Sunday, April 01, 2012

Summit 2.0

Has the UN Secretariat lost faith in the ability of the 193 UN Member States to negotiate and agree a meaningful document for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in two months and a half in Rio de Janeiro?

I just spent the last two weeks in New York at what the UN jargon calls Informal-informals. The aim of these consultations is to be in a position to present to the Heads of State and Government in Rio a draft declaration that is both meaningful and concise. We started in January with an original "zero draft" of 19 pages, and after the Informals this week everyone went home with a draft of...206 pages. At the end of the Informals, the  two Co-Chairs of the Preparatory Committee announced that by 16 April they will "streamline" this text where they find commonalities, but it is unlikely that the size of the text gets significantly reduced in this process (it will probably be increased).

Another session of Informal informals will take place in New York 23 April-4 May. And even more informal consultations are on-going in the meantime within and among the different political groups (including the powerful but very diverse Group-of-77-Plus-China). However, given the difficulty to come up with a workable consensus outcome document, it is hardly surprising that the UN Secretariat and the Brazilian Government, respectively organizers and hosts of the conference, are  increasingly putting their hopes in other initiatives that can save the summit:
  • Nine Sustainability Dialogues: The Brazilian Government says they want the nine thematic Civil Society Sustainability Dialogues scheduled in Rio 16-18 June to become an official part of the conference. The UN and Brazil say that the eight speakers (scientists, economists, private sector, NGOs, etc.) selected for each of these events will be asked to each come up with a set of three recommendations that will be forwarded for deliberation to the four High-Level Round Tables of Heads of State and Government that will be held on 20-21 June at the Summit. The UN say they will soon launch an online forum where any citizen will be able to send their own ideas which will be forwarded to the moderators of the relevant Sustainability Dialogues. 
  • Sustainable Development Goals: UN officials believe that Rio+20 will be the opportunity to agree to the adoption of a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),  successors of or complementary to the UN Millennium Goals that helped the international community focus its efforts in the areas of poverty and hunger eradication, access to education, gender equity, child and maternal health, HIV-AIDS prevention, environmental sustainability, and development. Rio+20 would not be the place to negotiate the details of these SDGs, but it is hoped that Heads of State and Government in Rio would give the UN a mandate to develop them between 2013 and 2015. The idea of the SDGs came to light in the report of the UN Secretary General High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability released in the month of January. The Governments of Colombia and Guatemala have actively campaigned in favor of the SDGs.
  • Compendium of commitments: The UN is also proposing that all organizations and groups participating in the Rio+20 Summit events register their voluntary commitments in a registry or compendium. The added value of this registry is unclear, unless it can serve as a mechanism to combat greenwashing and to secure the transparency and accountability of public-private partnerships.
I suppose that these and other initiatives can help save the Summit. We'll see if they help save the Planet too. 

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