rio+20 towards and beyond
Towards an ambitious outcome at Rio+20
April 2012
(19-27 March 2012, New York , the United Nations Headquarters)
The recent Informal Informals as well as the 3rd Intersessional Meeting for the UNCSD, which took place from the 18-27 of March 2012 at the UN Headquarters in New York provided some food for thought. With the Rio+20 conference less than three months away, negotiations need to accelerate if the conference is to result in a strong outcome. While ultimately the speed of the process depends on the political willingness to bring about a strong outcome, the following points, explained in more detail below, could help the process along if they receive added emphasis:
  • the focus of the draft outcome document should achieve an optimal balance between the main themes of the conference on one hand, and the more diverse related concerns which have been emphasized by many governments and stakeholders on the other hand;
  • it is crucial to provide adequate leadership that can signal a clear direction in the remaining time up to the negotiations and help mediate between negotiators;
  • for some countries, there should be better alignment between the positions in capitals and their UN Missions in New York. If addressed, these three issues may help bring about a strong and politically relevant outcome from Rio+20.
Governance and Capacity Group
As the Rio+20 process gained more attention, many countries and other stakeholders sought to include a wide range of related and salient issues into the draft. The resulting much broadened focus of the Draft Outcome Document is quite understandable, as it is a natural part of the participatory process which has been adopted. There were submissions from almost 700 stakeholders, countries and political groups as of the 1st November deadline for contributions to the Zero Draft. It is indeed a must that countries and stakeholders can express their concerns at occasions like the Rio Conference, where it is expected that heads of state will address and make decisions on concerns that can further sustainability. So, it would indeed be strange if this ballooning of the current negotiation draft (to 208 pages) did not happen, but the challenge in this regard is clear: in the remaining weeks until the Conference, the Bureau must find the right way to condense this text to a focused, actionable and political document; one that reverberates and catches the interest of capitals and stakeholders around the world.
In the remaining weeks the Rio+20 Bureau and the Co-chairs must therefore use their mandated leadership to produce a more concise document that achieves a balance between comprehensiveness and focus on the Rio themes. Similarly for the remaining intense days of negotiation, it will be crucial for the Bureau and the Co-Chairs or perhaps even the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to provide strategic guidance to negotiators so that a more concise Outcome Document can be drafted in time for the Rio Conference.
The word in the corridors is that in some cases, the opinions of capitals and those presented by the UN Missions in New York do not always match 100%. It is therefore very important that countries send Heads of State or Heads of Government along with their delegations to Rio. Participation by the highest level is crucial in the lead-up and for the duration of the Conference, as this may help provide the right High Level decisions needed for a strong outcome.

*** The contents of this commentary are the opinions of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of IGES.

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