SD in Action - Special Report on Voluntary Commitments and Partnerships for Sustainable Development
UNDESA, 2014
by: Division for Sustainable Development (UNDESA)

Partnerships and voluntary commitments for sustainable development are multi-stakeholder initiatives voluntarily undertaken by Governments, intergovernmental organizations, major groups and others stakeholders to contribute to the implementation of inter-governmentally agreed development goals and commitments, as included in Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, the Millennium Declaration, the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) entitled “The Future We Want”, and the upcoming post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

In a development era with a mix of state and non-state actors as essential partners in the implementation of sustainable development, the importance of engagement at all levels has been repeatedly emphasized at various international conferences and their follow up processes.

The Rio+20 Conference demonstrated enhanced inclusiveness in its deliberations. With the presence of hundreds of thousands of participants from governments, the United Nations System, business, civil society groups, universities, as well those virtually following from afar, the Conference further strengthened the role of non-state actors in shaping the international agenda for a sustainable future. It created unprecedented momentum in parallel to the political process in witnessing the announcements of over 700 concrete multi-stakeholder partnerships and voluntary commitments for the implementation of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

The intergovernmental process duly acknowledged the complementary nature of these voluntary initiatives to the political outcome. The Secretary-General was invited, through paragraph 283 of the outcome document the Future We Want, to establish and maintain a comprehensive registry of voluntary initiatives - which were to be periodically updated, fully transparent and accessible to the public.

The United Nations Secretariat following its designated mandate launched the SD in Action Registry shortly after Rio+20. The registry, which contains detailed descriptions of all registered voluntary initiatives, also facilitates access to other registries and initiatives that promote sustainable development - or “Action Networks” as they are referred to - that have catalyzed voluntary commitments around specific themes. These include the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), United Nations Global Compact, Every Woman Every Child (EWEC), the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI), the Action Network on Sustainable Transport, and the action network on Partnerships for Small Island Developing States, which has emerged in the lead up to the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in Apia, Samoa later this year (September 2014).

In an effort to provide updated information to all stakeholders, the Rio+20 Secretariat, through the Division for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), prepared a progress report on voluntary commitments and partnerships for sustainable development in collaboration with the Action Network partners on the one-year anniversary of Rio+20, in July 2013.

The present document is the second edition of that report, its launch coinciding with the second meeting of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, which is the designated forum at the United Nations for monitoring progress on sustainable development and follow-up on commitments made at Rio+20. The HLPF will also be the home for follow-up on progress of the post 2015 development agenda, including monitoring of the sustainable development goals, set to guide the international community at the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

It’s been two years since Rio+20 and the announcement of over 700 voluntary commitments and partnerships for sustainable development. What has happened since then? Are these voluntary initiatives on track in delivering as they set out to do? How can progress best be measured? And who has the authority to do so?

This 2014 edition of the annual report on voluntary commitments and partnerships for sustainable development takes a look at how various “Action Networks” monitor progress of their stakeholder’s commitments, and how progress is enforced when deliverables are off track. The report will also look at options for an enhanced effective accountability and monitoring framework of voluntary initiatives in the post 2015 development era.

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