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Editor's Note: Building Coalitions of the Willing 

Issue #188 | 3 May 2012

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

Although the term “coalition of the willing” was coined in reference to military operations, a number of the meetings and projects reported in this issue of Linkages Update have similarly sought to achieve international sustainable development objectives through the collective efforts of like-minded countries.

This issue of Linkages Update features a number of stories about initiatives that are bringing together interested actors to join their efforts in coalitions, partnerships or other arrangements to implement shared sustainable development objectives.

For example, the first meeting of the working group and the High Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition convened in Stockholm, Sweden, from 23-24 April 2012. This Coalition, which aims to take fast action to reduce short lived climate pollutants that have a direct impact on climate change, agreed on five initiatives for rapid implementation. The founding members of this coalition – Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, the US and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) – also welcomed Colombia, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, the European Commission and the World Bank as new partners.

Similarly, leaders from the governments of the 23 Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) participant countries announced a number of new commitments and initiatives to improve energy efficiency, increase the share of renewable energy, and enable energy access worldwide, during their two-day Third Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM3), which convened from 25-26 April 2012, in London, UK.

At the other end of the spectrum lie efforts that seek to help define or begin the process of building coalitions and coordinated action. The recent report by the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), with support from Finland's Ministry of Environment, might be viewed in this light. Their report on synergies in national reporting in the biodiversity-related multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) offers recommendations for how these MEAs, through decisions by their respective Conferences of the Parties (COPs), could collaborate to increase the individual and collective impacts of and efficiencies among the biodiversity conventions.

As this issue of Linkages Update is published, negotiators at UN Headquarters in New York are entering the final day of their latest two-week effort to develop a consensus outcome document for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) – the second round of informal informal consultations on the zero draft of the outcome document. The elusive nature of universal consensus on an effective outcome in a variety of negotiating fora has inspired many recent efforts to build coalitions of the willing. The need to involve actors at all levels and from all sectors if sustainable development is to be achieved has also has spurred a number of efforts to elicit pledges from those who are willing to engage in the objectives of Rio+20. Accordingly, UN Member States, the UN system and other intergovernmental organizations, and Major Groups have been invited to register their partnerships and share their preparatory work towards Rio+20. Voluntary commitments have also been encouraged. To keep governments accountable for these voluntary commitments, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Road to Rio+20 and the Stakeholder Forum have launched Summit Watch, an initiative that aims to track the activities of national governments in preparation for the Conference. In a side event discussion on this topic, NRDC highlighted the movement towards making “non-globally negotiated” commitments for globally negotiated agreements. The two processes – commitments by individual and small coalition actors and negotiations to develop an international framework – push and pull each other, with the speed and directions that each has taken prompting much scrutiny. Our IISD reports on the negotiations help to reveal the state of consensus for the international framework, and our Sustainable Development Policy & Practice and other knowledgebases track the coalitions and initiatives that seek to implement and move ahead of the international processes. And all of our efforts seek to increase the transparency, and accountability, for the directions being taken by the international collective.