December 15-16, 2011 at United Nations Headquarters


Photo Credit: International Institute for Sustainable Development

Update on Zero Draft:

The second intersessional meeting of UNCSD was held on December 15 and 16, 2011, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The purpose of the meeting was for member states to provide comments and guidance on the zero draft to the Bureau of Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. In addition, member states gathered to prepare the structure and format for the final outcome document at Rio+20 in consultation with the Bureau. Mr. Sha Zukang, Secretary General of Rio+20, closed the meeting with a statement of general outcomes, including the format and structure, key goals, and the role of the Bureau in the compilation of the zero draft which will be published in mid-January, 2012.

The intersessional resulted in consensus among member states that the format of the document should be a single document that is politically focused. The document should also be action-oriented, and focus on implementation, integration, and coherence. Member states wanted a final outcome document that was short, concise, and easily understood by civil society. The United States proposed that the document should not exceed five pages in length. The document is to be based on the General Assembly resolution; Sustainable development: implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The structure of the document is to include three parts: background information, the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and an institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD).

In addition to the format and structure, the member states came to a general conclusion on goals that should be addressed in the final outcome document. One crucial goal included green economy, which is an inclusive aspect to achieve sustainable development. Another fundamental aspect includes IFSD strengthening the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). A conclusive outcome of the role of UNEP will continue to be under negotiation while looking ahead to Rio +20.The document should also focus and integrate the three pillars of sustainable development which are economic, social, and environmental concerns. As well, it should place particular attention on the seven focus areas of Rio+20: jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans, and disasters.

Member states agreed that the Rio+20 document must focus on implementation, as well as integrating different stakeholders in discussions and raising public awareness to ensure commitments of member states are upheld. To this end, private sector, academia and civil society will influence the final document. This inclusive approach will similarly foster a greater level of accountability for commitments made by member states at Rio+20.

Side Events:

Side events at the second intersessional for Rio+20 addressed various challenges of the green economy and the IFSD. A panel on technology and knowledge sharing for sustainable agriculture emphasized the need to develop a people-centered approach to achieve sustainability within the sector. Panelists, member states and civil society organizations discussed the central role that technology can have in rural development and ensuring decent livelihoods for small-scale farmers. Topics focused on included construction of infrastructure, connection to international markets, access to information, increased investment, and research in public and private agricultural sectors.

Looking forward to Rio+20, a side event named, “Sustainable & Just Cities: New Priorities for the Rio+20 Conference,” focused on the crucial role of cities in the implementation of a green economy. Panelists Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Frances Beincke, Luis Ubinas, and Cecilia Martinez presented the unique position of cities as hubs of innovative sustainability and great possibility due to their density and inclusive nature. Panelists similarly noted that cities must be emphasized at Rio+20 because of the accelerated burden on natural resource use that results from urbanization; thus, city representatives should have a voice at Rio+20.