Navigating “The Future We Want”

Using the Rio+20 outcome document to identify action points for non-profits

After the Rio conference in 1992, a lot was expected from Rio+20. The first conference provoked global optimism. It established formal structures such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, Framework Convention on Climate Change, Agenda 21, and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. However critical the press may have been on Rio+20, this past summer’s conference set up similar processes to address major environmental issues (Sustainable Development Goals working group, 10 Year Framework on Sustainable Consumption and Production), developed a lengthy outcome document, and possibly of most significance, drew in remarkable participation.


The outcome document titled “The Future We Want” defines the facets of a sustainable future and puts forth the idea of Sustainable Development Goals. While these goals have yet to be defined, the documents states that they should be:

“action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries…”

The goals are meant address priority areas of sustainable development, which are laid out in the document. However, there is a lack of enforceable targets and timetables.

So what should we do in the meantime while we wait for these goals to be defined? Rio+20 sparked massive, world-wide participation. More than 100,000 people came to Brazil along with 80+ presidents and prime ministers, and scores of private companies. These eager individuals fostered optimism within each other, inspiring over 700 small initiative and coalitions and thousands of side projects. We should follow ensuite in these NGOs’ and private companies’ endeavors and take action into our own hands. Looking to “The Future We Want” is a good place to start.

I have pulled out some key statements from “The Future We Want” that may hopefully inspire direct action from MobilizeUS!


The document states:

We note the valuable contributions that non-governmental organizations could and do make in promoting sustainable development through their well-established and diverse experience, expertise and capacity, especially in the area of analysis, the sharing of information and knowledge, promotion of dialogue and support of implementation of sustainable development § 53

We are currently working on this through our effective communication on sustainability campaign. By using the skill sets of other non-governmental organizations in our coalition, we will build the capacities of each organization.

Action Point – Create documents, webinars, and tutorials on skills to effectively communicate sustainable development.

We recognize that information and communications technology is facilitating the flow of information between governments and the public. § 44

As a coalition of organizations in the US, we have the access to information. The infrastructure exists; it’s just a matter of sorting through it all and finding the best practices then distributing them to other organizations where they will be put to practical use. The UN’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform is a space to share this type of information.

Action Point – Endorse/support the UN’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.

We recognize the power of communications technologies, including connection technologies and innovative applications, to promote knowledge exchange, technical cooperation and capacity-building for sustainable development. These technologies and applications can build capacity and enable the sharing of experiences and knowledge in the different areas of sustainable development in an open and transparent manner. § 65

Action Point – Create a user-friendly knowledge-sharing platform specifically for the United States. Highlight green policies that are working such as California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard and successful policies put in place by private companies.

We recognize the importance of job creation by adopting forward-looking macroeconomic policies that promote sustainable development and lead to sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth, increase productive employment opportunities and promote agricultural and industrial development. § 150

Action Point – Create campaign to measure Gross National Happiness as opposed to GDP.

Countries reaffirm the commitments they have made to phase out harmful and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and undermine sustainable development. We invite others to consider rationalizing inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by removing market distortions, including restructuring taxation and phasing out harmful subsidies, where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts, with such policies taking fully into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries, with the aim of minimizing the possible adverse impacts on their development and in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities. § 225

Action Point – Become involved in the numerous campaigns already surrounding oil subsidies. Direct action and provide citizens with the tools to put pressure on politicians into making firmer commitments.

We adopt the ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption framework are voluntary. We invite the General Assembly, at its sixty-seventh session, to designate a Member State body to take any necessary steps to fully operationalize the framework. § 226

Action Point – Hold the UN accountable to designate a Member State body to operationalize the framework by drawing more media attention to the UN’s processes.

We recognize that the younger generations are the custodians of the future, and the need for better quality and access to education beyond the primary level. We therefore resolve to improve the capacity of our education systems to prepare people to pursue sustainable development, including through enhanced teacher training, the development of sustainability curricula, the development of training programmes that prepare students for careers in fields related to sustainability, and more effective use of information and communications technologies to enhance learning outcomes. We call for enhanced cooperation among schools, communities and authorities in efforts to promote access to quality education at all levels. § 230

Action Point – Recruit colleges and universities into the coalition.

We encourage Member States to promote sustainable development awareness among youth, inter alia by promoting programmes for non-formal education in accordance with the goals of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014). § 231

Action Point – Weekend workshop for students to develop SDG’s, and share sustainability measures being done at their high schools and colleges.

We recognize that progress towards the achievement of the goals needs to be assessed and accompanied by targets and indicators, while taking into account different national circumstances, capacities and levels of development. § 250

Action Point – Assess the progress of the goals set in the U.S. from both corporations and the government. Use the Cloud of Commitments and UNCSD’s website for commitments. Conduct a weekly call or email to ask where they are in the process of completing their commitment. Publicly shame them if they have backed out of their commitment.

We recognize the importance of strengthened national, scientific and technological capacities for sustainable development. This can help countries, especially developing countries, to develop their own innovative solutions, scientific research and new, environmentally sound technologies, with the support of the international community. To this end, we support building science and technology capacity, with both women and men as contributors and beneficiaries, including through collaboration among research institutions, universities, the private sector, governments, non-governmental organizations and scientists. § 272

Action Point – Learning network for start-up alternative energy businesses on how to get on their feet and become competitive with natural gas.

These are only a few actions that an organization can focus attention on but there are many more issues addressed in “The Future We Want” that can act as jumping off points to spawn further action. The key to successful action is to keep it focused and specific by picking one topic and setting a clear goal.

By LeAnne Harvey, Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern 2012-2013

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