DESA Highlights Latest Voluntary Commitments

RIO+20 (Portuguese)July 2013: An update from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) highlights nearly 1,400 voluntary commitments, initiatives and partnerships for sustainable development that have been registered with the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) Secretariat.

According to a new report on "Voluntary Commitments and Partnerships for Sustainable Development," governments, intergovernmental organizations, major groups and others have pledged nearly US$600 billion in voluntary commitments to contribute to implementing sustainable development. Commitments relate to: the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative; Every Women Every Child; the UN Global Compact; the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Initiative; and 12 commitments by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to implement Rio+20 objectives. The report emphasizes that some commitments are already achieving results, citing a sustainable transport tracking system that avoided 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as saving person trips and travel times.

Education represents the thematic area with the largest number of commitments, with 328 commitments, followed by commitments on green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication (n=304), health and population (n=154) and energy (n=140). Many thematic areas have 10-50 commitments: water and sanitation (n=47); sustainable consumption and production (SCP) (n=35); biodiversity and ecosystems (n=32); food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture (n=31); climate change (n=29); small island developing States (SIDS) (n=29); sustainable cities and human settlements (n=24); sustainable transport (n=22), employment, decent work for all and social protection (n=19); oceans and seas (n=18); forests (n=17); capacity building (n=12); national sustainable development strategies (NSDS) (n=12); gender equality and women's empowerment (n=12); and chemicals and waste (n=11).

Commitments related to Africa, desertification and land degradation (DLDD), disaster risk reduction (DRR), finance, mining, mountains, sustainable tourism and trade, among others, have fewer than ten commitments. Major groups made up the majority of the 1386 commitments, with 811 commitments, followed by governments (n=417) and the UN and intergovernmental organizations (n=154).

The report recommends that commitments be “SMART” (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Resource-based and Time-bound). 

 According to Wu Hongbo, government actions and responsibilities remain the “cornerstone of national, regional and global efforts to pursue sustainable development,” and voluntary commitments should not be considered a substitute for such action.

The Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform maintains a commitment database through its Sustainable Development in Action registry. The Action Network aims to catalyze actions among all stakeholders to implement concrete plans, projects, programmes and policies on sustainable development topics. [DESA Press Release] [Sustainable Development in Action Website] [Commitment Statistics] [UN Press Release] [Publication: Voluntary Commitments and Partnerships for Sustainable Development]