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NGOs Respond to Zero Draft

RIO+2023 January 2012: Responses to the Zero Draft of the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) have been offered by the Pew Environment Group, Greenpeace International, the Third World Network (TWN), the Green Economy Coalition (GEC), and Stakeholder Forum, among other groups.

Titled “The future we want for the ocean,” Pew's paper responds to the zero draft of the outcome document, which was issued recently by the UNCSD Bureau. Pew praises the inclusion of oceans as one of the priority areas to be addressed by potential Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also welcomes Paragraph 80 of the zero draft, which calls for the negotiation of an implementing agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity on the high seas. According to Pew, “inclusion of this text reflects the broad support of States and civil society to tackle legal gaps in current management of high seas biodiversity.” However, the Pew paper suggests that the zero draft falls short in addressing fisheries issues, among others. The Pew paper includes recommendations for addressing elements that it considers weak in the draft.

The proposal to negotiate an agreement to protect the high seas received Greenpeace International's praise, as well, for its clear and urgent language, according to its political director, Daniel Mittler. Greenpeace also commended the document's proposals to develop an alternative measure to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, he said, the document otherwise exudes a “lack of urgency,” for example through the suggested commitment to “gradually eliminate subsidies” that negatively affect the environment. He also wrote that the proposals need to be enforceable, not suggestions or voluntary commitments, and he calls for a shorter process for agreeing on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to the Third World Network (TWN), the implementation aspect of the draft is weak, and that the proposed priority areas are “environment-heavy” o the exclusion of social and economic considerations. On the green economy, it writes, the draft favors an outcome along the lines of the EU's proposed Green Economy Roadmap. On the institutional framework for sustainable development, it believes the draft captures the options that had emerged through the preparatory process.

The GEC evaluated the draft against its vision for a resilient economy that brings a better quality of life for all within one-planet limits. It “grades” the draft against five criteria: measuring what matters; driving investment towards people and the planet; investing in people; restoring natural capital; and transforming high-impact sectors and services. GEC echoes Greenpeace's view that the draft “lacks urgency, it lacks courage, it lacks conviction.” It is most critical on innovative finance, in which “the text steps rather delicately around the question[of] how we are going leverage additional funds” for the transition to a green economy.

Finally, an analysis from Stakeholder Forum assesses the draft with the aims of: helping the UN develop subsequent drafts of a short, outcome-focused political document that represents all views; informing all stakeholders regarding which other organizations share their interests, as well as regarding potential conflicts and potential clusters around key themes or partnerships for action; and increasing the effectiveness of the Rio+20 process, through partnerships to improve the Conference's eventual outcomes. [Publication: The future we want for the ocean: Pew Environment Group Position Paper: Response to the Zero Draft] [Greenpeace International Response] [Preliminary Comments by Third World Network] [GEC Response] [Stakeholder Forum Analysis]