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Summary report, 25–27 January 2012

Initial Discussions on the “Zero Draft” of the Outcome Document for UNCSD

The initial discussions on the “zero draft” of the outcome document for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 25-27 January 2012. The “zero draft” was developed by the Co-Chairs and Bureau of the UNCSD Preparatory Committee. In their opening statements, delegates agreed that it would serve as the basis for negotiations between now and the Conference, scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20-22 June 2012. Titled “The Future We Want,” the zero draft is the result of approximately 6000 pages of input that the UNCSD Secretariat received from member states and other stakeholders, as well as comments offered during the 15-16 December 2011 Second Intersessional Meeting of the UNCSD.

Delegations submitted written comments on the first two sections of the zero draft—the Preamble/Stage Setting and Renewing Political Commitment Sections—prior to the January discussions, and began negotiations on these sections. Written comments on the remaining three sections—Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development, and Framework for action and follow-up—are due by 29 February 2012. The Secretariat will develop a compilation document from these comments for use during the first informal-informal negotiations on the draft outcome document, scheduled from 19-23 March 2012.

At the conclusion of the initial discussions, participants were pleased to note that some progress had been made, with the acceptance of the zero draft as the basis for negotiations and the commencement of negotiations. But they emphasized that the goal of an ambitious and action-oriented document will require equally ambitious negotiations in the 145 days between the end of the January consultations and the first day of Rio+20.


The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will mark the 40th anniversary of the first major international political conference that specifically had the word “environment” in its title. The UNCSD seeks to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess progress and implementation gaps in meeting previously-agreed commitments, and address new and emerging challenges. The Conference will focus on the following themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD).

STOCKHOLM CONFERENCE: The UN Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) was held in Stockholm, Sweden, from 5-16 June 1972, and produced three major sets of decisions: the Stockholm Declaration; the Stockholm Action Plan, made up of 109 recommendations on international measures against environmental degradation for governments and international organizations; and a group of five resolutions calling for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons, the creation of an international databank on environmental data, addressing actions linked to development and the environment, the creation of an environment fund, and establishing the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which was charged with providing the central node for global environmental cooperation and treaty making.

BRUNDTLAND COMMISSION: In 1983, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) established an independent commission to formulate a long-term agenda for action. The World Commission on Environment and Development—more commonly known as the Brundtland Commission, named for its Chair, Gro Harlem Brundtland—subsequently issued, in 1987, Our Common Future, which stressed the need for development strategies in all countries that recognized the limits of the ecosystem’s ability to regenerate itself and absorb waste products. The Commission emphasized the link between economic development and environmental issues, and identified poverty eradication as a necessary and fundamental requirement for environmentally sustainable development.

UN CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT: UNCED, also known as the Earth Summit, was held from 3-14 June 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and involved over 100 Heads of State and Government, representatives from 178 countries, and some 17,000 participants. The principal outputs of UNCED were the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21 (a 40-chapter programme of action) and the Statement of Forest Principles. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity were also opened for signature during the Earth Summit. Agenda 21 called for the creation of a Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) as a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, enhance international cooperation, and examine progress in implementing Agenda 21 at the local, national, regional and international levels.

UNGASS-19: The 19th Special Session of the UNGA for the Overall Review and Appraisal of Agenda 21 (23-27 June 1997, New York) adopted the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21. It assessed progress since UNCED and examined implementation.

WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: The WSSD met from 26 August-4 September 2002, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The goal of the WSSD, according to UNGA Resolution 55/199, was to hold a ten-year review of UNCED at the Summit level to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable development. The WSSD gathered over 21,000 participants from 191 countries. The WSSD negotiated and adopted two main documents: the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI); and the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development. The JPOI is designed as a framework for action to implement the commitments originally agreed at UNCED. The Johannesburg Declaration outlines the path taken from UNCED to the WSSD, highlights challenges, expresses a commitment to sustainable development, underscores the importance of multilateralism and emphasizes the need for implementation.

UNGA 64: On 24 December 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 64/236 and agreed to convene the UNCSD in 2012 in Brazil. Resolution 64/236 also called for holding three Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings prior to the UNCSD. On 14 May 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang as Secretary-General for the Conference. The UN Secretary-General subsequently appointed Brice Lalonde (France) and Elizabeth Thompson (Barbados) as executive coordinators.

UNCSD PREPCOM I: The first session of the PrepCom was held from 17-19 May 2010, at UN Headquarters in New York. The PrepCom assessed progress to date and the remaining gaps in implementing outcomes of major summits on sustainable development, as well as new and emerging challenges, a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the IFSD. Participants also organized their work in the lead-up to 2012, and considered the UNCSD’s rules of procedure.

FIRST INTERSESSIONAL MEETING: The first Intersessional Meeting for the UNCSD convened from 10-11 January 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York. During the meeting, delegates listened to a summary of the findings of the Synthesis Report on securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development, which assesses progress to date and remaining gaps in implementing the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and addresses new and emerging challenges. Panel discussions were held on the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and on the IFSD.

UNCSD PREPCOM II: The second session of the PrepCom took place from 7-8 March 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York. Delegates discussed progress to date and remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, addressed new and emerging challenges, discussed the scope of a green economy and the idea of a blue economy, and debated the IFSD. At the end of the meeting, a decision was adopted on the process for preparing the draft outcome document for the UNCSD.

UNCSD SUBREGIONAL PREPARATORY MEETINGS FOR SIDS: Three subregional preparatory meetings were convened to allow small island developing states (SIDS) the opportunity to prepare inputs into the UNCSD preparatory process. The Subregional Preparatory Meeting for the Caribbean convened in Georgetown, Guyana, on 20 June 2011. The Subregional Preparatory Committee for the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and South China Sea (AIMS) countries, convened in Mahé, Seychelles, from 7-8 July 2011. The Pacific Subregional Preparatory Joint Ministerial Meeting convened in Apia, Samoa, from 21-22 July 2011. At these meetings, participants adopted recommendations including on creating a green economy in a blue world, strengthening the regional IFSD, and the value and benefits in engaging in the process and the opportunities that it represents, particularly in regard to the green economy.

