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UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)


"France is aware of its European and global responsibility, and... will commit in the five years to come, to be, not only a leading and moralizing country, but an actor country". "France must show the example". Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic, on 8 June 2012.

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Our Common Future – Brundtland Report, Chapter 2


1. New elements Retour à la table des matières

— Sustainable development goals: What is France’s vision?


Mr. Pascal Canfin, Minister Delegate for Development, travelled to New York on 14 March 2013, for the first meeting of the Open Working Group on sustainable development goals.





— UNEP - First Universal Session of the Governing Council in Nairobi, 22 February 2013


The First Universal Session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) ended on February 22, 2013, in Nairobi (Kenya). France welcomes the decisions adopted at the meeting, which reflect the commitments made at the Rio + 20 Summit to strengthen the position of the United Nations Environment Program within the United Nations. France, the European Union, the African Union and many countries in Asia and Latin America strongly support those decisions.

The proposal to rename the former Governing Council the United Nations Environment Assembly reflects the determination to ensure that the United Nations Environment Program serves as the body that will provide leadership and coordination within the UN system.

The goal is also to make the environmental pillar of sustainable development a model of openness to civil society by ensuring civil society’s full participation in the development of policies and the different levels of discussions.

These decisions are an important step toward the eventual creation of the World Environmental Organization.

2. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or “Rio + 20” Retour à la table des matières

Twenty years after the first "Earth Summit," the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that was held from June 20 to June 22 in Rio de Janeiro, provided an opportunity for all member states to renew their political commitments in favor of more stable, socially responsible and environmentally friendly economic growth.

During the conference, two main issues were debated: implementing an environmentally responsible "green economy," in order to eradicate extreme poverty around the world and strengthening the institutional framework of sustainable development.

A. Principle commitments made at the "Rio + 20” Conference

Throughout the 283 articles of the final declaration entitled "The future we want," the member states committed to embark on the path toward a green economy that should "contribute to the elimination of poverty and to sustainable economic growth, increase social integration and the well-being of humanity, and generate decent job opportunities for all, while preserving the world’s ecosystems."

Beyond reaffirming previous commitments, the text also includes a certain number of new commitments in support of sustainable development:

• To reflect on broader measures of progress to complement GDP (paragraph 38)

• To encourage and help companies to consider integrating more sustainable practices (paragraph 47)

• To establish global governance of sustainable development (paragraph 84)

• To strengthen the role of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as the leading global environmental authority (paragraph 88)

• To develop legal frameworks for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (paragraph 162)

• To organize the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States (paragraph 180)

• To adopt a framework of programs on sustainable consumption and production patterns (paragraph 226)

• To formulate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process (paragraph 248)

• To establish a sustainable development financing strategy (paragraph 255)

• To identify options for a facilitation mechanism that promotes the transfer of technologies (paragraph 273)


B. Follow-up on the decisions taken at the "Rio + 20” Conference

In accordance with France’s priorities, the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations gives special attention to the implementation of the main projects launched at the "Rio + 20” Conference.

• Establishing broader measures of progress to complement gross domestic product (paragraph 38)


Paragraph 38 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document called on the United Nations Statistical Commission to launch a work program on the measurement of progress. The 44th session of the Commission (February 2013) started to implement this mandate by deciding to create the Friends of the Presidency Group. Its role is to establish a “work schedule to determine broader measures of progress” and to participate in talks on the post-2015 period to ensure measurable outcomes.

UNGA resolution 67/214 adopted in December 2012 requested the Secretariat to prepare a report on the implementation of paragraph 38 of the Rio Declaration.

At the same time, for over 20 years, UNDP has been reflecting on this issue within the framework of the preparation of its annual report on human development and its work on the human development index.

France is strongly involved in all these efforts. Since the publication in 2009 of the report by the Sen-Stiglitz-Fitoussi Commission, established by President Sarkozy, our country has been playing a decisive role in the promotion of indicators to measure progress that are complimentary to GDP based on a broader vision of wealth and well-being, integrating human development as a natural capital.


• Approach aimed at encouraging and helping companies to adopt more sustainable practices that emerged from Rio (paragraph 47)

In paragraph 47 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, member states acknowledged the importance of the communication, by companies, of information on the environmental impact of their activities and have encouraged them, especially listed companies and major companies, to consider including information on the sustainability of their activities in their periodic reports.

France took the initiative at the Rio + 20 conference to create, together with South Africa, Brazil and Denmark, a group that supports the provisions of paragraph 47 in order to encourage interested governments and stakeholders to establish, with the help of the United Nations system, models of best practices and to facilitate the publication of information on the sustainability of corporate activities, while paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries.

In April 2013, France was unanimously elected president of this group of friends of paragraph 47 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, for a two-year term. This presidency will be co-chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.

