On the eve of Rio+20’s closing ceremony, the focus for many in RioCentro turned from the proposals they had hoped for to the implementation efforts that will be
required in the coming months and years. And for the first time ever, the daily coordinating meeting for the Major Groups hosted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
and each Group had the chance to weigh in on the issues they have been promoting for the past two years.
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or
Rio+20) opened on Wednesday, 20 June 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Following
the election of officers, adoption of the agenda and other organizational agenda
items, delegates proceeded to conduct a general debate. As of 10:00 pm, 48 Heads
of State and Government, Vice-Presidents, and ministers and heads of delegation
had addressed the meeting. The high-level participants also took part in a
roundtable discussion. In addition, the Rio+20 Partnerships Forum opened,
SD-Learning at Rio+20 continued, numerous side events convened and multiple
events took place throughout Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
During a plenary meeting of the Pre-Conference Informal Consultations, delegates agreed to the Rio+20 outcome document ad referendum. Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota opened the mid-day plenary, informing waiting delegates that he believed they were in a position to adopt the text to be formally presented at the conference for adoption.
During Monday’s Pre-Conference Informal Consultations, negotiating groups
considered IFSD, MOI, green economy, oceans, SDGs, energy, Sections I and II,
and Section V.A. Late Monday night, delegates were informed that a plenary would
convene at 11:00 pm, to discuss a new version of the outcome document. At 2:18
am, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota informed the delegates
who were waiting in the plenary hall that a final text would be available by
7:00 am, that a plenary would convene at 10:30 am, and that he would announce to
the press that the elaboration of the text has been concluded.
The third meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) began its work on
Wednesday, 13 June 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Seven "splinter" groups
continued negotiations on the draft outcome document to be considered for
adoption by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, Rio+20), which
is set to open on 20 June. Many consultations also convened during the day,
along with approximately 20 side events, and numerous other events that took
place throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro.
With less than three weeks to go before Rio+20, key areas of divergence remain, including: several issues within the framework for action,
such as climate change, oceans and food and agriculture; the process for the establishment of sustainable development goals (SDGs);
means of implementation, most notably finance and technology transfer; IFSD; and green economy.
Complete Meeting Summary
With splinter groups meeting throughout the day, delegates both in the meeting rooms and in the corridors could be heard bemoaning long hours spent running from one group to the other. “This process is completely dysfunctional,” one delegate vented. “How can you ever reach consensus if critical negotiators are missing because they’re working next door?” Still, at least some groups started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. “There are clearly two different visions on the SDGs process, and we decided to list them as two separate options,” one participant of the SDG group commented, “and at the same time we realized that many other divergences are minor and can easily be bridged.” With the clock ticking however, the need for clarity in the process became urgent, along with the need for perspective and fresh ideas. Informal groups ended the day jockeying for working slots on Saturday, after a day which did see substantive, and according to some “exciting,” progress on a number of issues. “Time,” as one delegate noted, “has become our common enemy.”
Participants commented that a number of elements related to the endgame for the Rio+20 outcome came into better focus on Thursday. Observers noted that, for the first time, all negotiating groups were willing to look favorably on identifying a process for the development of SDGs. After Working Group I completed its discussion on thematic areas, a process likened by some to “speed dating,” 19 informal groups were created to further negotiate each of them. Meanwhile, in Working Group II, delegates managed to complete a first reading of the IFSD. One element that some saw as a possible impediment to progress was the limited number of negotiators in delegations, making it difficult for multiple groups to work simultaneously. Many, however, welcomed the opportunity to get down to resolving tough issues in the smaller groups. “We’ve spent the last few days making a mess of the text” one delegate observed, “now our job is to clean it up, or at least present clear options.”
Signs of fatigue were visible in negotiations, with some participants displaying impatience with the number of amendments introduced at this late stage of negotiations, prompting one Chair to call for a break in order to “cool down.” Although some delegations respected the Co-Chair’s admonitions to restrict their “amendment itch,” other delegations seemed invigorated for new battles. While Co-Chair Ashe opted to delegate all sub-sections to smaller groups, Co-Chair Kim openly vented his frustration, commenting on “the mess” some paragraphs were now in. “You are expected to turn text from a tiger to a lion, but you changed it to a bird.” Some noted that delegates became more engaged during the evening discussion of the possible functions of a high level political forum, which some thought was a positive sign of movement on a delicate issue.
In an increasingly loud chorus of statements leading into this session, UN leaders, The Elders and others called on negotiators to demonstrate a sense of urgency to clinch an agreement on the outcome document. This message was echoed in the special address from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the afternoon. The Co-Chairs, evidently in a tougher mood, began to employ a number of techniques to try to spur on negotiations, from tasking specific delegates to hold consultations in breakout “splinter groups” to promising to submit further refinements that would consolidate and tighten the 80-page document. However, according to a participant, the feeling of urgency in the top echelons of the UN has not yet filtered down to the drafting level, where delegates were making little headway as they struggled to reduce the amount of bracketed text.