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Rio+20 Partnerships Forum Advocates for Concrete and Practical Actions to Implement the Mandates of Rio


By: Nikhil Chandavarkar and Patricia Chaves, UNDESA

-“Let me be clear. Rio+20 was a success. In Rio we saw the further evolution of an undeniable global movement for change. This provides a firm foundation for building a sustainable future…For my second term I have identified partnerships as a central means of achieving our core mandates…Governments stand at the centre. But we know that governments alone cannot get the job done. We need the active involvement and support of all major groups of civil society, including the private sector.”

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s remarks to the General Assembly on the outcome of Rio+20 – UNCSD, 28 June 2012

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, featured a Partnerships Forum as requested by General Assembly Resolution 66/197. The Partnerships Forum, which took place from 20-22 June 2012, is being regarded as one of the legacies of the Conference.

The overall objective of the Partnerships Forum was to reenergize and strengthen partnerships as a critical mechanism to implement sustainable development. Partnerships are considered one of the most participatory mechanisms to implement sustainable development and enhance international cooperation.

The Partnerships Forum consisted of five sessions, using 4 different discussion formats, with close to 700 participants, 4 moderators, 15 presentations from registered partnerships and other organizations as well as approximately 37 high level keynote speakers and panelists.

The five interactive sessions of the Forum were co-organized by UNDESA in cooperation with the SEED Initiative, the Public Health Institute, REEEP, IUCN and UNEP. The discussions highlighted the significant contributions of partnerships to the implementation of sustainable development. The sessions allowed to:

  • Discuss how partnerships can advance the implementation of the agreements reached at Rio+20;
  • Showcase practical experiences and best practices and identify successful models and opportunities for replication and scaling up;
  • Announce new partnerships and initiatives and spur new collaborative efforts;
  • Promote discussions on more effective accountability measures.

The first session was entitled “Delivering Sustainable Development at the Entrepreneurial and Grassroots Levels: challenges, lessons learned and opportunities”. It reflected on how to better respond to the needs of entrepreneurs and grassroots initiatives wishing to enhance their contribution to the implementation of Rio+20. New partnerships involving and supporting small-, micro-, and medium-sized enterprises were launched. There was also a discussion on the need for a new online platform to bring together entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations as well as provide more coordinated and significant support at the global, regional and national levels for these actors. Such a platform would provide more coordinated support to these actors as well as to report on their achievements and lessons learned. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has offered to host this valuable platform.

Session 2 was entitled “Partnerships for the Integration of Food and Nutrition Security, Health, and Gender Equality”. The session emphasized that participation, transparency and accountability principles are critical for making development more inclusive, equitable and sustainable. A Policy Brief on “Food and Nutrition Security, Health and Gender Equality: partnerships for climate-resilient sustainable development” was launched.

Session 3 was entitled “Partnerships for Advancing Gender Equality and Sustainability”. It showcased how partnerships can help to mainstream gender in critical areas, such as Agriculture, Cities, Oceans, Jobs, Forests, Energy, Disaster Reduction and Water. An interactive and highly dynamic “marketplace of ideas” among participants produced concrete recommendations on gender-sensitive goals and indicators – which should contribute to the definition of Sustainable Development Goals. The launch of a Knowledge Platform or Community of Practice was also discussed. The meeting recommended that the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs launch a consultative process to discuss the details of this Platform among different stakeholders, taking into account existing efforts.

Session 4 was entitled “Speed-Brokering for Partnerships: Scaling Up and Replicating Best Practices in Sustainable Development”. It focused on three themes: energy, sustainable cities, and water. Governments, international organizations, major groups’ representatives, financiers, and key leaders were able to forge strategic contacts with each other as well as with sustainable development partnerships. This exchange provided opportunities for creating, scaling-up and replicating partnerships.

Session 5 was entitled “Partnerships Contributing to the Future We Want”. It offered the opportunity for a forward-looking reflection, concrete guidance and visionary perspectives on how partnerships can be best positioned to help expedite the implementation of agreements reached at Rio+20 as well as contribute to the post-2015 development agenda. Key figures in the development sphere provided their vision on the future followed by an interactive session of presentations from partnerships which allowed for sharing experiences and best practices. This session offered the opportunity for Governments, partnerships and other stakeholders to launch new initiatives, commitments and/or collaborations.

A new series of video interviews of key players in the global partnership dialogue was also introduced in preparation for Rio+20. The “Partnerships Drivers” series intended to give recognition to the valuable leadership, commitment and vision of individuals in advancing and strengthening partnerships. Additionally, extensive use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Livestream, provided the opportunity for a broader audience to actively participate in the sessions and be informed of the proceedings.

The Partnerships Forum ignited the enthusiasm, commitment and leadership of different stakeholders to continue strengthening partnerships in the follow up of the Conference. The Rio+20 outcome document decided on concrete mandates to advance further work on the use of partnerships, including public-private partnerships, in key areas such as green economy policies, chemicals, education, job creation, transfer of technology and knowledge sharing as well as exploring new partnerships and innovative sources of finance to complement traditional financial resources. The anticipated creation of the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development will also give a strategic opportunity to continue promoting partnerships as an engagement mechanism as well as an implementation tool. These two functions will be critical to effectively advance sustainable development.

DESA’s work on partnerships will be strengthened to implement more effectively the mandates coming out of Rio+20. It will seek to build on DESA’s comparative advantage and advance a more targeted and dedicated assistance. Services will be offered in a more agile, progressive, creative and responsive way, building on the valuable and crucial collaboration with different stakeholders.

For those readers seeking a more detailed account of the issues discussed at the Partnerships Forum, deliverables from each session, background documents, video interviews and organizing partners, more information will be available here.

For more information, please contact Mr. Nikhil Chandavarkar, Chief of the Outreach and Communications Branch or Ms. Patricia Chaves, Head of the Partnerships Programme, Division for Sustainable Development, UNDESA or visit http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/.