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Rio+20 Voluntary Commitments: delivering promises on sustainable development?

Working Papers N°23/2012. Iddri, 2012. 28 p.

Un article consacré au principe des engagements volontaires adopté lors de la Conférence des Nations unies sur le développement durable, Rio+20, qui s'est tenue en juin 2012 à Rio de Janeiro (Brésil). L'article questionne la capacité de ces engagements — pris par différents types d'acteurs : agences de l'ONU, entreprises, société civile, etc. — à favoriser la définition et la mise en œuvre de politiques de développement durable, et à initier un nouveau modèle de gouvernance internationale.

Points clés [en anglais] :

ENHANCING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS

Rio+20 voluntary commitments may be considered as a key legacy of the conference, which has otherwise been criticized for its low level of ambition and official outcomes. Presented as a complementary tool to international conferences aiming at enhancing sustainable efforts, they might involve a wide audience of stakeholders, not limited to national governments, in a more participatory approach and in a large range of sectors, and mobilize more funding needed to enforce sustainable strategies and policies.

QUESTIONING THE DELIVERY OF PROMISES

Designed as such, however, voluntary commitments leave room for skepticism, if not fears, as to whether they can deliver their promises. What is their level of ambition? How are they selected? Is their relevance and feasibility properly assessed? How will they be monitored and verified? Given their non-legally binding character, will they be used by governments to avoid their responsibilities and stricter regulations?

A NEW GOVERNANCE MODEL AHEAD?

In order to ensure that promises are kept, a first step should consist, as stated in the Rio+20 final outcome, in aggregating Rio+20 voluntary commitments and other registries of commitments in a global registry. Acting as a pledge-reminder, inside and outside international conferences, this compilation would need to be based upon regular, solid, and pragmatic selection and reviewing processes. Thematic advisory boards, including different types of actors, could be established to assess common indicators and progress on specific areas. The transparency and accessibility of this registry would allow “bottom-up accountability”, which would ensure the commitments’ sincerity and avoid “greenwashing” initiatives.