Report on the WFEO participation at RIO+20

Report on the WFEO participation at RIO+20

1.  Introduction

Rio+20 recognized the important role of civil society in establishing policies for Sustainable Development. There was a common acknowledgment among Heads of State who attended Rio+20 in recognizing the essential role of civil society in shaping policies for sustainable development.

In this respect, the Engineering Community – a member of a civil society Major Group – seized this opportunity to contribute with its expertise and know-how to comply with policy makers’ needs in establishing sustainable development policies.

Sensing the important role of engineering practice to solve issues that would be discussed at the Rio+20 Conference, WFEO decided to have an active participation in such event. Reality showed that this was a right decision that put the WFEO delegation in an appropriate and suitable spot during the deliberations that occurred in Rio de Janeiro.

Being one of the Organizing Partners appointed by the UN for the Rio+20 Conference, the Chair of the Committee on WFEO-UN Relations (CWUR) was responsible for organizing and implementing the WFEO activities at Rio+20.

2.  WFEO Participation

  • WFEO delegation: 43 members of WFEO Organizations registered to attend the meeting (Annex1). The delegation was composed by members from Brazil, Canada, India, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Palestine, Peru, Spain, Tunisia and USA. The presence of the WFEO President, Engr. Adel Al Kharafi, was emblematic for showing the importance WFEO gives to UN High-Level meetings like Rio+20.
  • Forum on Science Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development (11-15th June, PUC Rio de Janeiro): This Forum was organized by ICSU with the cooperation of WFEO. WFEO contributed to setting up this event, managed a stand representing the Federation and delivered an opening speech (Annex2). Members of the WFEO delegation contributed with presentations at different sessions (Dr Reginald Vachon, USA, on “Foundations of Human Wellbeing: Social, Environmental and Economic”; Prof. Koichi Yamada, Japan, on “Urban Environment and Wellbeing”).
  • Seminar on Sustainable Communities(16th June, Clube de Engenharia, Rio de Janeiro): This Seminar was organized by the WFEO Committees on WFEO-UN Relations (CWUR) and Engineering and Environment (CEE) with the cooperation of the World Bank and UNESCO. Siemens, KSE, FEBRAE, Engineers Canada and APEGA were sponsoring organizations that contributed financially. Supporting Organizations were ASCE, ASME, ICSU and Engineering for Change (the Seminar Program is shown in Annex 3). It was attended by about 70 participants from the following countries Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, France, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, UK and USA.Members of the WFEO delegation contributed with presentations (Darrel Danyluk, Canada, presented a paper on “Urban Infrastructure Climate Risk: Strategies and Tools”).The Seminar delivered a Declaration on Sustainable Communities stating the views of the Engineering professionals on achieving sustainability in cities and rural communities (Annex 4).This Declaration was communicated to all WFEO Member Organizations with the request to make it known to their authorities attending the Rio+20 Summit. Copies of the Declaration were specially handed over to the UNESCO DDG, Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, and The World Bank Lead Urban Advisor, Mr. Dan Hoornweg.WFEO closing remarks of the Seminar are in Annex 5.
  • Conference Rio+20: WFEO was very active in establishing the positions of the Major Group of Scientific and Technological Communities on different issues of the Conference. These positions were jointly established with ICSU based on consensus. In this respect, engineers were in equal footing with scientists in setting up the Group’s positions. The statement of the Major Group at the opening session of the Conference was delivered by Nobel Prize Prof Yuan-Tseh Lee, ICSU President. Prof Lee spoke on behalf of WFEO and ICSU upon agreement with WFEO President Adel Al Kharafi. The text was approved by both organizations (Annex 6).WFEO delivered two statements, also agreed with ICSU, at the Rio+20 Interactive Dialogue sessions held among the Conference Organizing Authorities and the Major Groups. These statements are shown in Annexes 7 and 8. The Interactive Dialogues Session of 14 June was chaired by the WFEO Organizing Partner, Engr. Jorge Spitalnik, upon request from the other Major Groups.Registered Members of the WFEO delegation attended all sessions of the Summit Conference of Heads of State.
  • HL Round-Table: High Level Round-Table meetings between Government representatives and invited Major Groups were held in parallel sessions to discuss ways for implementing the Rio+20 decisions. At the request of President Adel Al Kharafi, the Chair of the WFEO-UN Relation Committee, Engr. Jorge Spitalnik, presented views and proposals of the Engineering Community at the High Level Round-Table on 21st June (Annex 9).
  • Side events: Many of the WFEO delegates attended several side events related to engineering issues and participated actively in the discussions as well as in setting up conclusions and recommendations. Deborah Shields delivered a paper on “Social License in Mining” at the Workshop on Rare Earths held at the Center for Mining Research, Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