UNCSD REGIONAL PREPARATORY MEETINGS: The UN regional economic and social commissions organized preparatory meetings for the UN regions between September and December 2011.

The Regional Preparatory meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean convened in Santiago, Chile, from 7-9 September 2011. The main outcome of this meeting was a set of negotiated conclusions, which included calls for finding better ways to measure the wealth of countries that adequately reflect the three pillars of sustainable development, and a flexible and efficient global IFSD ensuring effective integration of the three pillars. Delegates also discussed a proposal from Colombia and Guatemala to launch a process to develop sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The Arab Regional Preparatory Meeting took place from 16-17 October 2011, in Cairo, Egypt. On the green economy, delegates highlighted the lack of a universal definition and agreed that it should be a tool for sustainable development rather than a new principle that might replace sustainable development. Regarding the IFSD, some said they could not discuss the international options in detail until the proposals and their financial implications are made clear. Participants also highlighted the need for balance among the three pillars of sustainable development.

The Regional Preparatory Meeting for Asia and the Pacific took place from 19-20 October 2011, in Seoul, Republic of Korea. On green economy, although many found merit in the idea, some noted that a green economy should not lead to protectionism or conditionalities. On IFSD, while many favored “strengthening” UNEP, there was no consensus on whether this should be done through transforming UNEP into a specialized agency. Some participants also expressed interest and support for establishing a sustainable development council.

The Regional Preparatory Meeting for Africa took place from 20-25 October 2011, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On IFSD, while there was some opposition to the idea of transforming UNEP into a specialized agency, all participants agreed on the need to strengthen the organization. Delegates supported the concept of green economy while indicating that it needs more definition, should not result in protectionism or trade conditionalities, and should include the concept of sustainable land management. On means of implementation, delegates committed to a number of objectives, including ensuring improved environmental governance, transparency and accountability. They also called on the international community to meet existing commitments, such as the need to double aid to Africa.

The Regional Preparatory Meeting for Europe and North America convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1-2 December 2011. Participants called for improvement in monitoring and evaluation of progress on sustainable development, better integration of the three pillars of sustainable development, and stronger regional coherence and cooperation. They discussed the proposal for SDGs and supported the need for a green economy roadmap, while acknowledging different views and the need to accommodate the unique challenges of different countries. On IFSD, many supported upgrading and transforming UNEP, creating a sustainable development council, strengthening the regional commissions and national sustainable development councils, and engaging civil society. There was both support for and opposition to proposals for a new international convention elaborating Rio Principle 10 on access to information and public participation.

SECOND INTERSESSIONAL MEETING FOR THE UNCSD: This meeting convened from 15-16 December 2011 at UN Headquarters in New York. Participants discussed the compilation of submissions from states, UN bodies, intergovernmental organizations and Major Groups and provided comments and guidance for the development, structure and format of a “zero draft” of the outcome document to be adopted at the UNCSD in June 2012.


On Wednesday, 25 January 2012, the initial discussions on the “zero draft” of the outcome document for the UNCSD were opened by Preparatory Committee Co-Chair John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda). Ashe invited delegates to briefly convene as a special meeting of the UNCSD Preparatory Committee to elect Munawar Saeed Bhatti (Pakistan) to replace Asad Khan (Pakistan) as Vice-Chair for the Asian Group. UNCSD Secretary-General Sha Zukang then stressed the need for an ambitious yet practical outcome that equals the magnitude of today’s challenges and reinvigorates political commitment. He said Rio+20 must put us on an “unambiguous course toward sustainable development.”

On Wednesday and Thursday morning, 25-26 January, approximately 100 representatives from country coalitions, member states, UN agencies and organizations, and Major Groups offered opening comments on the zero draft. On Thursday afternoon and Friday, 26-27 January, delegates conducted a first reading and began a second reading of the first two sections of the zero draft. This report summarizes the comments and negotiations on the first two sections of the zero draft.


During their general comments on the zero draft, many countries said the outcome should be more balanced, ambitious and action-oriented, but the current text could be used as a basis for negotiations.

Algeria, for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), said a compilation document with all proposals should be the outcome of this meeting. He said the document should assess why outcomes from Rio and Johannesburg were not fully realized, and he called for, inter alia: reforming the global financial system; developing a registry on available financial resources and technology transfer from developed countries; and examining the impact of intellectual property rights on technology transfer. Argentina emphasized sovereignty of states, particularly over their natural resources. China said: SDGs should not establish binding indicators; and negotiation and implementation of the outcome document should be led by member states. Mexico said the environment pillar in ECOSOC should be strengthened and that a Sustainable Development Council would not resolve the CSD’s problems.

India suggested holding an informal debate on the proposal to establish a High Commissioner for Future Generations. Peru emphasized cultural diversity and leveraging traditional knowledge. On SDGs, Colombia said, inter alia: they should be tailored to national particularities; poverty eradication should be an overarching objective; and views diverge regarding the process to develop them.

Ecuador expressed concern regarding green economy structural adjustments and supported a new global economic order for moving towards sustainable consumption and production (SCP) models. Malaysia said priority should be given to strengthening the social and economic pillars. Thailand supported establishing “centers of excellence.” Nicaragua called for a new ethic of sustainable development that promotes social and environmental justice.

Venezuela stressed recognizing fossil fuels as important in the energy mix. Brazil said: the SDGs should be a tool to mainstream sustainable development; and civil society participation should be integrated into sustainable development discussions and implementation. Bolivia expressed concern that green economy promotes markets, payments for environmental services and a weak role for the state.

