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Rio+20 Outcome Document

"The Future We Want"

The negotiated outcome document “The Future We Want” is divided into six sections: Our common vision; Reaffirming political commitment; The green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; Institutional framework for sustainable development; Framework for action and follow-up, and Means of implementation.  The outcome document outlines action on three over-arching issues of particular importance to USDA:

  • Sustainable Development Goals: General agreement on specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) or themes was not reached at Rio+20.  Instead, the outcome document calls for the creation of an open working group on SDGs by the opening of the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly (September 2012).  This working group, which will be composed of thirty representatives, nominated by Member States, will be charged with submitting a report to the 68th session of the General Assembly (September 2013) containing a proposal for sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action.  The document stresses that the SDGs should not divert focus or efforts from the Millennium Development Goals.  It also states that the SDGs should be universal, action oriented, and incorporate in a balanced manner the three dimensions of sustainable development.  It is highly likely that food security and sustainable agriculture will be included in the SDGs. 

  • New UN Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development: The outcome document calls for a universal intergovernmental high level political forum to eventually replace the current Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which was created to follow up on Rio and Johannesburg, but was widely seen as ineffective.  The document specifies that an intergovernmental and open, transparent and inclusive negotiation process will be launched under the General Assembly to define the high level forum’s format and organizational aspects with the aim of convening the first high level forum at the beginning of the 68th session of the General Assembly (September 2013).
  • Strengthen UN Environmental Program (UNEP): Going into Rio+20, a number of countries proposed replacing UNEP with a stronger body, such as a World Environment Organization, or a UN Environmental Organization.  This proposal was not agreed to at Rio, instead, the outcome document calls for strengthening UNEP by expanding its governing body from the current 58 members to universal membership.
  • Adopt the 10-Year Framework on Sustainable Consumption and Production: The outcome document adopts the 10-year framework on SCP (while emphasizing its voluntary nature) and invites the upcoming UNGA session to designate a Member-state body to operationalize it. 

The Framework for action section of the outcome document includes 26 thematic subsections, including many of importance to USDA, including the sections on Climate change; Forests; Water and sanitation; Energy; Biodiversity; Desertification, land degradation and drought; Sustainable consumption and production; and Food security, nutrition, and agricultural sustainability.  USDA took the lead in the negotiations on the section on Food security, nutrition, and agricultural sustainability.  The State Department led on Forestry, Biodiversity, and Desertification, Land degradation and Drought.

Food security, nutrition, and agricultural sustainability
The ten paragraphs of the food and agricultural section (paragraphs 108-118) in the final outcome document include general reaffirmations of commitments regarding the right to food and of the important role of sustainable agriculture in rural development, poverty alleviation, and food security.  The document stresses the importance of market access and properly functioning markets, as well as research, education, and extension in promoting sustainable agriculture and food security.  It also stresses the role of farmers, particularly smallholders and women in improving food security and alleviating poverty in developing countries. 

The food and agriculture section carves out slightly new territory in a number of areas:

  • Language on the importance of good nutrition for children under two
  • Need to reduce post-harvest and other food losses
  • Stand-alone paragraphs on livestock and fisheries
  • Focus on cooperatives and value chains
  • Urban-rural linkages
  • Strong paragraph on agricultural research and extension

General reactions to the treatment of food security and agriculture in the outcome document were relatively positive, ranging from the Terraviva headline “Agriculture emerges as a bright spot on the Rio horizon” (Terraviva, the Rio+20 #3, June 22, 2012) to the conclusion that “Rio+20 has delivered a pretty good text for farmers”, shared by World Farmers’ Organization and CCAFS (the CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security). These positive assessments are largely a result of the relative prominence of references to the importance of agricultural research/extension and the role of farmers—particularly smallholders and women—in food security and poverty eradication.  In addition to strong language in Section Va on food security and agriculture, such references are found in other sections including Section II on renewing political commitment and in Section III on the green economy. 

Forests and desertification, land degradation and drought
The sections on Forests and desertification, land degradation and drought include large amounts of previously negotiated text.  Reactions have focused on the low-profile of forestry in the negotiated text.