Friday, January 13, 2012

Rio+20 Zero Draft Outcome Document released

The zero draft outcome document – the official document to be negotiated by United Nations Member States in the lead up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) – has been released. Although the text will be extensively negotiated in the coming months and will most likely be modified, the zero draft in its current stage reaffirms Member States commitment to work together for a prosperous, secure and sustainable future for both people and the planet, including by eradicating hunger, want, and all forms of poverty; by committing to make progress on already internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); and by enhancing cooperation.

More specifically, the zero draft invites Member States to reaffirm the Rio Principles and related action plans, and to reinforce globally collective and national efforts – while recognizing the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as well as the sovereign rights of States over their natural resources. In a very general manner, it assesses progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development. On a positive note, it underscores the need for Member States to recognize that broad public participation in decision-making and major group engagement are fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable development. As such, the zero draft includes language highlighting Member States’ commitment to improve governance at all levels and to reinvigorate a global partnership for sustainable development.

For the theme “Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication,” the zero draft defines the green economy as a means to achieve sustainable development. It is “not intended as a rigid set of rules but rather as a decision-making framework to foster integrated consideration of the three pillars of sustainable development in all relevant domains of public and private decision-making,” the draft underscores. The draft further explains that a green economy should not be a threat to any country, and therefore should not create new trade barriers, impose new aid and finance conditionalities; widen technology gaps or exacerbate technological dependence; nor restrict a country’s policy space. The draft outcome document proposes the creation of an international knowledge-sharing platform to facilitate countries’ design and implementation of green economic policies. The latter, however, should remain tailored to countries’ specific needs and preferences. The document further acknowledges that new, additional and scaled up sources of financing need to be provided to developing countries to help them build their green economies.

In terms of the “institutional framework for sustainable development,” the zero draft invites Member States to strengthen, reform, and better integrate the three pillars of sustainable development. It also includes a section that would strengthen the Commission on Sustainable Development or transform it into a Sustainable Development Council that would serve as the authoritative, high-level body for consideration of matters relating to the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development. Similarly, it proposes to strengthen UNEP in its current form or to transform it into a UN specialized agency for the environment with a revised and strengthened mandate. The zero draft further invites Member States to consider the establishment of an Ombudsperson or High Commissioner for Future Generations.

The zero draft also proposes language on a number of sectoral and cross-sectoral priority areas as well as to the linkages among different sectors. More specifically, this includes language on food security, water, energy, cities, green jobs/social inclusion, oceans and seas, natural disasters, climate change, forests and biodiversity, land degradation and desertification, mountains, chemicals and waste, sustainable consumption and production, education, and gender equality.

To access the zero draft outcome document, click here.

The way forward

The first set of discussions on the zero draft outcome document are planned for 25-27 January 2012 at UN Headquarters in New York. These discussions will include both a general discussion on the whole document, as well as informal-informal negotiations on the first two sections of the document.

Some background information

The zero draft is based on a Compilation Document, which was the result of an extensive and inclusive consultation process which invited all UN Member States, UN system organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to provide inputs and contributions to the Secretariat by the 1 November 2011 deadline. The majority of the contributions received came from civil society (Major Groups).

A more detailed analysis of the zero draft outcome document, explaining how it relates and responds to proposals made by civil society, will follow soon on the NGLS Rio+20 website.