Integrative Strategies Forum (ISF)
Information
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Integrative Strategies Forum (ISF)
  • Submission Document: Not available
Keywords: Commission on Sustainable Development (0 hits), CSD (0 hits),

General Content

a) What are the expectations for the outcome of Rio+20, and what are the concrete proposals in this regard, including views on a possible structure of the Outcome document?

[The following comments are ISF's contribution to the Working Group on Civil Society Participation in Sustainable Development Governance] Documents now circulating for Rio+20 frequently mention the importance and examples of civil society participation. Yet many members of civil society engaged in these participation processes often find existing mechanisms and the thinking guiding them less than ideal, sometimes even frustrating and discouraging. One valuable outcome from Rio+20 could be a commitment to improving the model and methods for engaging civil society in sustainable development governance and in the transition to green economies. Current models and methods need to be reviewed and CSOs consulted, particularly those groups and networks not adequately served by the current structures and models of participation, on ways to improve the process.
b) What are the comments, if any, on existing proposals: e.g., a green economy roadmap, framework for action, sustainable development goals, a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development, or others?

Various steps have been taken to implement and further enhance the Rio Declaration?s Principle 10 call for governments to improve ?the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes?. Agenda 21 pointed out that ?one of the fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable development is broad public participation in decision-making? and that ?the need for new forms of participation has emerged.? Two decades after Rio there is a new need for new forms of participation to emerge. Since Rio, the concept and practice of engaging members of the nine ?major groups? has indeed led to greater participation. Yet the more recent (post-WSSD) adoption of the nine major groups as an exclusive institutional template for participation has ironically led to a weakening of effective participation among a variety of civil society groups and networks. Many of these groups offer valuable contributions to sustainable development yet are frustrated by the ritual requirement of fitting themselves into one of the nine major groups in order to voice their concerns and priorities.
c) What are the views on implementation and on how to close the implementation gap, which relevant actors are envisaged as being involved (Governments, specific Major Groups, UN system, IFIs, etc.);

What is needed is an expanded model of civil society that extends beyond the ?cookie cutter? approach of the nine major group categories, reaching out and including those organizations and networks relegated to ?minor group? status ? those focused on the elderly, the disabled, faith-based organizations, educators, ethnic and racial groups, consumers, and one of the most excluded groups of all the poor and the homeless. Since Rio, the Aarhus Convention, the Cardosa Panel of Eminent Persons and other efforts have been and continue to be made to address the gaps in participation. These efforts need to be taken into account as well as the experience and views of those groups and networks which tend to work outside the identity-based major group template, for example those groups which organize more around issues, place, or sector. Inclusion of major groups should not justify neglect or exclusion of non-major groups. Many of these ?non-major groups? operate with a different vision, approach and language from those of the major group organizations. This applies, for example, to those issue-based CSOs who often form multi-stakeholder alliances integrating different stakeholder priorities into their strategies and messages to the public. The same is often the case with sector-based CSOs and networks organizing around a particular sector such as food, water, energy, chemicals, health or housing. Many have no idea what the term ?major group? means. Yet all these groups offer important and often essential contributions to sustainable development policy and practice, with expertise rooted in institutional processes focused especially on sectors, issues, or place. These contributions need to be welcomed and encouraged in an expanded and improved participation model and mechanisms. In addition to the one-dimensional nature of the major groups model are the more specific mechanisms and rules guiding the functions of the groups. Criticisms of the current major groups system describe a lack of transparency and accountability among many groups. Others are criticized for inadequately serving members with timely information and guidance. Some major groups (e.g., NGOs) have yet to establish adequate methods for collective decision making or consultation, while others (e.g., business and industry) enjoy the benefits of well-resourced supporting institutions. While each group may have equal opportunities to speak, they operate on a highly unequal field where ability to play depends on the ability to pay one?s way. As a result many of the groups representing the poor cannot afford to to join the game while the more affluent define the rules. To close this gap, Rio+20 needs to acknowledg the problem and explore options for improving or replacing the current civil society participation model and mechanisms.
d) What specific cooperation mechanisms, partnership arrangements or other implementation tools are envisaged and what is the relevant time frame for the proposed decisions to be reached and actions to be implemented?

