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Are developed countries trying to reduce political space to discuss sustainable development?

As I write this blog Committee 2 is discussing whether the annual resolution on Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Action and Rio+20 should be scrapped.
The resolution has been extremely important in the last few years for the discussion of subjects such as the High Level Political Forum and the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, the regional dimension of sustainable development and Sustainable Consumption and Production. Since last year, some developed countries started to challenge the very existence of the resolution. Their argument is that it is no longer needed because the 2030 Agenda should cover all aspects of the three previous conferences.

Although the 2030 Agenda does cover many of the aspects of Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Action and Rio+20 it does not cover all and reduces the space YET AGAIN for debate and discussion on sustainable development. In response to the concerns expressed by developed countries, G77 proposed this year to shift the focus of the resolution to SCP. As we all know, SCP is one of the main areas of sustainable development that is not currently covered by any General Assembly resolution. SCP was "born" during the negotiation of Agenda 21 and revamped by Rio+20. The proposal was met with insurmountable resistance from some developed countries, who insist in simply killing or changing the periodicity of the resolution. This is not a very good indicator on the developed countries taking their responsibilities to heart. The follow up to Rio 1992 on SCP was appalling a couple for workshops and conferences and then nothing substantive until we revisited it effectively at Rio+20. This deserves a good space within Committee 2 and offers the chance to bring in industry to look at good practices and do something creative.  
G77 has also proposed to request the Secretary-General to issue a report on the outstanding issues of the Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Action and Rio+20. The report would provide subsidies for discussions next year on whether the resolution should or not continue to exist (and on its periodicity in case it continues to exist). The agreement for the 2030 agenda didn’t mean previous commitments could be forgotten. It was just like the MDGs a prioritization effort. After the MDG Summit it did not mean that review of commitment to the Earth Summit, the Copenhagen Summit, the Beijing Summit the Istanbul Summit did not happen.

This alternative was also rejected by many developed countries, who claim to be convinced that the resolution should be discontinued or tri-annualized even before the debates that such a report would generate.  AGAIN, REDUCING POLITICAL SPACE FOR DISCUSSION ON CRITICAL ISSUES.

The resolution if it continues should be evidence-based. A report of the Secretary General would provide the elements to have such discussion next year. If the report states that there's no relevant issue to be discussed, then it is based on evidence -- I doubt that would happen.

The voting will probably happen next week in the Second Committee and a few days later at the GA. Stakeholders should make their viewpoints to their member states. IN PARTICULAR DEVELOPED COUNTRY STAKEHOLDERS


  1. Kudos Felix for visibilising the negative discussions in NY and all power to you in advancing advocacy on this. Your proposal that the next report should focus on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is right and should be taken up, as a first step. Otherwise the 10 year program of action from Rio + 20 will never make much progress. Current and past EDs of UNEP please weigh in on this issue.

    LOY REGO, MARS Practitioners Network


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