Nepal, for the least developed countries (LDCs), called for, inter alia, universal access to affordable and reliable energy. Benin, for the African Group, said SDGs should not replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and supported adopting the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP on SCP). Ghana called for recognizing institutions as the fourth pillar of sustainable development. Libya, for the Arab Group, called for addressing the difficulties faced by those living under occupation.

Nauru, for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said oceans and climate change need more attention. The Dominican Republic, for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), stressed better integration of SIDS’ special challenges throughout the document. Papua New Guinea, for Pacific SIDS, stressed the linkage between the blue and green economies. The Federated States of Micronesia, for the Pacific Islands Forum, called for language on ensuring SIDS receive greater benefits from their ocean resources.

Cuba reiterated its IFSD proposal for an inter-ministerial global forum on sustainable development. Guyana asked whether new or reformed institutions stand any greater chance of functioning more effectively in the absence of increased political will. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines emphasized tailoring the outcome to the needs of developing countries.

The European Union (EU) emphasized, inter alia: establishing a fully-fledged environmental organization as a UN specialized agency based on UNEP and located in Nairobi; developing SDGs in coherence with the MDG review; a multi-stakeholder approach; reliance on allsources of financing, not only official development assistance (ODA); and reducing or eliminating trade barriers. Slovakia requested the Secretariat to provide a proposal on how ECOSOC could align its work with the goals of sustainable development.

The Russian Federation proposed reforming ECOSOC, and strengthening UNEP through universal membership. Belarus called for a global voluntary fund to facilitate the transfer of green technologies and addressing the needs of middle-income countries.

The US stressed good governance and equal administration of justice. Canada supported a voluntary set of indicators reflecting differing national circumstances. Norway highlighted: gender equality and empowerment of women; and ensuring sustainable energy for all. Australia supported a section on sustainable mining practices. Japan emphasized including the transition to the green economy in national development strategies.

The Republic of Korea proposed a clear mandate for the SDGs in the preamble. Switzerland called for concrete and time-bound measures and actions. Lichtenstein supported upgrading UNEP as a specialized agency and developing a global registry on sustainable development. Turkey urged focus on country differentiation.

Farmers stressed the critical role artisanal and small-scale fishing communities play in sustainable development. The Scientific and Technological Community called for, inter alia, scientific coordination and capacity building in developing countries. Business and Industry stressed the need for clear policy and regulatory frameworks, and protection regarding disclosure of private regulatory data and information. Workers and Trade Unions opposed a green economy based on voluntary measures by the private sector, and urged agreement on a financial transaction tax. Local Authorities urged more progress on sustainable urban development. NGOs called for, inter alia, adopting a new treaty to enshrine Rio Principle 10, a convention on corporate responsibility, and transforming UNEP into a specialized agency. Indigenous Peoples called for recognizing culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development. Children and Youth emphasized youth as a key player in a green economy, and an Ombudsperson for Future Generations. Women supported a section on health and wellbeing and a social protection floor.

IUCN emphasized a close link between the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the proposed knowledge platform. UN Women emphasized women as beneficiaries of targeted programmes and as powerful agents in advancing the three pillars. The Food and Agriculture Organization, also speaking for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme and Bioversity International, said sustainable growth in agriculture is critical for a green economy and lifting people out of poverty.

UNESCO called for increased and sustained investment in science. Also speaking for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, he said the IFSD must address ocean governance in a comprehensive manner. The World Health Organization said better health should be an indicator of sustainable development achievements. The UN Regional Commissions called for greater attention to the institutional framework at the regional and national levels, and strengthening ECOSOC.

 UNEP suggested consolidating the various “frameworks for action” in the zero draft into a single section. UNDP urged a strong outcome on energy and a cross-cutting approach for empowering women and girls.

The International Labour Organization said upcoming meetings of its Governing Body and its Conference will take UNCSD-related decisions. The UN Population Fund said the text should refer to universal access to family planning and reproductive health. The UN Industrial Development Organization suggested defining appropriate indicators and targets for greening efforts with energy at the forefront of the debate. The International Organization for Migration, also for the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, highlighted the need for: a sustainable development framework that includes practical measures to reduce natural hazards risks; and mainstreaming migration into disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies. The International Telecommunications Union emphasized the role of information and communications technology as part of the sustainable development infrastructure. 

For longer summaries of these statements, visit and


Prior to the meeting, delegations had submitted their proposed amendments to the first two sections of the zero draft: the Preamble/Stage Setting and Renewing Political Commitment. Co-Chair Sook Kim (Republic of Korea) noted at the beginning of the first reading on Thursday afternoon that these two sections with all submitted proposals had grown from 2.5 to 31 pages. Delegates concluded their first reading of these sections on Friday morning and then conducted a second reading of the first section and part of the second on Friday afternoon. The negotiations on the first two sections are organized below according to the paragraph numbers that appear in the zero draft document, as released on 10 January 2012.

PREAMBLE/STAGE SETTING: On paragraph 1, on heads of state and government resolving to work together, the EU, with the US, proposed adding references to representatives of the peoples of the world. The US proposed deleting reference to heads of state and government. New Zealand proposed including the term sustainable development in the paragraph. The EU questioned Switzerland’s proposal to include civil society at the same level as leaders in endorsing the document. Switzerland said his proposal was meant to underline the inclusiveness of Rio+20, but recognized the concern that civil society would not adopt the agreement in the same way as governments. He also asked if there was a definition of a “happy” future. Japan said the declaration is to be a message sent from governments to the people and belongs to political leaders.

