First – What is the legacy of Rio+20?
To do this we need to look back to what was achieved at the Earth Summit in 1992. That Earth Summit was amazing it agreed: Agenda 21 - a blueprint to what needed to be done for us to move to a more sustainable development path. It still is the best document produced in the UN as each section has a narrative based on Basic for Action, Objectives and Activities – I would if I had the chance make the structure mandatory for all UN documents. It also negotiated 2 conventions – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Rio Declaration and the Forest Principles. Not to mention set up the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and agreed to a new Convention on Combating Desertification to be negotiated within two years. Forward ten years and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 happened under the long shadow of 9/11 and the lack of delivery on the 1992 agreements, it mostly defended advances made in Rio. Even the positives of WSSD didn’t amount to much. Within four years President Mbeki of South Africa address the UN General Assembly said:
“Precisely because of the absence of a global partnership for development, the Doha Development Round has almost collapsed…we have not implemented the on Monterrey Consensus for Financing for Development, thus making it difficult for the majority of the developing countries, especially those in Africa, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and have reduced the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to an insignificant and perhaps forgotten piece of paper.”
In 2007 the UN CSD for the first time did not agree any policy in what was termed the Energy Cycle. Then in 2009 as we all know the huge failure of the Climate Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Copenhagen – failed. By now sustainable development was dead. So what did Rio+20 achieve? Well I am sure many of you have heard all the negative press, which was often written by journalists or opinion makers who were not there. One of the vital meetings for Rio+20 was the Solo meeting where Columbia and Guatemala put on the table the idea of Sustainable Development Goals. NGOs and other stakeholders met in September 2011 in Bonn at the UN DPI 64th NGO Conference ‘Sustainable Societies – Responsive Citizens’, where I had the pleasure of the Chairing the Conference. It came out with a chairs text which put on the table for the first time a set of possible Sustainable Development Goals – 17 were put forward. The UN shared the outcome in their briefing issue briefings ensuring they were therefore put in front of governments.
Rio+20 may go down as one of the most important conferences the UN has held.
I could go over a number of its successes but i will focus on one, the agreement to have at the centre of any new global development goal framework the Sustainable Development Goals. This gives us a real chance to focus the political world on a small set of goals that will move us on to a sustainable path.
Read the full story on Felix Dodds’ blog