Rio+20 Outcomes Document-What will it say?
As the heads of state have been meeting in Rio the past two days there appears to be little effort or desire to take on changing the text of the draft outcomes document that was provided by the Brazilian hosts at the beginning of the official conference. That document, that essentially eliminated all of the bracketed text (areas of disagreement), has been criticized as being watered down and a step backwards. The spokesperson for the NGO Major Groups has called the document a failure while others, including US negotiator Todd Sterns have been less critical. Stern said:
We have done some important things institutionally, including significantly strengthening UNEP in the UN system, also establishing a new high-level forum on sustainable development in the UN in New York focusing on a variety of ways to manage our vital natural resources more effectively and efficiently. And I think all of these things will not in any sense by themselves-but we hope push in a direction where sustainable development proceeds and we more and more have the ability, as was first discussed in the 1987 Brundtland Report, to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. And that is a nice kind of summary of what sustainable development is all about.
Despite a number of media, especially in the US, characterizing the conference as an environmental meeting, the draft outcomes document paints a very different picture. The second statement reiterates a major issue of the Brundtland report. It reads: Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and is an indispensable requirement for sustainability development. In that regard, we are committed to free humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.
After the preliminary introductory comments and confirmations, Section III is entitled, “Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication." After a number of affirmations of existing and new principles, the paragraphs become a list of we recognize, we encourage, we acknowledge, we invite statements.
Section IV of the document, Institutional framework for sustainable development begins with subsection A – Strengthening the three dimensions of sustainable development. It is in section V. Framework for action and follow-up that we find the Thematic areas listed. The include: Poverty eradication; Food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture; Water and sanitation; Energy; Sustainable tourism; Sustainable transport; Sustainable cities and human settlements; Health and population; Oceans and seas; Small island developing States (SIDS); Least developed countries; Landlocked least developed countries; Africa; Regional efforts; Disaster risk reduction; Climate change; Forests; Biodiversity; Desertification; Land degradation and drought; Mountains; Chemicals and waste; Sustainable consumption and production; Mining; Education; and Gender equality and women’s empowerment.
There is more after that about implementation, financing, technology, capacity building, and trade. I think an important point is that the framework for the document provided by the list in IV.A. provides a pretty good idea as to why it may be hard to get agreement to strong language. In some ways it’s soup to nuts and in other ways it seems to be cherry-picking what counts and what is important in sustainable development.
It appears to me that if little changes in the document itself, the real outcomes of Rio+20 will mainly be in the various commitments made by civil society to hold themselves and their governments accountable for much more than is specified in these documents.
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