On paragraph 2, on eradicating all forms of poverty, and striving for economic stability and growth that benefit all, the G-77/China proposed text on social equity and environmental sustainability. The EU suggested paragraphs on, inter alia, good governance and the rule of law at national and international levels. The EU requested more information on: the Republic of Korea’s proposed reference to the protection of the “rights of future generations”; and from the G-77/China on its proposed reference to “recognizing the urgency in committing to mutually reinforcing and structured measures, including the establishment of intergovernmentally agreed mechanisms and actions for the full integration of sustainable development pillars.” New Zealand suggested that this paragraph should clearly focus on what we want to achieve in Rio. Switzerland proposed replacing the reference to “growth” with “prosperity,” and said other ideas, such as the EU’s proposed reference to “opportunities” might be acceptable as well. He reaffirmed that poverty eradication is the overriding objective, but did not want to impose one priority over others. Switzerland asked for clarification on “mutually reinforcing and structured measures” in the G-77/China’s proposed text on an integrated approach. The Holy See supported giving poverty eradication an important place in the outcome. Mexico agreed with the G-77/China’s proposal that poverty eradication is the overriding objective.

On paragraph 3, on accelerating progress in achieving internationally agreed development goals, the G-77/China, supported by the EU, proposed language reaffirming commitment to achieving such goals. Norway, Switzerland and the EU preferred “internationally agreed goals.”

On paragraph 4, on commitment to address ongoing and emerging issues, many delegates said they did not understand the references throughout the zero draft to preserving and protecting “life support systems.” Mexico proposed text indicating that carbon-intensive economic development is not sustainable. The EU said the G-77/China’s proposed amendments put too much emphasis on development, as opposed to the three pillars of sustainable development. Switzerland said the text should capture the concept of protecting and restoring as well as preserving ecosystems. The Holy See supported G-77/China text on the promotion of human dignity. The US said that new rights-based language is not appropriate for this document. Mexico supported incorporating a reference to natural resources and the notion of carrying capacity of ecosystems.

On paragraph 5, on the objective and themes for the conference, the EU proposed text that it said would make more explicit the vision embedded in the main themes of the conference, including the necessity to take action at global, regional, national and local levels, and ensure better policy coherence. The EU also proposed text highlighting that the cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action and will promote sustainability. The EU requested clarification on the Russian Federation’s proposed text on new universal and comprehensive ethics of humanity. The Russian Federation explained that, while its proposed text may not be previously agreed language, ethics play an important role in formulating public policy. The EU also requested clarification on Kazakhstan’s proposal to refer to ensuring adequate and efficient energy as a strategic goal in implementing the mechanisms of the pillars’ integration for all countries. The G-77/China and the US requested clarification from the EU on its proposed reference to recognizing that “the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action.” The EU said that it is necessary to remember that, if we do not take action now, the cost to address these issues will be much higher later. Mexico supported the G-77/China’s proposed conclusion to the preamble on the objective of the Conference, stating that it was necessary at this point in the document to tell the reader what is coming next.

RENEWING POLITICAL COMMITMENT: On paragraph 6, on reaffirming the UN Charter, the G-77/China proposed adding a paragraph on the importance of inclusive, transparent and effective multilateralism, and full and fair participation of developing countries. The EU proposed adding a paragraph recalling the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

On paragraph 7, on reaffirming commitment to advance progress, the G-77/China proposed adding a paragraph reaffirming the principles in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

On paragraph 8, on reaffirming commitment to past agreements, the EU proposed adding reference to the International Conference on Population and Development. Switzerland proposed adding reference to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the Nairobi Declaration, the Malmo Ministerial Declaration, the Bali Ministerial Declaration, the Cartagena Decision on Strengthening International Environmental Governance and the Bali Strategic Plan for Capacity Building and Technology Support. The G-77/China proposed an alternative paragraph reinforcing sustainable development globally through multilateral and national efforts, referencing the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and the sovereign right of states over their natural resources.

 On paragraph 9, on recognizing the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and of the sovereign right of states over their natural resources, the US, Japan and New Zealand proposed deleting the references to these specific Rio Declaration principles. The G-77/China proposed referencing additional past agreements, and urging countries to implement their commitments under the Rio Conventions, among others. On a G-77-China proposed additional paragraph on commitments under the Rio Conventions, the EU opposed referring to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Regarding a paragraph on the Monterrey Consensus proposed by the G-77/China, the EU said it does not adequately reflect the balance of that consensus and New Zealand proposed its deletion. The EU supported Mexico’s proposed paragraph on sustainable urbanization.

On paragraph 10, on recognizing progress and change since the Earth Summit in 1992, the EU proposed additional text on research and technological development and innovations from the private sector and other stakeholders. The G-77/China proposed additional text on increasing gaps between developed and developing countries. The EU said this does not reflect reality and that many developing countries have reduced the gap.  Australia proposed text to recognize that hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty. Switzerland proposed text noting that progress has been made in protecting the ozone layer, regulating international trade in endangered species, and environmentally sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes through international regulation. Regarding Mexico’s proposed paragraph stating sustainable development is still a common undertaking, a number of countries said they did not understand what was meant by “common undertaking.”

On paragraph 11, on setbacks and the gravity of the threats we face, the EU proposed new text on impacts of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production on capacity of ecosystems and on population dynamics. The G-77/China proposed text on lack of implementation and integration and their impacts on global challenges, including climate change. A number of parties said the paragraph on multiple interrelated crises was incomprehensible and required clarity. The EU expressed concern with linking these issues to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as the G-77/China proposed in an additional paragraph.

On paragraph 12, on national commitment to sustainable development, the G-77/China proposed text that highlights efforts undertaken to integrate sustainable development in national policies and plans. The EU proposed text recognizing examples of progress and leadership in sustainable development. Switzerland suggested text that highlights the challenge of coherence between social, environmental and economic policies.

