The Norwegian delegation at the negotiations. From the left: Idunn Eidheim, Harald Neple and Marianne Loe. 
Photo: Norway UN Mission/Sigrun Agøy Engum.The Norwegian delegation at the negotiations. From the left: Idunn Eidheim, Harald Neple and Marianne Loe. Photo: Norway UN Mission/Sigrun Agøy Engum

A long way to Rio

Last updated: 3/27/2012 // It is difficult to make 193 states agree. This became clear as the first round of the ’informal-informal’ negotiations on the zero draft of the outcome document to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio + 20 started up last week.

From the 20th – 22nd of June this year, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference is also known as Rio +20 since this conference takes place 20 years after the UN Conference on Environment and Development, which happened in Rio. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called Rio +20 the most important United Nations conference of all times. Brazil awaits 50-60 000 visitors during these days, both from the gouvernments, the private sector and civil society. The conference has two main themes; green economy in the context of poverty reduction and sustainable development, and the institutional framework for sustainable development. These two themes are the main focus of a final outcome document, which is currently being negotiated.


Monday 26th March, 10am: Yet again the Economic and Social Council Chamber fills up with formally suited men and women. The chairs are packed with delegates from member states, and the attention is largely focused on the big screens placed on either side of the room, where the document being negotiated is displayed. This is the setting when the member states of the United Nations try to agree on the outcome document to the Rio+20. They have been negotiating since the 19th of March.

Long days and slow progression

Last week, it was a read through of the document, where mainly the Western countries presented their comments on the draft. The G-77 (a group of 132 developing countries) and China was still negotiation internally and was not ready to respond before this week. They used the last two days of the negotiations to add their corrections to the document. The actual process is simple; the representative from G-77 reads up the corrections they want to make, and the suggestions are written into the document so everyone can see it on the large screens. Every now and then the G-77 posts a question to some of the other countries, and the addressed parts respond – if they want to. However, there is a lot of politics tied to the negotiations of the document, and the progression is slow. It becomes as clear as ever that the different fractions have very diverse views on how the final document should end up, and at the moment there is little room for flexibility from either of the parties.

Norwegian priorities

For Norway it has been important to promote energy, food and nutrition security, valuation of natural capital, women and equality. Furthermore, we have suggested the forming of a global Sustainable Development Council, in order to enhance the institutional framework for sustainable development. The establishing of such a Council is a priority for Norway, and we hope this will be one of the concrete results of the Rio +20 Conference in June.

The way ahead

The ‘informal-informal’ negotiations have reached its final day. The next round of negotiations takes place on the 23rd of April to the 4th of May. Then the plan is to have a preparatory meeting in Rio 13th -15th of June, before the actual conference takes place 20th – 22nd of June. What the document will look like then, no one knows.

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