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Editor's Note: Implementing the Rio Outcome 

Issue #191 | 28 June 2012

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

As the dust settles after the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) and analyses of the event continue to circulate, efforts in the coming months to follow-up on the outcome will, in many ways, shape the true Rio+20 legacy.

As our Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of the event reports, the outcome document adopted on the final day is much less than most had hoped for. But while many have focused on criticizing the agreement as a missed opportunity, others have noted the importance of focusing on the upcoming discussions in the UN General Assembly (UNGA), given all of the follow-up work that was passed along to this UN body.

For example, the agreement adopted in Rio calls for UNGA, at its next session, to, inter alia: designate a body to operationalize the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production; determine the modalities for the third international conference on small island developing States (SIDS), which is to convene in 2014; identify the format and organizational aspects of the high-level forum, which is to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development; strengthen the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); constitute a working group to develop global sustainable development goals (SDGs) to be agreed by UNGA; establish an intergovernmental process under UNGA to propose options on an effective sustainable development financing strategy; and consider a set of recommendations from the Secretary-General for a facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies.

In addition, UNGA is called on to take a decision in approximately two years on the development of an international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regarding marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. And the UN Statistical Commission is called on to launch a programme of work on broader measures to complement gross domestic product, while the UN system is encouraged, as appropriate, to support industry, interested governments and relevant stakeholders in developing models for best practice and facilitating action for the integration of sustainability reporting.

UNGA's 67th regular session is scheduled to convene at UN Headquarters, New York, on Tuesday, 18 September 2012, and the General Debate is scheduled to open one week later. How and whether the deliberations leading up to Rio will shape the decisions related to the institutional framework for sustainable development, as well as the important discussions on the post-2015 framework and the relationship between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the SDGs, among other topics, will further illuminate the true Rio+20 legacy. And IISD RS will continue to do our part to bring transparency and accountability to these decision making processes.