On paragraph 13, on barriers and gaps in the implementation of internationally agreed commitments, the EU said the original text was too negative. The G-77/China proposed additional paragraphs on: poverty as an overriding issue; lack of fulfillment of internationally agreed commitments; developed countries changing their unsustainable patterns of consumption and production; current major challenges and crises; and unemployment and underemployment. Regarding a G-77/China-proposed paragraph on adopting a 10YFP for SCP, the EU reiterated the text that was almost agreed at CSD 19 and said the 10YFP should apply to all countries, not just developed countries.

On paragraph 14, on efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, Canada and the US said G-77/China proposed text on self-determination and foreign occupation is not appropriate for this document. The G-77/China asked those parties opposing to provide their rationale for doing so.

On paragraph 15, on the challenges facing various groups of countries, the G-77/China proposed replacing the single paragraph with separate paragraphs addressing the needs of LDCs, SIDS, African countries, middle-income countries and landlocked countries, and a paragraph on trade. Belarus and Mexico supported proposed references to middle-income countries. The EU, supported by the Republic of Korea, proposed adding a new paragraph on international efforts to improve aid effectiveness and promote effective development cooperation. Switzerland added reference to mountainous developing states. New Zealand supported an EU-proposed reference to countries in conflict.

On paragraph 16, on diversity of the world and the contribution of all cultures and civilizations, the EU underscored cultural and natural diversity. The G-77/China proposed adding paragraphs on: a holistic approach in order to live in harmony with nature; the role of intellectual property rights and their impact on technology transfer; and unilateral sanctions affecting the ability to achieve sustainable development. The Russian Federation proposed an additional paragraph requesting the Secretary-General, in consultation with member states, to elaborate a voluntary document on globally shared values, principles and ethics of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

On paragraph 17, on broad public participation in decision making, the G-77/China proposed text on access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings. The EU emphasized the importance of participation at local, national, regional and international levels. Switzerland suggested making this paragraph more action-oriented and moving it under the “Framework for action and follow-up” section of the text. Switzerland and Liechtenstein proposed text on enabling civil society engagement in implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable development in addition to policy making. The Republic of Korea suggested text that highlights the need for governments to create enabling environments for participation. Mexico proposed text to “acknowledge the need to include national parliamentarians amongst major groups.” The Holy See suggested adding a reference to faith-based organizations in the list of stakeholders.

On paragraph 18, on improved participation of civil society, the G-77/China proposed new text that outlines actions to enhance participation, including strengthening frameworks and policies to facilitate access to information, and highlighted technology transfer as essential to work toward reducing the technology gap. The EU suggested text that sets safeguards for effective participation, including respect for the right of freedom of association and assembly, and suggested a paragraph on women and gender equality. The US proposed replacing “strengthening the right to access information” with “improving availability of information” for civil society. Norway suggested text that aims to strengthen the right to access judicial and administrative procedures. Switzerland proposed clarifying that access to information refers to information held by public authorities.

On paragraph 19, on the role of the private sector in moving toward sustainable development, the G-77/China proposed text that, inter alia, specifies the need to take into account relevant national legislation and policies in the promotion of sustainable development by the private sector and that stresses the importance of applying standards of corporate responsibility and accountability. The EU proposed text that: specifies ways the private sector can deliver green growth and seek opportunities from a green economy; and refers to ensuring a predictable, consistent and enabling regulatory framework to advance sustainable development. Switzerland proposed text that outlines the actions that the private sector could take to advance a green economy. The Republic of Korea suggested text calling on member states to encourage and promote conditions for action by the private sector. Norway suggested text that stresses the need to involve both the public and private sectors, and to establish policies to reflect social and environmental costs in prices and decisions. Serbia proposed text on strengthening public-private partnerships.

On paragraph 20, on the essential role of local governments, the G-77/China proposed text affirming the primary role of national governments and national legislative bodies in promoting sustainable development. The EU said the text should focus on the role of local governments in engaging citizens. Canada proposed adding reference to “subnational” actors, to reflect the role of federal states.

On paragraph 21, on indigenous peoples, and children and youth, the G-77/China said there should be separate paragraphs on the roles of indigenous peoples and children and youth, plus additional paragraphs on women and disabled persons, and workers and trade unions. Switzerland suggested reflecting all of the Major Groups. The Holy See supported separate references to these actors, and proposed adding reference to “intergenerational solidarity.” 

On paragraphs 22 (improving governance and capacity), 23 (reinvigorating the global partnership for sustainable development) and 24 (global policy framework requiring listed and large private companies to consider sustainability issues), many speakers suggested consolidating the paragraphs and considering moving them to a different section of the document. The US said there should not be a mandate for specific actions by the private sector. Norway proposed text stressing the importance of better cooperation and coherence between the UN, the international financial institutions and the World Trade Organization. Liechtenstein proposed adding a reference to improving “accountability,” as well as improving governance and capacity. Iceland said there should be a strong gender perspective.


In his closing statement, UNCSD Secretary-General Sha Zukang emphasized that it is encouraging that the zero draft was accepted as a starting point for negotiations and that delegates have begun negotiations. He stressed that the outcome is in the hands of governments, and they must make it ambitious and action-oriented. He noted that SDGs could be an important contribution from Rio+20, and that these goals could help guide a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. He also noted the need for a framework for action, including: mobilization of financing; technology cooperation and transfer; engagement of all stakeholders, including through partnerships; and putting science, education and innovation in the service of sustainable development. He said there was a call for putting in place a strengthened institutional framework “to advance integration, implementation and coherence,” although there was a request for further guidance on the options. He also noted calls for ensuring accountability and for a compendium or registry of commitments, and encouraged delegations and Major Groups to remain actively engaged. In response to an inquiry from Argentina earlier in the afternoon regarding whether a panel of experts for oceans issues and an SDG task force had been formed, Sha indicated that his office creates task forces to examine issues that member states may inquire about.

