The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 generated a wide range of mostly negative reactions. Even before the conference, there was widespread doubt about the possibility of success. As soon as the conference closed, analysts highlighted its failures and criticized the outcome document, The Future We Want. While it does not present a grand transformative vision, the outcome document does reaffirm past political commitments and addresses the multiple dimensions of sustainable development and the linkages among them. Indeed, Rio+20 had subtle, yet significant impacts. Three main areas stand out: reform of international institutions, sustainable development goals, and participation as principle and practice. The global decisions in these domains and the unprecedented local engagement provide critical junctures likely to shape global environmental governance for the next two decades.

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