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Editor's Note: Realizing the Potential 

Issue #211 | 17 July 2013

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

On the occasion of the UN General Assembly's adoption of a resolution on the format and organizational aspects of the high-level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on UN Member States to "do their utmost" to realize its potential.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) has set a number of processes in motion that present UN Member States with opportunities to realize new directions. For example, the HLPF – which was called for by Rio+20 delegates – will move away from the standing negotiating body model of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Instead, it will seek to provide political leadership and guidance through meetings every four years, convened under the auspices of the General Assembly at the level of Heads of State and Government, and annually in the framework of the Economic and Social Council's substantive session. The anticipated outcome from the work of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was also called for in the Rio+20 outcome document, would also provide the international community a different means to focus their expectations – the development of agreed goals. In yet another stream of negotiations coming out of the Rio+20 decision, representatives from the small island developing States have been meeting within their regional groups (Caribbean, Pacific and AIMS) to identify their priorities, as a starting point for the preparations for the 2014 Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of the SIDS regional and OWG meetings seek to raise the transparency of these intergovernmental discussions, and to hold participating governments accountable for realizing the potential that the Rio+20 outcome has presented to refocus sustainable development decision making and implementation. We look forward to continuing to do so, as we track the negotiations on these and other elements called for from the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development to the 2012 Rio+20 outcome.