Twenty years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (the first international conference on Sustainable Development), a UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be held in Rio de Janeiro (from June 4 through 6, 2012)(the so called “Rio+20” Conference). The purpose is to renew commitments to sustainable development (and its three pillars of minimizing adverse environmental impacts, promoting social well-being, and continuing economic development), assess progress to date, and address the challenges to implementing sustainable development. The Conference will focus on: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development. On November 1, 2011, the United States proposed three priorities — clean energy and urbanization, ecosystems management and rural development, and modernizing global cooperation. The UN staff has begun to synthesize the comments from the individual nations, but the process is still in its early stages.
Rio+20 will not develop a treaty. It is unlikely that participating nations will agree upon a dramatic call for action. However, these types of conferences provide a convenient focal point for the nations of the world to continue the nontrivial task of translating the abstract concept of Sustainable Development into more concrete proposals. As the June 2012 meeting approaches, a series of white papers and other documents will become available and provide a better idea of the primary direction of the Conference.