Co-Chair Kim said that the meeting had made some good progress, the vision is clear, there is agreement that the outcome needs to be more action-oriented and ambitious, and an ambitious document will require equally ambitious negotiations. He announced that delegations should submit their amendments to Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the zero draft by 29 February 2012, and that a compilation document would be created. He encouraged delegates to remain in informal contact with each other, and adjourned the meeting at 6:06 pm.


Optimism: the fuel of heroes, the enemy of despair, the creator of the future. --Max More

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon placed sustainable development at the top of his agenda for his second five-term during a parallel gathering to the January 2012 informal consultations on the “zero draft” of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development outcome document. The Secretary-General listed actions he believes the global community must take to build “the future we want,” using the same title as the zero draft document under negotiation for the UNCSD. Highlighting sustainable development in this way provided an auspicious beginning to the first negotiating session in the lead up to Rio.

In the negotiations themselves, governments demonstrated that they are becoming engaged in the process and examining the deliverables from Rio+20 that could build “the future we want.” The approximately 100 opening comments on the zero draft, many delivered by Ambassadors, continued developing a narrative for the outcome, with the zero draft as a common focal point. And some options for deliverables took further shape, although all participants acknowledged that much more work remains. This analysis reviews these developments, as well as some of the obstacles and opportunities that remain on the road to Rio.


Many participants leaving UN Headquarters on Friday, 27 January commented that the informal consultations had played their role in the process of developing the Rio+20 outcome: negotiations commenced with the zero draft as the basis. At their previous meeting in December 2011, delegates had charged the Bureau and its Co-Chairs with the responsibility to chisel down 6000 pages of submissions into a draft that would form an acceptable basis from which to begin negotiations. Participants recognized that it was no easy feat to craft the 19-page zero draft, which was delivered on 10 January 2012. While most speakers said more ambition is needed, delegations found that the zero draft offered “placeholder” text around which they could insert most of their preferred amendments.

The ambition, many acknowledged, will need to come from governments themselves as they develop their collective response to the identified challenges. “The Secretariat and Bureau did a good job of setting up the Christmas tree, and now we are decorating it,” said one veteran delegate. Most agreed that the final outcome will bear little resemblance to the original zero draft. Indeed, Co-Chair Sook Kim reported that text for the first two sections grew from 2.5 to 31 pages when all of the proposals were incorporated, and many saw this as a harbinger of things to come. At this rate of amendments, some anticipated that delegates would be sifting through nearly 200 pages after all proposals are submitted by the end of February.


The two main themes of Rio+20, the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD) and green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, will receive more focus when the zero draft sections on these themes are taken up beginning in March. However, a number of other proposals for possible deliverables continued to take shape, although only the rough outlines of most options are currently identified and much work remains to fill in the details.

On IFSD, while delegations in December indicated general support for the idea of a Sustainable Development Council (SDC), some delegations in January asked what the added value of this change might be. Others requested further information about possibilities for strengthening the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Some noted the concern that, with no change in political will on sustainable development, establishing an SDC would not improve on what already exists and would represent nothing more than “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Both alternatives related to the strengthening or upgrading of the UN Environment Programme remained firmly on the table.

Further examination of the green economy is also expected in March, with some speakers continuing to note that a clear definition is still lacking. While one experienced diplomat anticipated a conclusion with language “vague enough” so that each country can adapt and tailor the concept to fit its particular needs, another feared that lack of a definition will only result in “UN sloganeering that signifies nothing.”

The proposal to develop sustainable development goals (SDGs), first put forward by Colombia and Guatemala, continued to garner interest as a key option for a Rio deliverable, including during a well-attended informal discussion convened on the side of the meeting. In response to some concern that SDGs would replace the MDGs, Colombia and others reiterated that they would complement and build on the MDGs, while being universally applied. Some anticipated that the SDGs will “be faced with more competing interests than the MDGs,” making any process to narrow down the final themes and language challenging. A number of options were noted to be available for moving forward on the SDG proposal in the next five months, from agreeing on basic themes, to agreeing to launch a process to develop them, to identifying a few themes, such as energy and food security, and agreeing to take them for a “test drive” before developing a complete set. While fully supporting SDGs, some civil society members expressed concern that the process must remain fully open to civil society participation when developing the goals and related measurements and indicators. After all, they recalled, it is many members of civil society, such as indigenous peoples and the scientific community, that hold much of the knowledge and expertise regarding some of the themes likely to be developed into SDGs.

Various participants looked forward to continued discussions on a number of other possible deliverables. For example, some said that agreement on a measurement for sustainable development beyond gross domestic product (GDP) would be “groundbreaking,” with, among other things, happiness and health proposed as possible measurements. Other groups continued to support the proposal to appoint an Ombudsperson, or High Commissioner, for Future Generations, to promote sustainable development. A number pointed to the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production as a deliverable from Rio. “We almost have the framework agreed already,” reminded one participant, referring to the text that the 19th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development negotiated but did not adopt due to the lack of agreement on other issue areas. Many expected something on means of implementation. Options for a science mechanism or element, with possibilities including a call for a periodic report on the state of sustainable development globally, were also highlighted as a possible outcome. And the proposed compendium or registry of commitments at the conclusion of the zero draft, as well as suggestions for concrete and time-bound measures and actions may be further developed in the coming months.


