Firm commitments lacking in Rio+20 outcome document

Displays for one of the exhibits held during the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by: Maria Elisa Franco / UN

The text expected to be adopted at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development is finally done. But does it contain the “Future We Want?”

Many are looking forward to a set of proposed sustainable development goals, but the text does not contain any. The document only recognizes the importance of SDGs and offers a timetable on the creation of an “open working group” that will be responsible for drafting a proposed set of SDGs. The group, according to the text, will be created on or before the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

No new financial commitments were included in the draft document, much to the dismay of poor countries calling for a $30 billion annual pledge to promote sustainable development. But the text includes commitments to strengthen the role of the U.N. Environment Program and “invites” the General Assembly to “adopt a resolution” toward this goal.

The draft document has also laid out a set of policies to govern a green economy, but these policies will likely be up for debate. No commitments were made on a number of hot issues, including technology transfer to developing countries.

This final text, finished just hours before the official start of the conference (June 20), has raised eyebrows among environmental and anti-poverty organizations. Some have called it a “watered-down final draft,” the Guardian reports.

“The approach that has been taken is to go for the lowest common denominator,” Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said. “The trick here is to look very carefully at the UN-ese language being used. If they use the word voluntary, it means it is not going to happen.”

On a more positive note, the presidents of six multilateral development banks released a joint statement on the eve of Rio+20, expressing their support for nine core green growth issues: climate change, sustainable cities, sustainable transport, oceans, food security, water, national capital and large-scale ecosystems, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy For All initiative.

The six did not provide any specific financial commitments.

The six MDBs involves are the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.