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Rio+20 scorecard

By Derek Osborn, Stakeholder Forum

Early in 2012, Stakeholder Forum in collaboration with several other civil society organisations in the UK drew up a checklist of 13 key objectives that we hoped to see achieved at Rio+20. In the following scorecard I have tried to assess how far the Rio+20 Outcome Document measured up to those objectives, and given the outcomes my personal rating based on a crude star system:

* Inadequate – Barely adequate

**Adequate – Fairly Good

*** Very good


The scorecard


1. Reaffirm that sustainable development is the only possible solution to achieving a safe and just operating space within planetary boundaries and above a social protection floor, and a recognition that this can only be achieved through urgent concrete actions reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities.

Outcome: The language is vague about integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development, but is good on the need to eradicate poverty (para 2) and meet the development needs of the world’s poorest (Rating: ***). It is less inspiring on promoting a more sustainable production and consumption in the developed and middle income countries so as to protect the environment; and finally there is no mention of planetary boundaries at all. Rating: *

2. Recognise rights-based approaches which ensure universal access to health services, access to safe and secure food, water and sanitation services, energy, shelter, quality education and decent work as universal rights for both current and future generations. This includes reaffirming the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment, along with sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Outcome: There is a strong recommitment to right to development for all, and recognition of the need for decent work and for social protection floors (para 156) (Rating: **). However, there is deplorable backsliding from previous agreements on sexual and reproductive rights (paras 145-46). Rating: *

3. Recognise that greening the global economy, ending unsustainable consumption and production, coupled with strong commitment to equity and poverty reduction, are essential for economic recovery and a sustainable future.

Outcome: The language is vague about the green economy helping to manage natural resources sustainably and increase resource efficiency (para 60), leaving each country to work out for itself what this might mean in their own circumstances. The UN system is to provide models and examples of good practice on request (para 66). Rating: *

4. Commit to full implementation on all key issues within realistic but urgent timeframes guided by the Rio Principles and renewed obligations to the prescriptions of Agenda 21.

Outcome: There is a reaffirmation of the Rio Principles (para 15), but the overall the text lacks urgency and contains virtually no reference to timetables. Rating: *


Green and Fair Economy in the Context of Poverty Reduction


5. Commit to worldwide introduction by 2020 of new ways of measuring progress towards sustainability and a green and fair global economy, including:

  • Natural capital accounts;
  • Sustainability indicators (including alternatives to GDP as measures of overall well-being); and
  • Measures of poverty, and of equity and fairness.

Outcome: There is a request for the UN Statistical Commission to undertake a further programme of work to establish broader measures of progress to complement GDP (para 38). Rating: **

6. Commit to set new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2015 to complement MDGs. Specific goals for key sectors including energy, food, the oceans, fresh water, biodiversity, consumption and production and urban areas. Set up a review of regional fisheries agreements to report to the 2013 UN General Assembly.

Outcome: Although no specific goals set at this stage, there is agreement to initiate a process to establish SDGs on a universal basis (paras 246-257). Rating: *** Positive outcomes on fisheries and other ocean issues. (paras 158 -177). Rating: **

7. Toolkit of instruments for a green and fair economy. Launch a new global dialogue to reach agreement by 2015 on specific policies and measures needed to advance sustainability.

Outcome: There are vague and reluctant conclusions on green economy which indicates little real consensus. No toolkit has been agreed upon and little reference is made to specifics (paras 56 -74). Rating: * implementation of new technologies.

8. Give IFIs a new mandate to spearhead the transition to the green economy, to identify by 2015 the scale of global investment needed and the specific changes in public and private investment flows needed to achieve this new green investment and to eliminate unsustainable harmful investment. Seek a convention on new technologies to ensure that there are effective global rules for the implementation of new technologies.

Outcome: It is agreed that new intergovernmental process will be established to develop a Sustainable Development Financing Strategy covering public and private sources of finance (para 258). Rating: **

9. Developed countries to commit to support capacity building for sustainable development. Achieve 0.7% target for ODA by 2020, and to ensure that all of this supports the green economy transition. Specific commitments on the transfer of green technologies and techniques, education and training, and the development of green skills and green jobs.

Outcome: There is strong language on the 0.7% ODA target, but no reference is made to a specific deadline date for achieving this (para 255) and no explicit linking of this with the transition to a green economy. However, the UN Secretary-General is due to make proposals for a facilitation mechanism to promote the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies (para 273). Rating: **


Governance/Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development


10. Internationally, establish new UN Sustainable Development Council under the General Assembly and a strengthened UNEP to drive global progress more powerfully. Establish a UN Ombudsperson or High Commissioner for Future Generations. Set up an Intergovernmental Panel on Sustainable Development to oversee IPCC and IPBES and any other sector science panels set up to ensure interlinked science advise for decision makers, reporting to the new Sustainable Development Council.

Outcome: A new UN high level forum will be established to replace the CSD at a higher and more effective level. The Secretary-General is due to report on the need for intergenerational solidarity taking into account the needs of future generations (para 86). Finally, UNEP is to be strengthened and given universal membership (para 88) and a new IGP on Biodiversity was commended. Rating: **

11. Nationally, commit to placing sustainable development and greening of economy and poverty reduction at heart of national policies and programmes under direct leadership and co-ordination by heads of government. Commit to initiate or revive national sustainable development strategies to drive progress, and to engage all parts of society in the transition, using National Sustainable Development Councils or other mechanisms to achieve this. Establish new or strengthened arrangements for parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of progress towards sustainable development.

Outcome: There is mild support for national, regional and local sustainable development strategies (para 98), and for appropriate institutions to engage civil society (para 101). Rating: **

12. For the business community launch a new international convention on corporate sustainability reporting and responsibility.

Outcome: There is still no commitment to an international legal framework. However, there is strong encouragement for further action by businesses to bring sustainability into the heart of their strategies and to report on this (para 47). Rating: **

13. Engage all stakeholders in the transition to the green economy. Launch a new global convention (or a series of regional conventions) to better implement Article 10 of the Rio Principles and to provide greater participation and better access to information and justice.

Outcome: There is mild support for regional, national and sub-national efforts to provide better access to information and to justice (para 99). Rating: **


My own conclusion is that the overall outcome of Rio +20 was somewhat better than the critical and dismissive commentary it has received so far (Rating: **), and that the positive points in it need to be followed up vigorously. In particular governments and civil society alike need to gear up to take forward:

  • The creation of the new high level forum at the UN;
  • the strengthening of UNEP;
  • the creation of a new Sustainable Development Financing Strategy;
  • the global Sustainable Development Goals;
  • the implementation of natural accounting and sustainability indicators; and
  • the development of global action programmes in key fields such as agriculture and food, sustainable energy, water and sanitation, protection of the forests and of the oceans.