3.  Contacts with Authorities

  • UN Secretary General: On 21st June, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon addressed all Major Groups with a message stressing the importance of the role of Civil Society in the global process of establishing sustainable development programs. On this occasion, President Al Kharafi conferred the WFEO Gold Medal to the Secretary General, a recognition that was acknowledged with thanks by the UN Secretariat.
  • UNESCO: WFEO met with the UNESCO DDG Gretchen Kalonji to reiterate the wish to strengthen WFEO good relations with UNESCO and to thank her for the UNESCO efforts towards recognizing the important role of the Engineering profession. Ms Kalonji confirmed her willingness to implement within UNESCO actions to comply with the WFEO objectives.
  • WORLD BANK: Members of the World Bank who attended the Seminar on Sustainable Communities expressed their satisfaction for the high standards demonstrated by the Engineering Community towards achieving sustainable development goals in urban and rural communities. They explicitly stated positive receptivity for future WFEO contacts to implement engineering projects related to sustainable development.
  • FEBRAE: The WFEO President Adel Al Kharafi met the President of FEBRAE, Jose Tadeu da Silva, and thanked him for the support FEBRAE provided WFEO in helping the Committee on WFEO-UN Relations to fulfill its tasks with success. He stressed his expectations that this support will continue and asked for increased support in the future. FEBRAE assured his commitment to comply with this request. The WFEO President handed over to the President Jose Tadeu da Silva the Gold Medal granted to FEBRAE in recognition of FEBRAE cooperation in supporting the organization of the WFEO activities at Rio+20 and the realization of the Seminar on Sustainable Communities.
  • Slovenian Chamber of Engineers: President Adel met with Mr. Remec, the President of the Slovenian Chamber of Engineers, to get updated information on the WFEO event that will take place in September in Slovenia. Mr. Remec described the progress of the event organization. Considering that the event will be opened by the Slovenian President, it might be possible to have the UNESCO Director General IRINA BOKOVA attending the inaugural session. Other important officers from the EU and OECD have confirmed their participation.

4.  Conclusions

WFEO was successfully represented at the Rio+20 Summit and effectively recognized by the organizations of the United Nations family. WFEO succeeded to be invited to take part of discussions at the highest level of the Conference.
We can say that WFEO has gained good visibility and high reputation within the United Nations. It should be noted that is the fruit of more than five years of work done at the Commission on Sustainable Development of ECOSOC/UNDESA by Eng Jorge Spitalnik the Chair of the Committee of WFEO-UN Relations.

Houda AIT-MIK, WFEO Project Manager
June 29th 2012

ANNEX 1: Rio+20 – WFEO Registered Participants

ANNEX 2: Rio+20 – Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development

ANNEX 3: The Program

ANNEX 4: The Declaration

ANNEX 5: Seminar on Sustainable Communities, WFEO Closing Remarks

ANNEX 6: Scientific and Technological Community Major Group

ANNEX 7: Statement by the STC Major Group, Interactive Dialogue with Major Groups

ANNEX 8: Statement by the STC Major Group, Interactive Dialogue with Civil Society

ANNEX 9: High Level Roundtable Rio+20

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