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United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or Rio+20 Adopts “The Future We Want” Outcome Document

Saturday, 07 July 2012
The third and final meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), Pre-Conference Informal Consultations Facilitated by the Host Country, and the UNCSD were convened back-to-back in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 13-22 June 2012. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development opened on Wednesday, 20 June 2012, and the outcome document of the Conference, entitled “The Future we Want” (A/CONF.216/L.1) was adopted on Friday, 22 June 2012.

Over the course of three days, 191 Heads of State or Government and Vice-Presidents, Ministers and heads of delegation addressed the meeting. The official events included a Rio+20 Partnerships Forum, Sustainable Development Dialogues, SD-Learning and an estimated 500 side events in RioCentro, the venue for the Conference. In parallel to the official events, approximately 3,000 unofficial events were organised throughout Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including a Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development, a People’s Summit and the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability. In closing the Conference, UNCSD President Dilma Rousseff (Brazil) stressed that Rio+20 was the most participatory conference in history and was a “global expression of democracy”, demonstrating that multilateralism is a legitimate pathway to build solutions for global problems

Brazil was complemented for its leadership during the Pre-Conference Informal Consultations, during which the organising country developed a revised draft, facilitated three days of discussions, supporting the negotiating process of the draft, and played an important role in facilitating final agreement prior to the opening of Rio+20 itself. On the other hand, criticism arose regarding the overall failure of the multilateral system to deal with sustainable development, as portrayed by the fact that the series of preparatory negotiations was concluded leaving more than half the text of the outcome document open for discussion during the UNCSD. This meant that Brazil’s compilation texts were designed for an optimal rather than an ideal set of outcomes.

The expectations that Rio+20 would significantly alter the international framework, launch new processes and take a bold step in redirecting sustainable development actions, were proved to be not realistic and the UNCSD agreement was characterised as more modest than hoped for or expected. Although some criticized  Rio+20 for its failure to make groundbreaking decisions such as establishing a new High Commissioner for Future Generations, upgrading UNEP to the status of an organisation, establishing concrete targets and a “roadmap” for the green economy, others focused on the upcoming real opportunities within the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and other fora to shape the true Rio+20 legacy.

 “The Future we Want” outcome document adopted in Rio), in the context of the much debated thematic area of Green Economy, calls for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), at its next session, to decide on designating a body to operationalise the ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production (10YFP)., Under the heading of the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD), there are two principal outcomes for which UNGA is also called for to decide  on the establishment of a universal intergovernmental high-level political forum to eventually replace the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and on the strengthening of UNEP. UNGA is also called for to decide on the constitution of a working group to develop global sustainable development goals (SDGs) to be agreed by UNGA, and on establishing an intergovernmental process under UNGA to prepare a report proposing options on an effective sustainable development financing strategy. Agreement on a process to develop universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was one of the most important political decisions of the Conference, given its centrality in helping to define the post-2015 development agenda. Further, UNGA is called for to take a decision in two years on the development of an international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regarding marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Furthermore, the UN system is encouraged, as appropriate, to support industry, interested governments and relevant stakeholders in developing models for best practice and facilitate action for the integration of sustainability reporting. The outcome also includes text on trade-distorting subsidies, fisheries and fossil fuel subsidies and one paragraph inviting voluntary commitments by all stakeholders to implement concrete actions to promote sustainable development and poverty eradication. By the close of Rio+20, almost 700 pledges had been received with financial commitments from governments, the private sector, civil society and other groups reaching US$513 billion.

Sources: IISD Reporting Services, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) – “The Future we Want”
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