Pretoria — As the United Nations summit on sustainable development entered its last day in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, President Jacob Zuma has called on world leaders to renew political efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The meeting, dubbed "Rio+20 Conference", opened in Rio on Wednesday, and reportedly drew nearly 100 Heads of State and Government and delegations from 193 countries.
It follows the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, during which countries adopted Agenda 21, which obliged nations to pursue economic growth that advanced social equity and ensured environmental protection.
In his opening address, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the participants that it was time for all to think globally and long-term to achieve sustainable development.
Zuma urged those attending the gathering to implement the goals and the outcomes of a similar summit held in Johannesburg 10 years ago.
"We regard Rio+20 to be a critical meeting that should agree on how to fast-track the implementation of the sustainable development agenda," he said.
He did not believe that the commitments of making sustainable development a reality had been fully honoured.
The conference in Rio should build on the "concrete and practical experience of approximately 20 years of the implementation of the sustainable development agenda as outlined in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation".
The themes of the summit included: A Green Economy within the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction; Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development as well as Sustainable Development Goals.
The gathering is a platform for the UN to encourage leaders to come up with clear goals on how nations can promote sustainable development without further harming the already imperilled environment.
Zuma said delegates should also draw lessons from the Earth Summit, adding that "then we collectively agreed that unless we did something, our future as a species was doomed".
"The world adopted the Agenda 21 and the Rio Principles as a blueprint for human development living in harmony with nature. The Earth Summit had alerted us to the unprecedented levels of poverty, underdevelopment and inequality in developing countries," said the President.
But despite these principles and their noble intentions, Zuma said the path to a sustainable world had been confronted with major global challenges.
"In the main, the world has not done justice to the spirit of the Rio Declaration. The commitments of making sustainable development a reality have not been fully honoured," he said.
Africa acknowledged that global peace and security could only be achieved when the continent's children no longer died of undernourishment and disease.
Zuma regarded Rio+20 to be a critical meeting that should agree on how to fast-track the implementation of the sustainable development agenda.
The conference should build on the concrete and practical experience of approximately 20 years of the implementation of the sustainable development agenda as outlined in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
"Rio+20 has the potential to outline a process beyond the maturity of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015," said Zuma, adding that although the debate on the sustainable development goals was gaining momentum, the discussion should not detract or impact in any way on the MDGs.
The sustainable development goals should "build on, be integrated in, and strengthen the MDGs which will inspire the community of nations for action towards sustainable development".
Emphasising the need to move towards climate friendly developments agreed on at last year's climate summit in Durban, the President said green economy policies should be developed in accordance with the principles in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
South Africa has made conscious efforts to move towards a green economy, promising to cut its carbon emissions 34 percent by 2020.