Could Rio+20 become a new precedent of sustainable development multilateralism?
The meeting opened with UNCSD Secretary-General Sha Zukang’s remarks to urge participants to approach these discussions in a positive spirit of collaboration and for the international community to work together constructively if we are to build “the future we want.” The participants shared highlights of the compilation of submissions1 from States, UN bodies, intergovernmental organisations and Major Groups, and discussed the development, format and structure of a “zero draft” of the Outcome Document, which is expected to be ready in mid-January 2012. Certainly, the recent climate change conference in Durban has enlarged a sense of optimism about multilateral collective action, not only in the area of climate change, but also for the sustainable development arena, yet feelings about this iimeeting’s outcome have been mixed. Let’s look at what happened.
On the two themes of the Conference, Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication and Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD), there were broad agreement that transition to a green economy is a means to achieve sustainable development and not a one-size-fits-all approach, and that all three dimensions of sustainable development (economy, society and environment) need to be addressed with a strengthened IFSD with better coordination at all levels. It remains to be seen whether various proposals on each theme will be included into a political declaration or in annex, but I’ve sensed a general atmosphere here and there that the latter is more likely.
On the other hand, there has been a growing momentum for the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a proposal made originally by Columbia, currently with the support of Guatemala and Peru, to address all three dimensions of sustainable development to be universally applicable including both developed and developing countries, unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which mainly targets developing countries. There is also general support for developing measures (i.e. indicators) of sustainable development beyond GDP. However, views on the conventional principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR)” are starting to change as several countries stressed CBDR “with respective capabilities” to be a key principle of SDGs and progress towards MDGs should not be blocked by a new SDG process. In this regard, I believe that identifying “common goals” at a global level and targets with “differentiated responsibilities” at a national level as well as the link between SDGs and MDGs could be the key points for discussion towards Rio+20. The questions is, to what extent could Rio+20 agree on the definition, scope, and roadmap for SDGs?
Another discussion point at Rio+20 is the new and emerging issues. Brazil informed about eight issues to be discussed during four days thematic meetings right before Rio+20, which include; food security and poverty eradication, sustainable cities, energy, innovation, water, oceans, economies in sustainable development, decent jobs and migration. Many countries also mentioned the “10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP)” to be adopted at Rio+20, while a few countries noted the importance of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s “Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.” These two could be additional deliverables at Rio+20 as there was no clear opposition to them in addition to the list of new and emerging issues to be outlined in the outcome document.
The Bureau will review the results of this meeting on the week of 19 Dec. and decide the format and structure of the zero-draft, which is to be available by mid-January 2012.
2. Initial discussions on the zero draft of the outcome document begin on 25-27 January 2012.
*** The contents of this commentary are the opinions of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of IGES.