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Background

 ​The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) will mark the 40th anniversary of the first major international political conference that specifically had the word “environment” in its title, the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012, the UNCSD will seek to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess progress and implementation gaps in meeting previously-agreed commitments, and address new and emerging challenges.
 
The Rio Process
 
Following the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, which set up the UN Environment Programme, and the publication in 1987 of the World Commission on Environment and Development’s report, Our common Future (the ‘Brundtland Report’), which coined and defined the phrase ‘sustainable development’, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992. This Summit established linkages between economic and social development and environmental protection, and involved over 100 Heads of State and Government, representatives from 178 countries, and some 17,000 participants. The principle outcomes of UNCED are the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21 (a detailed programme of action), the Statement of Forest Principles, and two major environmental conventions on climate change (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity).
 
Follow-up since then has been ensured through the creation of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD), as a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in line with Agenda 21. The remit of the CSD is to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, enhance regional cooperative, and to examine progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 at all levels. In 1997, the 19th Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations for the Overall Review and Appraisal of Agenda 21adopted a Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21, including a programme of work for CSD for 1998-2002.
 
The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg in August 2002, ten years after the Earth Summit, evaluated progress since 1992 and adopted the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) and the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development. The JPOI is designed as a framework for action to implement the commitments originally agreed at UNCED. The Johannesburg Declaration outlines the path taken from UNCED to the WSSD, highlights challenges, expresses a commitment to sustainable development, underscores the importance of multilateralism, and emphasizes the need for implementation.
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Agenda 2030

The early days of the 21st century witnessed two historic events of United Nations; the first one being; the new initiatives by poor and rich nations in fulfilling a long unfinished agenda of full human development and human rights for all; and the second; the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which emanated from the Millennium Declaration adopted by all the member-countries at the UN Millennium Submit held in 2000. The eight MDGs adopted by the UN are – to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality; empower women and reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development. By 2015, the UN MDGs were expected to be realized to end poverty, promote human dignity and equality, and to take steps in furtherance of the attack on inadequate incomes, widespread hunger, gender inequality, environmental deterioration and lack of education, health care and clean water to see human development and human rights in action. 

After the era of MDGs which ended in December, 2015, the world is moving towards the Third (3rd) historical event of the UN, that is, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) beginning January, 2016 which is becoming more significant for the next 15 years to come with the key document of UN Conference on Sustainable Development the so-called Rio + 20 titled “The Future We Want”, in which the idea of a new agenda for post-2015 era was posted. However, the seventieth UN General Assembly adopted an expansive and ambitious set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 targets and 304 indicators on 25th September, 2015 under the official agenda “Transforming our World : the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that aim to “end poverty in all its forms” by 2030.  

On this date, 190 world leaders pledged their commitment to 17 SDGs to end extreme poverty, combat climate change, and fight inequality and injustice, in a bid to attain an equitable, more prosperous and sustainable world.  The SGDs are intended to stimulate action during the next 15 years (January 2016 and December 2030) in areas of critical importance.

The UN is hopeful that the SDGs will be able to overcome the silo approach of the MDGs. The kick-off of the SDGs on January, 2016 will definitely bring an end of the era of MDGs and sustain the SDGs with its 17 Goals. However, the differences between the MDGs and SDGs is such, that while the MDGs focused primarily on poverty and health, SDGs also cover the environment, human rights, and gender equality, among others. MDGs were primarily targets for poor countries to move forward, with financing from wealthy countries, while SDGs demand action from all countries. The SDGs are universal. 

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