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Civil Society Reflects on Ongoing Rio+20 Negotiations

arton3809During the week of 19 March, “informal-informal” negotiations on the “Zero Draft” outcome document for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) were held at UNHQ. Negotiations continue this week, along with the Third Intersessional meeting of the Preparatory Committee (“PrepCom”).


Over the weekend in between, two all-day supplementary or “side events” took place: the Major Group Expert Meeting on the Rio+20 Zero Draft and Compendium of Commitments on Saturday, 24 March, and an event entitled “Improving the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development” on Sunday, 25 March.

Saturday’s meeting brought together representatives from all Major Groups to reflect upon the ongoing negotiations on the Zero Draft, to identify shared targets for advocacy, and to discuss key priorities and issues related to the Zero Draft. The meeting was organized by Major Groups with support from UNDESA and UN-NGLS, and was funded by the European Union.

Breaking into small focus groups, the Major Groups focused on six thematic issues: Rights, Principles and Outcomes; Agriculture and Food; Energy; Planetary Boundaries and Science-Policy Interface; Means of Implementation, Finance and Trade; and Sustainable Development Goals. Each of these groups discussed priorities and articulated recommendations on its topic.

The expert group meeting reaffirmed the intention of Major Groups to continue working towards influencing Member States on these and other priorities in relation to the Rio+20 outcome. Major Groups expressed agreement that identifying “red lines” or bottom line positions may support this advocacy strategy. Beyond the “floor” below which positions must not fall, however, Major Groups emphasized the necessity to affirm the relevance of the multilateral process and the rights-based framework for sustainable development.

For more information, see the report of the meeting.

The following day, conversations continued on the subject of the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development, or IFSD. The event, subtitled “A Deep Dive into Governance Issues and the Rio+20 Zero Draft,” brought together experts from civil society and the UN to hold working groups and present discussions on several sub-themes.

On the implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration and a Compendium of Commitments, speakers included Lalanath de Silva of The Access Initiative and World Resources Institute (WRI); Andrea Sanhueza ofPARTICIPA; and Jacob Scherr of the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC). Stakeholder Forum’s Jan-Gustav Strandenaes spoke on options for International Environmental Governance reform and the need for a new accountability framework. Dr. Sandor Fulop, Hungary’s Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations, and the World Future Council’s Catherine Pearce spoke on the role, functions and mandate of potential Ombudspersons for Future Generations. WRI’s John Talberth and Amrei Horstbrink from UNITAR spoke on the vision of SDGs as outlined in the Zero Draft; two more representatives of UN agencies, UNEP’s Bradnee Chambers and Friederich Soltau from DESA spoke on an international framework for both environmental and sustainable development governance.

Background information on this event can be found on UNEP’s website.

Civil Society Organizations’ Open Letter to the Secretary-General

Yesterday, 26 March, a petition was submitted and publicized by several civil society organizations active in the discussions around the Zero Draft. Arguing against the “deletion” of references to human rights obligations and equity principles in the Rio+20 outcome document, the petition and accompanying open letter to the Secretary-General for the UNCSD can be found here.


This article is available in Spanish.

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.


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