Zero Draft Document for Rio+20 labelled as lacking ambition and balance

Following the release of the zero draft document for the Rio+20 conference, to take place in June 2012, the first round of informal negotiations was held on 25-27 January. Many participants called for a stronger focus on poverty eradication and gender issues in revisions of the summit’s outcome document.

The zero draft document was generally labelled as lacking ambition and balance, with environmental aspects said to be dominating the agenda. Strong emphasis was given by participants for the need to strengthen the social and economic dimensions of sustainable development; some stressed in this regard the need to involve a wider range of ministries, such as finance, health, agriculture and trade in the discussions. “Integrating the three pillars in a balanced manner is something we will need to address and reconcile in Rio if we truly want to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty”, a participant said during the meeting.

According to the Group of 77 developing countries at the UN (G-77), the document did not sufficiently draw on the concerns and positions of the group and China and failed to address financial regulations as well as unsustainable patterns of consumption. In order to build on the commitments agreed at previous summits, “the outcome document needs to produce an assessment and stocktaking as to why many of the commitments were not realized to their full potential”, their statement reads.

During the meeting, representatives of the United States pointed to the discussion’s domination by issues addressing the North-South divide. With differences diminishing rapidly the focus should rather be on partnership, inclusion and cooperation, they said. The EU, in the same spirit, emphasized the importance to take into account “the changes in the global economy, and the emergence of some developing countries as major economic actors on the global stage”. This was widely seen by many as a move by developed countries to re-interpret or even reject the principle of Common but Differentiated Response (CBRD) — one of the key principles adopted at the Rio1992 conference, as was the case at the climate conference in Durban;. The group of G77 and China, however, indicated that the outcome document “will not renegotiate nor retract agreed outcomes of the major summits and agreed principles, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”.

The importance of addressing gender issues in an integrated rather than exclusive manner was an ambition mentioned by a considerable number of participants during the meeting.

The proposal to introduce sustainable development goals (SDGs), put forward by Colombia and Guatemala, gathered further interest during the discussions. In response to concerns that the SDGs may replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the proponents emphasised that they would complement and build on the MDGs, while being universally applied.

With a common definition of the green economy not yet agreed upon, participants voiced their hope that further agreement would be achieved at the next informal meeting in March. The meeting is to focus on the two main themes of Rio+20 — the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD) as well as a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

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