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Editor's Note: Treaties, Goals and Action 

Issue #199 | 29 November 2012

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

As delegates in Doha, Qatar, are considering how to advance the agreement reached last year in Durban, South Africa, a number of other events in the past fortnight have also considered the question of how to spur international cooperation for sustainable development.

Delegates at the Doha Climate Change Conference are focusing on, inter alia, the adoption of amendments to the Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period, and a report from the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action concerning progress made during its first year to fulfill its mandate to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” by 2015 to enter into force no later than 2020. Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin team is in Doha, reporting on the negotiation process and international efforts to define how international cooperative efforts to address climate change will take place in the coming years.

Questions regarding the best way to spur international cooperation were on the minds of participants at another recent conference: the first Global Soil Week. That meeting considered, among other issues, recommendations for developing an approach to international cooperation on soil issues. A number of speakers suggested the possibility of developing a protocol to an existing treaty or agreed principles, while others cautioned about the slow negotiation processes these efforts might entail and called for developing goals, such as a sustainable development goal through the follow-up process to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20). Still others said that goals have not leveraged enough government effort, and suggested identifying the advantages for front runners, who take action even without a global agreement in place.

The Momentum for Change initiative, which is described in the UNFCCC Executive Secretary's guest article that is highlighted in this issue of Linkages Update, is seeking to accomplish an objective related to this latter suggestion. It showcases activities that have been successful at either reducing greenhouse gas emissions or assisting communities to adapt to the consequences of climate change, while benefiting the urban poor. And in Doha, the initiative is adding a focus on the role that women play in addressing climate change, as well as successful public-private financing mechanisms and approaches that are already delivering climate-friendly investment.

This issue of Linkages Update also includes stories about another way that some countries are organizing themselves to spur action: coalitions of the willing. In this case, UNDP has announced that it has joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The Coalition of 36 members is a partnership among governments, NGOs and international organizations that aims to tackle the challenges posed by short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and methane.

For an update on the process of developing Sustainable Development Goals, see our post in this issue on the call from the UN General Assembly President to UN Member States to reach consensus on the membership of the Open Working Group (OWG). For regular updates on this issue and other topics related to the post-2015 development agenda, be sure to sign-up for our POST-2015-L listserv.

Treaties, goals, front runners and coalitions all have a role to play in pushing and pulling actors at all levels to move in the same direction. Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports and knowledge management efforts seek to highlight where the movers are, as well as the state of the international consensus on the direction that their collective efforts should take them.