Subscribe here to receive future issues of Linkages Update.

Editor's Note: Developing the Narrative for 2012 

Issue #181 | 20 December 2011

Like Share on Facebook  IISD Reporting Services on Twitter  Share on Google Plus

By: Lynn Wagner, Ph.D., Group Director, SDG Knowledge, IISD <>

The last two key events on the 2011 sustainable development calendar help point to the developing narrative for 2012.

As the Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis from the Second UNCSD Intersessional Meeting notes, a lot has happened in the nine months since the last UNCSD meeting. Social and political unrest has manifested itself in the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and riots around the world. The interconnected earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster took place in Japan, and were followed closely by Germany's decision to remove nuclear power from its energy sources. Extreme weather events were recorded around the world. Negotiators at the Durban Climate Change Conference extended their talks by 36 hours, in a marathon effort to arrive at a conclusion that would initiate a process to develop a new, global agreement on climate change and, at the same time, reconfirmed for many the role of multilateral environmental policymaking. And those hoping to influence the outcome from the UNCSD process submitted approximately 6,000 pages of proposals for the “compilation document,” from which UNCSD delegates were asked to comment in an effort to help the Co-Chairs and the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee discern what to include in the “zero draft,” which will form the basis for negotiations in the lead up to the June 2012 Rio+20 event.

In this context, perhaps it is no surprise that negotiators at the Second UNCSD Intersessional Meeting resoundingly emphasized the need for a concise, political message as the necessary outcome from Rio+20. Delegates spoke of the need for a message that would resonate at all levels – from the small farmer and factory worker to the high-level official. They also spoke of the opportunity that the Rio+20 process offers to the international sustainable development policy community to capture global attention, if it is able to develop a narrative that meets the concerns of actors at many levels.

The task now falls to the Co-Chairs and the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee to draft a text that negotiators will be willing to work from. Delegates gave them a number of pointers for what might be included in the draft, following the two themes that the UN General Assembly established for the event. On the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, delegates called for the concept to be inclusive and considered as a means to achieve sustainable development. The proposal originally put forward by Colombia and Guatemala to establish a process to develop sustainable development goals received a great deal of support. Efforts to establish a single narrative on the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD) may be more challenging, as different proposals were presented on whether to “strengthen” the UN Environment Programme or to “elevate it to a specialized agency,” although there was interest in creating a sustainable development council to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

Meanwhile, almost halfway around the world, the Eye on Earth Summit was taking place in the United Arab Emirates, with more than 1000 participants discussing the importance of collaborating to ensure that good quality data are collected, freely disseminated and transformed into useful information. As had a number of speakers at the UNCSD Intersessional Meeting, the Declaration of the Eye on Earth Summit recognizes the role of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration (access to information, participation in decision making and access to justice), and speakers at that meeting supported calls for Rio+20 to renew political commitment for the role of information in advancing sustainable development.

The first two meetings that IISD RS will cover in 2012 will address issues related to an additional key issue for 2012: sustainable energy. In January, our teams will cover meetings of the Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the World Future Energy Summit. At the beginning of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, these two meetings will provide impetus to the themes to be addressed under that year-long focus.

Until then, our IISD RS team will take a well-deserved break, closing out our busiest year ever. In 2011, we reported from 86 meetings, including 49 events covered with our flagship publication, Earth Negotiations Bulletin, and 37 covered with our for-hire reporting service, our Earth Negotiations Bulletin on the Side (ENBOTS) coverage of side events, and other briefing notes. We have truly enjoyed increasing the transparency of these meetings and reporting on the emerging themes and events over the past year, and we wish you a happy holiday season and all the best for a focused, memorable New Year.