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  • Rio+20 compromise draft text completed

[RIO DE JANEIRO] A Rio+20 draft text has been finalised ahead of the formal summit opening today, which emphasises the crucial role that technology transfer must play in achieving sustainable development.

National delegations reached a compromise agreement in the early hours of this morning on the 49-page document, which contains 283 paragraphs. They have referred many contentious issues, such as intellectual property rights (IPR), to external agencies such as the World Intellectual Property Rights Organization and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The text also contains no pledges of funds to helping developing countries make the transition to sustainable development.

The document is being presented today to heads of state attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), who are tasked with developing an action plan for sustainable development.

The Group of 77 (G-77) — a loose coalition of developing countries — plus China yesterday lashed out at the text, saying it had "glossed over" important challenges facing developing countries.The plan will mainly focus on implementing goals set at the original 1992 Rio summit which have yet to be achieved 20 years later.

"It is without any depth, without any bite," Quamrul Chowdhury, a G-77+China lead negotiator, told reporters.

Chowdhury said the text was more of a "political document" than a credible blueprint for action, and that the section on financing "was like an empty shell".  

The draft text places particular importance on technology transfer to developing countries and the need to close the technological gap between developed and developing nations.

It also stresses the need for international cooperation to promote investment in science, technology and innovation for sustainable development, to assess technology needs, and to strengthen national scientific and technological capacities in developing countries.

But it skirts round the exact mechanisms for achieving technology transfer and protecting IPR, instead focusing on the role of foreign direct investment, international trade and international cooperation in fostering environmentally sound technologies.

Rich countries had insisted that technology transfer issues such as developing countries' desire for more money, more transfer of technology and greater openness in IP regimes, should be discussed elsewhere, said Alejandra Torres, director of international affairs at Columbia's Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.

And contrary to the hopes of the UN African Group, the European Union and the G-77 plus China, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will not be upgraded to become a specialised UN agency like the WTO.

Instead, the text invites "the United Nations General Assembly, in its 67th Session, to adopt a Resolution strengthening and upgrading UNEP".

Commenting on the draft text, Henri Djombo, the Democratic Republic of Congo's Minister of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy and Environment, said: "We may not get all we want but it is important to recognise that common expectations are included. We can build on that."

"We have advanced. Five years ago, we were not even halfway to the stage we've now arrived at regarding the UNEP issue," he added.

Developing countries had to push hard to ensure that the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibility' was incorporated. This principle ensures that while countries share a common responsibility to protect the planet, developed countries — which contribute more to environmental degradation due to their higher industrialisation levels — need to bear the greater burden.

With additional reporting by Pablo Correa.

This article is part of our coverage on Science at Rio+20. Read more in our live blog.

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