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Editor's Note: UNCSD Negotiations Underway 

Issue #183 | 10 February 2012

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

The initial discussions on the zero draft of the outcome document for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) concluded two weeks ago. The consideration of the outcome has continued in several different fora and formats since then.

During the 25-27 January meeting in New York, delegates moved from presenting initial positions and overall objectives to considering specific options to include in the outcome their governments will endorse in Rio de Janeiro in June. A particularly interesting, and telling, discussion took place over the first paragraph. Several delegations sought to make the outcome document “more inclusive” by adding text to indicate that “representatives of the peoples of the world,” in addition to government representatives, would be resolving to work together through the outcome document. But others objected, noting that the document is being negotiated by political leaders, not civil society, so the latter should not take responsibility for it. The tension between the recognition that action will need to take place at all levels, and what an intergovernmental process can accomplish, is likely to remain throughout the negotiations. As our Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis of the meeting suggests, a “key to Rio's relevance will be in how well the outcome anticipates the realities of the future rather than relying on the governance structures of the past.”

While UNCSD negotiators will not convene again until mid-March, a number of meetings and activities have addressed possible outcome elements in the interim, with some of the inputs picking up on this same theme and options that have been put forward to address it. For example, the 18th session of the Forum of Environment Ministers (FME 18) of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), which concluded on 3 February, focused much of its debate, as well as parts of its Quito Declaration and various Decisions, on UNCSD. The Quito Declaration, inter alia, recognizes the importance of implementing Rio Principle 10 on access to information, public participation and access to justice. And the recently released “Sustainable Energy for All: A Framework for Action” provides guidance on the objectives of the High-level Panel on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) in the lead up to Rio+20, as well as guidance on what all actors can do to contribute to the work of the Panel to move toward sustainable energy for all.

Only 130 days remain from the publication of this issue of Linkages Update until Rio+20 opens. The next key stop on the road to Rio+20 will be in Nairobi, for the 12th Special Session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GCSS-12/GMEF) of the UN Environment Programme. Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin team will bring you the debates from that meeting, and our Sustainable Development Policy & Practice knowledgebase will continue to keep you updated on all the inputs as the pace of negotiations picks up speed.