While many were optimistic about progress made and remained confident that a good outcome in Rio was possible, challenges remain. “The potential for an ambitious document is there, but so far the political will is not,” said one seasoned participant. Speakers from all regions and groups indicated that they thought the zero draft was unbalanced, with some emphasizing that the proposed priority areas are “environment-heavy.” Many indicated that this problem has plagued the sustainable development agenda since its inception; sustainable development is still “couched” within environment ministries, they explained, and, thus, countries still primarily send representatives from those ministries. The well-worn call for the involvement of other ministries, such as finance, health, culture, trade and agriculture, was raised, with one explaining that “integrating the three pillars in a balanced manner is something we will need to address and reconcile in Rio if we truly want to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty.” Some turned the call on its head, noting that integration must start at the national level, with countries identifying it as a priority and mainstreaming these issues into their national development plans. In other words, some thought the homework for the 145 days between the close of the January consultations and the opening of Rio+20 would benefit from looking within, in addition to exploring the proposals identified for intergovernmental consideration.


“There cannot be sustainable development without the active involvement and participation of Major Groups,” said Co-Chair Sook Kim at the conclusion of consultations between the Bureau and stakeholders on Friday evening. Over 200 representatives of civil society attended the meeting in New York, over 140 participated in a training session convened just prior to the meeting, and more than 500 made submissions to the compilation document. The Brazilian hosts are planning for significant stakeholder participation and involvement in Rio, with roundtables organized by Major Groups during the four days (or what some are calling “the sandwich days”) between the final PrepCom and the Rio+20 event itself. While Major Groups have always engaged with and had a good relationship with the Bureau and Co-Chairs, the Bureau itself initiated the consultations with stakeholders at this meeting.

It is clear that now, more than ever, civil society plays an increasingly significant role in the process and in sustainable development. The challenge is to integrate this role into an intergovernmental process—a challenge that was particularly on view in the debate over the first paragraph of the zero draft. Some delegations sought to make the document “more inclusive” by referencing civil society in the first sentence, while others pointed out that the document is to be negotiated by governments, making it awkward to have other groups take responsibility for the declaration. This small window into the evolution of global governance regimes will continue to play out in the preparations for Rio, and some noted that the key to Rio’s relevance will be in how well the outcome anticipates the realities of the future rather than relying on the governance structures of the past.

Brazil has made clear its intention that it wants to make Rio+20 the largest UN conference in history, bigger even than the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, which was attended by over 100 Heads of State and Government. But with this invitation comes elevated expectations that those invited will be coming to participate in something historic. Although few negotiating days remain before Rio, and some fear that there will not be enough negotiating time to meet these expectations, the major changes in the world during the first half of 2011 suggest that the optimism of those leaving UN Headquarters at the conclusion of the January informal consultations is not misplaced. “We must show the world we mean business, not business as usual,” said UNCSD Secretary-General Sha Zukang in his closing statement. “We must not go home from Rio and forget our commitments the next day.”


For additional meetings leading up to the Rio+20 conference, go to the UNCSD homepage or IISD’s Sustainable Development Policy & Practice knowledgebase

Launch of the Final Report of UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability: The High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) will hand over its final report to the Secretary-General. The launch event will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the African Union (AU) Summit. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa and Co-Chair of the GSP, will present the report on the Panel’s behalf.  date: 30 January 2012  location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia  contact: GSP Secretariat  phone: +1-917-367-4207  email:  www:

Towards a New Global Governance of the Environment: Organized jointly by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transportation and Housing and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, this Conference aims to bring together the expectations of civil society and encourage discussion on the reform of global governance of the environment and the place of non-state actors in it.  date: 31 January 2012  location: Paris, France  contact: Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transportation and Housing  email: www:

18th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean: This biennial meeting of Environment Ministers is organized by the UNEP regional office. Among other things, the ministers are to review the implementation of the Rio 1992 commitments and agreements, and deliberate on new, emerging and priority issues for the region and other issues on the road to the June 2012 UNCSD.  dates: 31 January - 3 February 2012  location: Quito, Ecuador  contact: UNEP Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean  phone: +507-305-3100  fax: +507-305-3105  email:  www:

Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2012: The theme of the 2012 Delhi Sustainable Development Summit is “Protecting the Global Commons: 20 Years Post Rio”, and discussions will take stock of the situation since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.  dates: 2-4 February 2012  location: Delhi, India  contact: Summit Secretariat  phone: +91-11-24568-2100, 4150 4900  fax: +91-11-24682144, 24682145  email: www:

Rio+2.0: Bridging Connection Technologies and Sustainable Development (USRIO+2.0): This event, hosted by the US Department of State and representing a US Government contribution to the preparations for Rio+20, will focus on the use of connection technologies to advance sustainable development solutions in the fields of health, environment, agriculture and sustainable economic growth.  dates: 2-4 February 2012  location: Palo Alto, California, US  www:

Francophone Forum in Preparation for Rio+20: This Forum will enable the Francophonie to develop a position ahead of the UNCSD. Organized by the International Francophonie Organization, this international forum will feature roundtables on the green economy and sustainable development governance.  dates: 8-9 February 2012  location: Lyon, France  contact: Organisation internationale de la Francophonie  phone: +33-1-44-11-12-50  fax: +33-1-44-11-12-80  www:

Business Perspective on Sustainable Growth: Preparing for Rio+20: Convened by KPMG International, in cooperation with the UN Global Compact, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and UNEP, this global summit aims to facilitate business solutions to sustainability challenges. It also seeks to craft a forward-looking agenda to focus on global green growth. Its outcomes will be shared at the UNCSD.  dates: 14-16 February 2012  location: New York, US  email:  www:

12th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum: The UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum will, at its 12th special session, focus on the UNCSD-related themes of green economy and international environmental governance and emerging issues.  dates: 20-22 February 2012  location: Nairobi, Kenya  contact: Jamil Ahmad, UNEP  phone: +254-20-762-3411  fax: +254-20 762-3929  email: www:

