Near-Final Draft Of Rio+20 Outcome Document Shows Likely Commitments

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A draft of the outcome document for this week’s Rio+20 meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said to be close to the final version, shows where governments have placed their focus. It appears that technology transfer is well-recognised, intellectual property rights to a lesser extent, but firm actions in these areas may still be to come.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is meeting until 22 June (IPW, Environment, 18 June 2012).

The draft document is here [pdf]. Please note that this is not the final text that was announced by the UN late on 19 June but not released.

Overall, the text reinforces a range of UN-recognised rights, such as basic human rights, the right to food, women’s empowerment or the right to an adequate standard of living. It also reaffirms all of the original Rio principles and past action plans.

It says there has been “uneven” progress toward agreed goals in the 20 years since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, including in sustainable development and poverty alleviation. And it commits countries to accelerate progress to close the gaps between developed and developing countries.

It also says countries “underscore the continued need for an enabling environment at the national and international levels, as well as continued and strengthened international cooperation, particularly in the areas of finance, debt, trade and technology transfer, as mutually agreed, and innovation and entrepreneurship, capacity building, transparency and accountability.” And it appears to include a line recognising the need for full participation of developing countries in global decision-making.

The document highlights the need for improved access to and use of information and communication technology, and science and technology,

The document stresses the importance of a “green economy” approach. In this area, it includes a statement that should: “contribute to closing technology gaps between developed and developing countries and reduce the technological dependence of developing countries using all appropriate measures.”

In another area, it recognizes 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.”

A key message seems to be captured in Article 72, which states: “We recognize the critical role of technology as well as the importance of promoting innovation, in particular in developing countries. We invite governments, as appropriate, to create enabling frameworks that foster environmentally sound technology, research and development, and innovation, including in support of green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.”

Article 73 continues on a related theme: “We emphasize the importance of technology transfer to developing countries and recall the provisions on technology transfer, finance, access to information, and intellectual property rights as agreed in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, in particular its call to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, access to and the development, transfer and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies and corresponding know-how, in particular to developing countries, on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed. We also take note of the further evolution of discussions and agreements on these issues since the JPOI.”

Another section would “Provide capacity building to countries as well as support and facilitate access to technology.”

There also is significant attention paid to food security and agriculture in the document as well. In one spot, it says: “We also recognize the importance of traditional sustainable agricultural practices, including traditional seed supply systems, including for many indigenous peoples and local communities.” It also highlights the need (though seems to lack conviction in solving) for sharing of knowledge and practices.

TRIPS, Nagoya Still in Text

Given the underlying issue of patents and other IP rights that will make needed technologies expensive for developing countries, it may not be surprising that there is a mention of the 1994 World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Article 142 states: “We reaffirm the right to use, to the full, the provisions contained in the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the Doha Declaration on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and Public Health, the decision of the World Trade Organization General Council of 30th August 2003 on the implementation of paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS agreement and public health, and, when formal acceptance procedures are completed, the amendment to article 31 of the agreement, which provides flexibilities for the protection of public health, and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all, and encourage the provision of assistance to developing countries in this regard.”

Another, more recent agreement with relevance to IP rights was mentioned in Article 199. “We note the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization, and we invite parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to ratify or accede to the Protocol, so as to ensure its entry into force at the earliest possible opportunity. We acknowledge the role of access and benefit-sharing arising from the utilization of genetic resources in contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, poverty eradication and environmental sustainability.”

At the end of the document there is a whole section on technology that repeats many of the notions stated above.

The document also creates a “high-level forum” to oversee implementation of sustainable development.

William New may be reached at

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