
Mr. President, Rio + 20 provides the necessary platform for the
discussion of new ideas on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI)
capacity building partnerships for sustainable development. The
conference should explore specific and concrete plans of STI capacity
building and how well advanced countries endowed with STI can help
developing countries build STI capacity through partnerships
We have urgent need to strengthen the institutional framework for
sustainable development to respond coherently and effectively to
current and future challenges of the foregoing and future ones by
efficiently bridging gaps in the implementation of the sustainable
development agenda.
While we in Africa acknowledge that sustainable development requires
balanced integration of its three pillars - economic, social and
environmental - by institutions and strategies that promote holistic and
integrated approaches we also recognize that the region has responded
to this requirement with varying degrees of success. However, a
common challenge that persists is balancing the three pillars, especially
in planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of
plans and programmes.
Institutional reforms should therefore embrace elements to enhance
dialogue and participation of all stakeholders within the framework of
the UN system; review new and emerging issues as well as monitor
sustainable development goals on a global scale; enhance science -
policy interface and progress tracking; strengthen inter agency
coordination; ensure long term thinking in policy to ensure that the
needs of the future generations are being catered for; establish
relationships with other UN entities, such as the specialized agencies,
subsidiary bodies working on sustainable development issues, as well as
with other relevant intergovernmental institutions in order to integrate
the three dimensions of sustainable development
Excellencies, Ghana has graduated from a low to a middle-income
economy, leading to overall increase in GDP per capita. However the
tragedy of averages is masking existing inequalities between various
parts of our country especially the northern and southern parts. It is
worrisome for us to note that some structural fundamentals of the
economy are still skewed, particularly when viewed from the
perspective of job creation and inclusive growth. Ghana’s performance
in social sustainability is also mixed. For example, while primary school
enrollment rate has increased, the disaggregated figure by gender
shows that girls are still less likely to go to school compared to boys.
Mr. President, energy, agricultural and food security, land degradation
and drought, water, forest, climate change and sustainable consumption
and production are some of the priority areas for Ghana. Energy
availability, security, accessibility, and affordability are fundamental
requirements for any meaningful economic and social development and
central to addressing several global development challenges. Access to
modern forms of energy is essential to the provision of clean water,
sanitation and health, and enables the provision of vital services needed
for development in a form of lighting, heating, cooking, mechanical
power, transport and communication services.
Excellencies, the energy potential in Africa and Ghana is enormous.
Developing the large hydro resources, natural gas, geo-thermal, wind,
solar and bio gas potential would leap frog our development. In spite of
this potential we continue to experience acute shortages in energy
supply. Africa’s largest infrastructural deficit is in power generation and
this deficiency is having an adverse impact on its ability to keep up in a
globalized economy and to meet the aspirations of a better life. It is
estimated by NEPAD that in order to achieve energy accessibility for
over 60% of Africans by 2040, an annual investment of $43.5b would be
required. Developing regional infrastructure and expanding regional
energy integration are essential steps toward increasing access to
energy in Africa.
It is in this light that we fully endorse the Secretary-general’s Initiative
on Sustainable Energy for All. We firmly believe that it will mobilize the
needed resources from all sources to support our efforts.
Mr. President, land degradation is a global phenomenon but
particularly acute in Africa and Ghana. The implementation of
sustainable land management practices and the restoration of degraded
lands can help address several global challenges such as poverty, food
insecurity, biodiversity loss, drought and water scarcity, climate change
adaptation and mitigation and deforestation. To effectively address
land degradation, we call for a significant scale up of resources from the
operating mechanism to the Convention on Desertification, Land
Degradation, and Drought to enable it monitor global land degradation
and restore degraded lands. To better understand and access the extent
of land degradation it is necessary to set up an inter-governmental
panel on science as it is the case of biodiversity and climate change.
Mr. President, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could assist in
focusing the broad international sustainable development agenda at
the practical level. They can serve as a tool for countries to measure
their progress as well as further cooperation between countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we must give some thought to the relationship
between SDGs and the existing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
in the post 2015 development agenda. Many developing countries risk
non attainment of the MDGs by 2015. Therefore the Millennium
Declaration will continue to be relevant beyond 2015. The MDGs have
been successful in communicating a complex development problem to a
wider audience and focusing energies and resources. At the same time
sustainable development requires additional efforts in all areas,
including those not adequately reflected in original MDGs. We
therefore suggest that sustainable consumption and production related
goals and targets be considered in any proposed set of SDGs. In dealing
with the MDGs and the SDGs we must tread cautiously not throw away
the baby with the bath water.
Excellencies, we have to challenge ourselves to develop sustainable
development goals that have a wide political and policy appeal and will
help focus attention, particularly in the post Rio+20 phase, on
monitoring the implementation of Rio+20 outcomes. At the same time
these goals need to be sufficiently rigorous to provide a valuable basis
for decision making, especially at the national level, and be of use to the
national policy community.
Mr. President, sustainable development cannot be realized without
strengthened, accessible, responsive, sufficiently resourced and truly
representative institutions at all levels. The challenge is even greater
with increased fragmentation of limited resources, duplication of
mandates and scattered secretariats of related institutions. It is
therefore important to streamline the operations of existing institutions
in order to reduce transaction costs and channel the limited financial
resources to the implementation of agreed outcomes. We support
UNEP as the principal actor in the field of environment to be
strengthened and up graded into a specialized institution. We also
support strengthening the Commission for Sustainable Development as
well as ECOSOC to handle sustainable development.
Mr. President, significant policy and institutional efforts are already
underway to integrate the economic, social, and environment pillars of
sustainable development. In fact Ghana is regarded as a model in the
West African region for pioneering the greening of its national
development plans. Attempts have also been made to mainstream
climate change into sectoral and district plans. However there is a need
to intensify efforts to ensure that policies and development frameworks
deliver tangible sustainable development solutions on the ground.
Thank you