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Putting commitments into actions after Rio+20

The Rio+20 Conference, which took place in June last year, launched various processes as a result of the outcome document “The Future We Want”. Activities are now under way to make sure that commitments are put into actions. On 30 November, the General Assembly’s Second Committee also adopted an important resolution on sustainable development, providing specific timelines for implementation.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has previously highlighted that the Rio+20 outcome document contains many good recommendations. “What is important at this time is to implement them,” he has said, also stressing the importance of “ensuring the three pillars of our goals: social equity, economic development and environmental sustainability”.

At Rio+20, Member States agreed on the new high-level political forum for Sustainable development. As a result of the Second Committee resolution adopted on 30 November, discussions will begin this month on the format and organizational aspects of this forum. They are likely to continue through May.

The resolution also recommended that the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) holds its last session just prior to the first high-level political forum. It also officially adopted the Ten-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production; the beginning of work of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will submit a report to the 68th session of the General Assembly and calling for the work of the OWG to view to propose options for effective sustainable development financing strategy and requests that the OWG updates the General Assembly on the progress of its work before the beginning of the 68th session of the General Assembly.

In addition to the agreements in the Agenda 21 resolution, DESA will produce a synthesis report with views of Member States on the Sustainable Debvelopment Goals and a Secretary-General’s report is also being requested on lessons learned from CSD, to inform negotiations on the high-level political forum. Finally, the resolution welcomed that preparations are now underway for the third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that will be held in Samoa in 2014.

Adressing sustainable challenges of Small Island Developing States

At Rio+20, Member States also decided to convene the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in 2014, reaffirming their recognition of SIDS as a special case for sustainable development. The Government of the Independent State of Samoa has offered to host the conference in 2014, and negotiations were recently concluded in the General Assembly on the first modalities resolution for the conference preparations. As a result, SIDS-led national, regional, and inter-regional preparations will take place throughout 2013.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo as the Secretary-General of the SIDS conference. Mr. Wu has begun mobilizing the full support of DESA, including the SIDS Unit within the Division for Sustainable Development. The President of the General Assembly will launch the intergovernmental preparatory process at the end of 2013, with the first committee meeting to occur early in 2014.

The objectives of the conference, laid out in the modalities resolution, are to: a) assess progress to date and the remaining gaps in implementation; b) seek a renewed political commitment; c) identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS and means of addressing them, including through collaborative partnerships; and d) identify priorities for the sustainable development of SIDS to be considered in the elaboration of the post-2015 UN development agenda. The resolution also calls for “a concise, focused, forward-looking and action-oriented political document.”

Platform for follow up and continued knowledge-exchange

The Rio+20 Conference was an action-oriented conference focusing on implementation of sustainable development. Member States, the United Nations system, and Major Groups and other stakeholders are together leading the way forward to the future we want.

Rio+20 mandated DESA to establish and maintain a comprehensive registry of voluntary initiatives for sustainable development, whose partners have requested registration with the United Nations Secretariat. The present registry is available on the United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform (SDKP). This platform was launched after Rio+20 as a platform for follow-up activities to the Conference. The database is searchable by thematic areas and can be filtered by various “Action Networks”, including the Rio+20 voluntary commitments, partnerships for sustainable development and green economy policies.

Key initiatives for implementation of sustainable development resulting from Rio+20 include Voluntary Commitments, Partnerships for Sustainable Development, and Green economy policies and initiatives. All voluntary initiatives are expected to announce and achieve concrete time-bound deliverables that advance sustainable development.

Other major networks included in the “SD in action” registry are the Secretary-General established Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which aims to drive actions and mobilize commitments to positively transform the world’s energy systems; the Every Woman Every Child initiative, launched by the Secretary-General during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in 2010, aiming to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015; the initiative by United Nations Global Compact in calling for commitments to action from the private sector to take action in support of UN goals and issues; and the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative, which aims to get institutions of higher education to commit to teach sustainable development concepts, encourage research on sustainable development issues, green their campuses, and support sustainability efforts in their communities.

In addition to the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform website, DESA has also launched complementary social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, for civil society to engage in the follow-up to Rio+20. Visitors can “like” the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter via the Twitter handle @SustDev.

The Rio+20 Conference was a major step in moving towards the future we want. Mr. Wu has also highlighted the far-reaching vision of the conference, emphasizing, “it is our responsibility to help turn that vision into reality.”

For more information:

Sustainable development in action

Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform

The UN System framework for follow-up of Rio+20

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – SIDSNet website