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Report from Rio+20 - now the hard work begins
Twenty years on from the historic Earth Summit, the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development was met with high expectations. As the Rio proceedings come to an end, UNA-UK’s Head of Policy & Communications, Natalie Samarasinghe, reports that the hard work is just beginning.
The outcome document, as expected, represents a compromise of divergent interests, most notably between developed and developing countries. It contains a ‘wishlist’ of ambitious reform, such as the strengthening of ECOSOC, whilst being notably weak on key issues, such as population and gender.
The challenge now is to interpret what the outcomes will mean in practice. For example, the creation of a high level forum needs to be carefully considered if it’s not to be seen as yet another ‘talking shop’. Whilst UNEP is due to be strengthened, it fell short of being upgraded to a specialised agency.
The most obvious criticism will focus on what Rio did not include, namely a set of agreed Sustainable Development Goals or discussion of lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals, due to expire in 2015. It is vital, however, that the two processes are combined and not seen as mutually exclusive.
UNA-UK looks forward to the UK government playing a key role in any future development framework through David Cameron’s position as co-chair on the panel tasked with exploring what should follow the MDGs.