Side Discussions May Be Biggest Outcome of Rio+20

Rio de Janeiro, the site of last week's Rio+20 conference.

Rio de Janeiro, the site of last week’s Rio+20 conference. (© Olivier Langrand)

Last week’s Rio+20 conference failed to produce a binding agreement on sustainable development. However, there were several signs of progress outside the official country negotiations, including:

  • Agreement on the value of natural capital. Rio+20 marked the first time that governments and businesses explicitly recognized natural capital the benefits and services provided to people by biodiversity and ecosystems as an issue that is central to sustainable development.
  • Growing voice for businesses and civil society. In Rio, the corporate world took on a leadership role as a community unlike anything we’ve seen before. In addition, nongovernmental organizations were included as active and valued participants — not mere observers — in defining a new development agenda based on a green economy.
  • Role of side events. More than 6,000 side events — on topics ranging from indigenous rights to energy efficiency to agricultural development — took center stage at Rio+20. These events helped connect groups from across the globe, allowing them to exchange ideas and discuss future collaborations.

In addition, attention from social media outlets meant that millions of people were able to connect as never before with speakers and issues at the conference, voicing their diverse opinions and advocating for change. While we may not be celebrating the type of dramatic commitments many of us may have hoped for last week, these developments prove that conversations are at least moving in the right direction.

To learn more about the outcomes of Rio+20, read CI’s official statement.

Molly Bergen is managing editor on CI’s communications team.

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