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GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The 39th Special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) takes place here on Friday.

The gathering is the last ministerial platform for environment and sustainable development ministers to frame a regional strategic approach for the upcoming Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

The conference, set for the Rio de Janeiro June 20-22, hopes to “secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges”.

It will also focus on two themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

Sustainable development has been the overarching goal of the international community since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

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It emphasizes a holistic, equitable and far-sighted approach to decision-making at all levels and “rests on integration and a balanced consideration of social, economic and environmental goals and objectives in both public and private decision-making.”

It also recognizes the special development challenges and concerns of small vulnerable developing states such as those in the Caribbean.

The Rio conference has the potential to be transforming for its member states, but that depends largely on the political commitment of both developed and developing countries.

Such commitment may waver in the face of global economic and geopolitical realities:

Developed, rapidly developing and developing nations are now grappling with huge fiscal challenges and massive debt levels.

Political elections in seven EU countries, including France — with the second largest economy in Europe — will also usher in new political thinking that will definitely sway the dialogue on new avenues or envelopes of financing.

Such dialogue may not necessarily be in favour of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as those which comprise CARICOM.

Arriving at any consensus on new envelopes of financing will be a sticking point.

Against this background, the Special COTED on environment and sustainable development will have to shape its agenda for its Georgetown meeting on Friday.

CARICOM ministers will need to establish and agree on clear regional priorities as well as a concrete approach on how they intend to engage their counterparts at the Rio+ 20 Conference.

(CARICOM press release)

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