Moreover, France intends to be seen as one of the main actors involved in promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is seen as a way to improve international governance, contribute to development and promote our foreign trade. For more information on France’s position on CSR, click here.

• Establishing the global governance of sustainable development (paragraph 84)

The High Level Political Forum replacing the former Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) was created by the General Assembly on July 9. This resolution establishes an intergovernmental forum to follow up on the 3 dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) without creating a new body. This forum will meet every 4 years at the level of heads of state and government at a session convened by the President of the General Assembly during ministerial week and every year at the ministerial level at a session held back-to-back with the ECOSOC ministerial segment. It should become the post-2015 framework. In accordance with the mandate established in Rio, the first meeting at the level of heads of state and government will be held in September 2013 on the sidelines of the ministerial week (date to be announced) before the last SDC session.

Paragraph 85 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document provides for the strengthening, within the forum, of the advisory role and participation of representatives of civil society (accredited by the UN) in order to use their expertise more effectively, while preserving the intergovernmental character of the debates.

Within the framework of these negotiations, the European Union argued in favor of the need to give the Forum a strong institutional context within the United Nations system by placing it under the auspices of both the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. The European Union also committed to ensuring the inclusion of civil society.

• Strengthening the role of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as a globally recognized authority on environmental issues (paragraph 88)

France, which would like environmental governance to be strengthened and to ultimately establish a global environmental organization, pays particular attention to the process to strengthen and enhance the UNEP launched at the Rio+20 summit. France welcomes the decisions that were adopted to that end at the first universal session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) which took place from February 18 to 22, 2013, in Nairobi (Kenya). The proposal put forward at this meeting to rename the former Governing Council the “United Nations Environment Assembly of UNEP” reflects the determination to ensure that the UN Environment Program serves as the body that will provide leadership and coordination within the UN system. The change of name was adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/67/251 on March 13.

• Development of a legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (paragraph 162)

At Rio+20, the member states committed “to address, on an urgent basis, the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

With this in mind, follow-up workshops were held in New York at the beginning of May on “marine genetic resources” and “protection and management tools.” These contributed to the work of the Task Force on Biodiversity in Marine Areas beyond National Jurisdiction, put together by the UN General Assembly; its first meeting is scheduled to take place at the end of August.

Within this task force, France, in accordance with the Blue Book on the 2009 National Strategy for the Sea and the Oceans (proposed Charlie-Gibbs MPA), supports the creation of marine protected areas in the high seas. More generally, it supports the strengthening of the legal framework relative to marine biodiversity, notably through an international agreement to implement the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

• Organization of the 3rd Conference on Small Island Developing Countries in 2014 (paragraph 180)

In paragraph 180 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, reaffirming the Barbados Program of Action and the Mauritius Strategy and deeming it essential to take coordinated measures to resolve the problems facing the Small Island Developing Countries in terms of sustainable development, the international community agreed to organize a 3rd international conference devoted to these countries in 2014.

Various agencies (United Nations Development Program, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States) are currently involved in activities to prepare for this conference which will take place in Apia, Somoa, from September 1 to 4, 2014. Three regional meetings, in July 2013, as well as an interregional meeting in September 2013, are scheduled in order to allow consultations with the Small Island Developing Countries and to identify their needs and expectations with respect to the upcoming conference, as well as to reflect on how to involve them in the discussions under way at the UN on sustainable development and climate change.

• Adoption of a framework for action for more sustainable patterns of consumption and production (paragraph 226)

In paragraph 226 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, the heads of state and government adopted the “10-year framework of programs on sustainable consumption and production” (known as 10YFP) the main goals of which are to support policies to accelerate the transition toward more sustainable patterns of consumption and production, to integrate these issues into development strategies and to provide developing countries with technical and financial assistance.

Resolution 67/203 decided that ECOSOC would be the interim intergovernmental body that would receive the reports for one year until this arrangement is reviewed at the 68th session of the UN General Assembly (which will take into account the creation of the high-level political forum). A management board restricted to 10 members (2 per regional group) was created for 2 years pending new discussions on the future rotation agreements on the basis of a UNEP report.

• Formulation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by a transparent and participatory intergovernmental Working Group (paragraph 248)

During the 67th session of the UNGA (September 2012), the member states tasked a Working Group, made up of 30 representatives selected on the basis of equitable geographical distribution, to put forward a proposal for the Sustainable Development Goals that will be presented to the General Assembly during its 68th session. Mr. Pascal Canfin, Minister Delegate for Development, attached to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, will represent France within this Working Group.

