Rio+20 summit co-ordinator seeks to put agriculture centre stage

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UN executive Brice Lalonde says pinpointing one key area will focus minds and boost progress on other development goals

The Rio+20 global development summit co-ordinator is pushing for a tight focus on agriculture in an attempt to inject new energy into the landmark event, the Guardian has learned.

Such a departure from UN tradition could be controversial, but Brice Lalonde, the UN’s co-ordinator for the meeting, argues it would be more effective than the traditional laundry list of aspirations in pushing countries to meet clearly defined goals.

Agriculture is a dominant concern in a year of famine and rising global food prices, and Lalonde believes focusing on the subject would help concentrate minds on the summit. He also argues it is impossible to work on agriculture in isolation; countries would, by default, have to make progress on other development goals.

“My personal view is to concentrate on one major, overarching topic,” Lalonde said. “When you work on agriculture, you can do it with all the goals associated with it: land use, biodiversity, women’s empowerment, energy and water.”

In Washington, as in other world capitals, officials are now beginning to think ahead to the Rio summit, which will be held in June next year.

The summit organisers have settled on a slogan: “The future we want.” They held their first real meeting in Rio last week, and countries are due to submit their proposals for the conference by 1 November. The Brookings Institution had its first discussion on Rio+20 this week.

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