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Editor's Note: Cooperation and Conventions 

Issue #205 | 4 April 2013

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

The form of international cooperation on sustainable development issues has featured in a number of discussions over the last fortnight.

The outcome from the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, or Rio Earth Summit) included a section on “international legal instruments and mechanisms,” which calls for “the gradual development of universally and multilaterally negotiated agreements or instruments” to promote international standards for the protection of the environment. Two of the "Rio Conventions" were opened for signature alongside that meeting: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The agreements reach in Rio called for the negotiation of the third Rio Convention, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). A number of other conventions have been negotiated since then, with other discussions considering whether to launch international negotiations on certain topics.

In the last fortnight, as this issue of Linkages Update indictes, discussions on the preferred framework for international legal instruments and mechanisms to facilitate cooperation have taken a number of directions. Several of the discussions have followed the lead set at UNCED, including the decision of Angola, Namibia and South Africa to sign a convention on ocean governance, creating a permanent inter-governmental institution responsible for promoting the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Meanwhile, Afghanistan and Cambodia acceded to the Rotterdam Convention and Afghanistan joined the Kyoto Protocol, but Canada withdrew from the UNCCD. Representatives from Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), at the Fifth BRICS Summit, reaffirmed their "commitment to the promotion of international law, multilateralism and the central role of the United Nations (UN)," but acknowledged that the current global governance architecture is ruled by entities conceived when the international landscape presented very different challenges and opportunities, and committed to explore new models towards more equitable development and inclusive global growth.

Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin teams will be bringing you more updates on related discussions in the coming fortnight. One team is just wrapping up its coverage of the INC-Forests3 Resumed Session, which is discussing a legally binding agreement on forests in Europe. Two teams are preparing to follow the meetings of the subsidiary bodies for the UNCCD and the tenth session of the UN Forum on Forests, which will assess progress made on the implementation of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests, among other agenda items. And we have fielded a number of teams to cover the flurry of meetings on a different framework for cooperation -- the development of goals and targets -- with the culmination of global consultations on 11 thematic issues that are contributing to the post-2015 development agenda. We look forward to helping you to continue tracking the discussions on and evolution of the form that international cooperation on sustainable development issues is taking.