The Working Group has already met 4 times in New York: from March 14-15, April 17-19, May 22-24 and June 17-19. Its work program as well as its schedule of upcoming meetings are available on line here. Further information can also be found in the section dedicated to the SDGs on the website of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

France may consider that the main goal must continue to be the elimination of poverty, but it also stresses the need to renew the development paradigms and introduce the notion of sustainability. It therefore supports the integration of the 3 “pillars” of sustainable development (economic, social, and environmental), the uniqueness of the development goals framework as well as the convergence of the different processes under way at the UN with respect to the definition of the new post-2015 development framework.




• Development of a strategy for sustainable development financing (paragraph 255)

In paragraph 255 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, the states made a commitment to establish an intergovernmental process within the United Nations to assess financing needs, and evaluate existing measures and instruments in order to develop a financing strategy to facilitate the mobilization of resources and their effective use.

This committee, comprising 30 members, was created by the General Assembly in June 2013. France will be represented by an expert. The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for August 28 to 31, 2013, with a view toward issuing a report in 2014.

• Identification of options for establishing a facilitation mechanism for the transfer of technologies (paragraph 273)

In paragraph 273 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, the members gave the UN a mandate to “identify options for establishing a facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies.”

The Secretary-General fulfilled this mandate by submitting a report on September 4, 2012, setting out options for the functions, format and working methods of such a mechanism (A67/348). The debates on this topic continued at the UN General Assembly, with the organization on April 30, May 1, 30 and 31, by the President of the General Assembly and in accordance with the mandate entrusted to him in resolution 67/203, of 4 consultative workshops on the “development, transfer and dissemination of clean environmental technologies.” During the first two workshops, on April 30 and May 1, the national delegations and the invited experts focused on identifying the technological needs of developing countries, especially with respect to research and development as well as innovation. During the last two workshops on May 30 and 31, the discussions focused on ways to promote the transfer of technologies to developing countries and in particular ways to strengthen the international architecture to that end. The Secretary-General is due to provide an update on these workshops at the 68th session of the General Assembly.

3. Major intergovernmental conferences devoted to the environment Retour à la table des matières

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or “Rio+20” is part of a series of almost 40 years of international conferences devoted to the environment.


A. The UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm (1972)

The Stockholm Conference, which marked the emergence of international awareness of ecological issues, led to the declaration of 26 principles and a comprehensive plan of action to combat pollution.

This conference led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the organization responsible for international cooperation in the environmental field.

B. The UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (1992)

The “Our Common Future” report published in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development – chaired by the former Norwegian minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland – provided the basis for the 1992 Rio Conference. This report popularized the expression “sustainable development” and notably gave us the commonly accepted definition of the concept:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Two concepts are inherent to this notion:

- The concept of “needs”, and more particularly the essential needs of the most vulnerable, to whom it is agreed the greatest priority must be given, and

- The notion of the limits imposed by the present state of our technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet current and future needs.


20 years after the Stockholm Conference, the first Earth Summit put environmental challenges on the international agenda for the first time. With the participation of around 100 heads of State and government and more than 1,500 NGOs, this summit introduced the theme of sustainable development for the first time at this world gathering of civil society representatives and world leaders.

The first Rio Conference led to the adoption of a 40-chapter action plan, Agenda 21, listing the commitments made by the Member States with respect to sustainable development for the 21st century.

C. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002)

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the member states reaffirmed their commitments to sustainable development and in support of a strengthened partnership between the North and the South. They therefore adopted a 153-article action plan, covering a number of issues, such as poverty, consumption, natural resources, globalization, respect for human rights, agricultural productivity, biodiversity and health.

The event brought together around 100 heads of state and government and some 40,000 delegates, making it the largest meeting organized by the United Nations to date.

D. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or “Rio+20

In December 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/64/236) on the holding of a UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Brazil in 2012.

In December 2010, Mr. Brice Lalonde, former Environment Minister of France, and Ms. Elizabeth Thompson, former Environment Minister of Barbados, were appointed as UN coordinators for Sustainable Development by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. They helped the Secretary-General in the preparation of the 2012 Conference.

(July 2013)

4. French statements Retour à la table des matières

- 8 November 2012 - Second commission - « Sustainable development » - Statement by Mr. Martin Briens, Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the French Mission(In French)

- 8 April 2010 - "From Copenhagen to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012: Which Global environmental governance for Sustainable Development?"- Statement by Mrs. Chantal Jouanno, Minister of State responsible for Ecology (In French)

5. Reference documents Retour à la table des matières

- 24 October 2012 - Report of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro

- 19 June 2012 - UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) - Rio de Janeiro - Final outcome

- 24 December 2009- Resolution of the General Assembly (A/RES/64/236)

6. Useful links Retour à la table des matières

- See our file on climate negotiations

- Consult the UN website on the Organization’s efforts to measure and reduce its environmental impact

- See the website of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

- See the website of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic performance and Social Progress (Stiglitz report)

- Consult the file on Sustainable development on the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs website



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