Rio+20: Green Bridge Projects - Practical Contribution to a Green Economy: This Roundtable will seek to identify the priority projects of the “Green Bridge” Partnership Programme and prepare a contribution to the UNCSD on the process of transition to a green economy.  dates: 22-23 February 2012  location: Astana, Kazakhstan  contact: Assem Sadykova  email: www:

Special High-level Meeting of ECOSOC with the Bretton Woods Institutions, WTO and UNCTAD: The Special high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with the Bretton Woods Institutions (International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will analyze issues of common concern, related to the global economy and sustainable development.  dates: 13-14 March 2012  location: New York, US  contact: UN Financing for Development Office  www:

GLOBE 2012: GLOBE 2012 is hosted by the GLOBE Foundation, as part of its collaboration with UNEP Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), to offer platforms for thinking, dialogue and action by the worldwide financial services and investment community in preparation for the UNCSD.  dates: 14-16 March 2012  location: Vancouver, Canada  contact: Globe Foundation  phone: +1-604-695-5001  fax: +1-604-695-5019  email: www:

313th Session of the ILO Governing Body: This session of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) includes an agenda item on “The ILO and the multilateral system: ILO preparations for the Rio+20” that is scheduled to develop recommendations related to the UNCSD.  dates: 15-30 March 2012  location: Geneva, Switzerland  contact: ILO  phone: +41 (0) 22-799-6111  fax: +41 (0) 22-798-8685  email: ilo@ilo.orgwww:

Global Transition Green Economy Dialogue: Organized by Global Transition 2012, this event will focus on the key themes of the UNCSD zero draft document related to the green economy.  dates: 17-18 March 2012  location: New York, US  contact: Global Transition 2012  email:kirstys@stakeholderforum www:

First “Informal Informal” Negotiations on the UNCSD Draft Outcome Document: Based on the decision taken at the UNCSD Bureau meeting on 22 December 2011, this meeting will be the first “informal informal” negotiations on the zero draft of the outcome document. dates: 19-23 March 2012  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UNCSD Secretariat  email: www:

Third Intersessional Meeting for the UNCSD: The third intersessional meeting of the UNCSD Preparatory Committee will take place immediately following the informal negotiations.  dates: 26-27 March 2012  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UNCSD Secretariat  email: www:

Planet Under Pressure: New Knowledge Towards Solutions: The conference will discuss solutions to move societies on to a sustainable pathway and provide scientific leadership towards the UNCSD. dates: 26-29 March 2012  location: London, UK  contact: Jenny Wang  phone: +86-10-8520-8796  email: www:

High-Level Meeting on Happiness and Well-being: This High-Level Meeting will gather experts to work together to identify the measures, accounts and financial mechanisms required for a happiness-based economic model to be available for incorporation into national policies. The meeting follows UN General Assembly Resolution 65/309, which calls for a “holistic approach to development” aimed at promoting sustainable happiness and wellbeing.  date: 2 April 2012  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Claire Bulger, Special Assistant to Jeffrey Sachs  phone: +1-347-439-2173  email:  www:

UNCTAD XIII: The 13th Session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIII) will be held in April 2012 on the theme, “Development-centered globalization: Towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development.”  dates: 21-26 April 2012  location: Doha, Qatar  contact: UNCTAD Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-1234  fax: +41-22-917-0057  email: www:

Second “Informal Informal” Negotiations on the UNCSD Outcome Document: This meeting is expected to continue to negotiate the draft Outcome Document for the UNCSD. The dates have not yet been confirmed.  dates: 30 April - 4 May 2012 (tentative)  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UNCSD Secretariat  email: www:

 Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development: This Forum will provide a space for interdisciplinary scientific discussions, and dialogue between scientists, policy-makers, Major Groups and other stakeholders. Key messages and conclusions from the Forum will be reported to UNCSD.  dates: 11-15 June 2012  location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  contact: Maureen Brennan  phone: +33 (0) 1 4525 0677 www:

Third PrepCom for UNCSD: The third meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the UNCSD will take place in Brazil just prior to Rio+20.  dates: 13-15 June 2012  location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  contact: UNCSD Secretariat  email: www:

World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability: This event is expected to take place immediately prior to the UNCSD. It is organized by UNEP, and will seek to contribute to Rio+20 by promoting global consensus among relevant stakeholders such as those engaged in the development of law, Chief Justices and senior judges, Attorneys-General and Public Prosecutors involved in the interpretation and enforcement of law. Tentative date: June 2012 location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  contact: Jacob Duer  phone: +254-20-7624-489  fax: +254-20-7621-234  email: www:

Solutions for a Sustainable Planet International Conference: The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is working with partners in Brazil and with international networks and alliances, to organize a series of simultaneous meetings, presentations and discussions around five key “solutions for a sustainable planet” to generate commitment to act on key issues on the UNCSD agenda.  dates: 16-17 June 2012  location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  contact:  IIED  phone: +44 (0)20-3463-7399  fax: +44 (0)20-3514-9055  email:  www:

Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum: Innovation and Collaboration for the Future We Want: The UNCSD Corporate Sustainability Forum will give business and investors an opportunity to meet with governments, local authorities, civil society and UN entities in highly focused workshops and thematic sessions linked to the Rio+20 agenda.  dates: 15-18 June 2012  location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  contact: UN Global Compact Office  phone: +1-212-907-1347  fax: +1-212-963-1207  email: www:

Peoples’ Summit at UNCSD: The Peoples’ Summit is being organized by 150 organizations, entities and social movements from various countries, and is scheduled to take place in parallel to the UNCSD. The objective of the Summit is to request governments to give political power to the Conference.  dates: 18-23 June 2012  location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  email:  www:

UN Conference on Sustainable Development: The UNCSD will mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), which convened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. dates: 20-22 June 2012  location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  contact: UNCSD Secretariat  email: www:

Further information