Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yes we want?

The Secretariat of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) has uploaded last night the long awaited “zero draft” of the conference's outcome document. Also known as the Rio+20 conference, the UNCSD will take place in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. The Zero Draft forms the basis for further negotiations. I'll be at what the UN jargon calls an informal informal this month, 25-27 January in New York (there will be several more before everyone meets in Rio in June). The most immediate question is whether this Zero Draft will be decaffeinated in the search for consensus (the race to the lowest common denominator) or whether on the contrary it will be spiced up.

I'm hearing some people and governments already saying that the 19-page document is "too long". I don't really think that's a problem, and to be fair the Secretariat had a tough job turning into a concise document the six thousand pages submitted on 1st November by 677governments, international organizations, regional and political groups, and NGOs. Inevitably a lot of these contributors are already getting the feeling that their issue(s) and proposals have not been given a fair hearing or have been left aside, so it's likely that at least initially the successive drafts increase in size.

More than the document itself and its size, let's look where it's leading us to. It is proposed that Rio+20 sets the stage for several new forward-looking initiatives: an international knowledge-sharing platform to facilitate countries' green economy policy design and implementation (paragraph 33); a roadmap to implement and assess progress between 2015 and 2030, with a development phase between 2012 and 2015 (paragraph 43); the reform of the CSD, the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development (paragraph 49) or if possible its transformation into a Sustainable Development Council (paragraph 49 alt.); the strengthening of UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme (paragraph 51) or if possible its transformation into a UN specialized agency for the environment supported by stable, adequate and predictable financial contributions and operating on an equal footing with other UN specialized agencies (paragraph 51alt.); a regular UN Secretary General review of the state of the planet and the Earth's carrying capacity (paragraph 52); consideration of the establishment of a Obudsperson or High Commissioner for Future Generations to promote sustainable development (paragraph 57); negotiation as soon as possible of an implementing agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodioversity in the high seas (paragraph 80); a 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (paragraph 97); the launch by 2015 of a set of global Sustainable Development Goals built from the experience of the UN Millennium Development Goals campaign, with a mechanism for periodic review (paragraphs 105-109); and (last but perhaps not least) the development and strengthening of indicators complementing Gross Domestic Products to integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions in a balanced manner (paragraph 111). The document also identifies a set of priority thematic and cross-sectoral issues and areas including food security; waterenergy; citiesgreen jobs; oceans and small island developing statesnatural disasters; climate changeforests biodiversity, land degradation and desertification; mountains; chemicals and waste; education; and gender equality (paragraphs 63 to 104). It also tries to address some of the impacts of international trade on substainability (paragraphs 124-127), and attempts to set up an accountability framework for voluntary partnerships in order to correct one of the shortfalls from the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development ten years ago (paragraph 128). 

The document's title is "The Future we Want." At the end of the process we'll know if this is what we want (what the world needs). In four years we've moved from "yes we can" to "yes we want". But if we all want it, I'm sure we can.

This blogpiece is also available in español, HERE (AQUI) on the website of the Spanish news agency EFE.