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20 March 2012

Ongoing Rio+20 negotiations – Will it bring us one step closer to "the future we want?"

From 19-27 March, New York will be once more the centre stage for the Rio+20 negotiations. During both the “informal-informal” consultations (19-23 March) and the Third Intersessional Meeting (26-27 March), Member States will continue negotiating the zero draft outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20).

At the initial discussions in January of this year, Member States agreed that the “zero draft” – as proposed by the Rio+20 Bureau – was a good basis for negotiations, but widely expressed concern that it lacked ambition. The initial discussions further provided a good opportunity to have a first glance at the main contentious issues, which are many considering the complexity of the Rio+20 themes: (i) the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication (GESDPE); and (ii) the institutional framework on sustainable development (IFSD).

To address some of these issues and to strive for a more ambitious outcome in Rio (20-22 June), Member States submitted written amendments to the different chapters of the negotiation document, transforming the original draft of 19 pages into a 157-page long document – once more reflecting the complexity of the negotiation process. Proposed amendments are related to the themes of the Conference (chapter III and IV), and to chapter V on the “Framework for Action and Follow-up.” An initial and non-comprehensive review of these amendments by the Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), shows that some broad support (but no consensus yet) seems to be arising with regard to the launch of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the establishment of knowledge sharing platforms on the green economy, the need to measure socio-economic progress beyond GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the strengthening of the United Nations Environment Programme, and for a transparent registry and follow-up mechanism of voluntary commitments. Besides, Member States seem to largely agree that the green economy should be seen as a tool for sustainable development, and not an end in itself.

However, large differences continue to persist, especially on proposals such as the establishment of a Sustainable Development Council (SDC) or an Ombudsperson for Future Generations – with some Member States requesting that these proposals are deleted from the draft text, while others call for further consideration of these issues. Furthermore, various Member States proposed additional guiding principles for IFSD, as well as new priority and cross-sectoral themes to consider in the Framework for Action; such as health, harmony with nature, sustainable tourism, infrastructure, mining, Africa, and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to name a few.

To access DSD/DESA’s review of some of the main amendments submitted by Member States to Chapter III and IV, click here.
For Chapter V, click here.

The main challenge of the current round of negotiations will be to find agreement among Member States on the zero draft and its proposed amendments and to overcome remaining controversies, so that Member States can reach consensus on a more ambitious outcome for Rio+20.

Click here to see the organization of work of the “informal-informal” consultations.

Click here to see the agenda of the Third Intersessional Meeting.

To get an overview of the daily negotiations, consult the daily reports of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

Major Groups’ Input:
Major Groups were also invited by the Rio+20 Bureau to send in their amendments for the zero draft outcome document, which the Rio+20 Secretariat compiled into one single document. Click here to access this document. On 24 March, Major Groups representatives will have the opportunity to report on their positions based upon their proposed amendments to the zero draft and engage in a dialogue with each other and government officials. This event is a joint effort by the Major Groups with support from DESA and NGLS. Participants to this event are also invited to continue their discussions on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development during a dialogue on IFSD that will take place on 25 March. For more information, see the flyer below.

In the coming days, during the negotiations, Major Group representatives and other stakeholders will further participate in and organize various side events. For an overview of the events organized on the sidelines of the negotiations, click here.

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