Rio 20 - An Analysis of the Zero Draft and the Final Outcome Document 'The Future We Want'

16 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2012 Last revised: 27 Nov 2012

Date Written: November 16, 2012


Rio 20 the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) was held June 20-22, 2012 to allow world leaders as well as participants from governments, civil society, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other groups to come together to draft a roadmap detailing how the world should promote sustainable development. The Final Outcome Document (FOD) of Rio 201 is more detailed and stronger than the initial Zero Draft. The Zero Draft of January 10, 2012 by the Secretariat was purposely general and left many areas to be filled in by specific country proposals. The FOD was finalized and agreed upon by 192 UN member States on June 22, 2012 after three preparatory rounds and protracted negotiations. In the roughly six months of negotiation, the draft ballooned from 19 pages to over 200, finally stabilizing at 53.

This paper will present two charts. First, we have found that the simplest entry point for understanding this international agreement is to look at the number of times key terms are used. Second, we developed another chart that compares the Zero Draft and the FOD’s Framework for Action and Follow Up in terms of what sections were modified, added, or taken out. What is noteworthy is the additional substance and specificity of the general categories in the FOD. This paper will then make some general observations about the Zero Draft and the FOD and compare specific issue areas between the two documents, with particular emphasis on (A) Poverty Eradication and the Green Economy, (B) Resilience, (C) Sustainable Development Goals, and (D) Implementation.

It remains to be seen whether governments and civil society will assume their obligations to integrate the dimensions of sustainable development to create necessary and long-lasting change. The latest extreme natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread devastation across communities in the United States and the Caribbean, demonstrates that even the richest countries in the world are no longer immune to the adverse impacts of climate change. It is clear that to build resilience, countries as well as businesses, NGOs, and civil society organizations will need to work together across national, ethnic, and cultural lines to make fundamental changes to the way that we develop as a globe.

Keywords: sustainable development, green economy, poverty eradication, sustainable development goals, Rio 20, Earth Summit, resilience, food security, equitable, ecosystem, common but differentiated responsibilities, implementation, commitments, precautionary, Hurricane Sandy

Suggested Citation

Assevero, Vicki-Ann and Chitre, Sonali P., Rio 20 - An Analysis of the Zero Draft and the Final Outcome Document 'The Future We Want' (November 16, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Vicki-Ann Assevero

Green Market Santa Cruz ( email )

5-7 Sweet Briar Road
Port-of-Spain, 00000
Trinidad and Tobago
9175144414 (Phone)


Sonali P. Chitre (Contact Author)

Global Mana Foundation ( email )

1 Northside Piers
Brooklyn, NY 11249
United States
2024602229 (Phone)


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