We propose establishing a Multi-stakeholder Committee on Improving Civil Society Participation which helps coordinate and oversee the following activities: 1) Review past and current models and methods for enhancing civil society participation and engagement in sustainable development policy and decision-making. Engage a team of researchers to review and report on the literature, case studies and examples. This review should not be restricted to ?major groups? participation but cover the wider domain of civil society and private sector approaches and experience. 2) Conduct a consultation with civil society organizations on their experience with the current model, process and structures for engaging in sustainable development decision-making within current international institutions (e.g., CSD, UNEP, FAO, OECD) as well as regional sustainable development policymaking and governance. This review and consultation should include representatives from the nine major groups as well as other identity-based groups, issue-based groups (e.g., climate, biodiversity, poverty), place-based groups (e.g., representatives from regional and national civil society networks), and sector-based CSOs (e.g., food, water, energy, health, housing). 3) Identify and examine proposals and new models, methods and processes for improving the participation and engagement of those groups and networks not adequately served by the current structures and models of participation. New uses of information technology and communication (ITC) tools should also be explored for enhancing effectiveness. 4) Establish an advisory committee on civil society participation with representatives drawn from a selection of (1) identity-based groups, (2) place-based groups, (3) issue-based groups, and (4) sector-based groups. This aim of this advisory committee would be to identify the most effective model and mechanisms for improving their participation and engagement. 5) Engage relevant sustainable development institutions in this review and in public discussions in sharing their efforts and plans for improving their own civil society participation model, processes and structures. Several CSOs have recently launched a new ad hoc Working Group on Civil Society Participation in Sustainable Development Governance in order to help facilitated efforts to explore and implement these ideas.
Specific Elements
a) Objective of the Conference: To secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.

Contributions could include possible sectoral priorities (e.g., (e.g., energy, food security and sustainable agriculture, technology transfer, water, oceans, sustainable urbanization, sustainable consumption and production, natural disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, biodiversity, etc.) and sectoral initiatives that contribute to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development could be launched and endorsed at Rio+20.

Renewed commitment to sustainable development must also include renewed commitment to participation, which means a commitment to improving participation, particularly with regard to those groups most affected by the decisions yet excluded from the process.
b) Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication: views regarding how green economy can be a means to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions, and poverty eradication; what is its potential added value; experience to date, including what has worked and how to build upon success, what are the challenges and opportunities and how to address the challenges and seize opportunities, and possible elements of an agreement in outcome document on a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication

The various concepts and proposals for transition to green economy must include an adequate approach to engaging civil society, particularly where different constituencies are affected by the results. Just as each of the nine major groups need to be considered as to their role and engagement in the substance and impacts of these proposals, initiatives and plans, so also do those other groups and dimensions of civil society not necessarily included in the traditional models and methods. Because the economy is not monolithic, sector-based CSOs will need to play a key role in strategies addressing the energy, food, water, housing, transporation and other sectors. CSOs often organize in broad multi-stakeholder networks and alliances as well as in various partnerships and other configurations. These groups need to participate not only in sectoral policy processes and institutions but also in broader sustainable development planning and policy processes involving interrelated sectors, issues, places and stakeholder identities. Just as green economic policy and planning needs to take into account a range of social and environmental issues, it also needs to effectively engage those CSOs and networks organized especially around those issues. In turn, groups organized around specific neighborhoods, communities, as well as national and regional groups and networks offer another set of important contributions to green economy policies, plans and programs. Thus, an expanded but operational model of civil society participation encompassing different stakeholder identities, place, sectors and issues needs to be incorporated into the green economy concept and practice.
c) Institutional framework for sustainable development: Priorities and proposals for strengthening individual pillars of sustainable development, as well as those for strengthening integration of the three pillars, at multiple levels; local, national, regional and international.

An improved multi-dimensional participation model and structures needs to be included and integrated into the institutional framework for sustainable development. Civil society participation should not be taken for granted nor should bold new initiatives be hampered by dependance on convenient but outdated participation models and methods. A Multi-stakeholder Committee on Improving Civil Society Participation should be immediately formed during the 2nd Intercessional to begin to identify options and offer recommendations on ways to engage and build capacity among those CSOs currently neglected or hampered by the current approach. This new model and process for continually improving participation should be built into the framework and institutional practices.
d) Any proposals for refinement of the two themes. Recall that Resolution 64/236 describes the focus of the Conference: "The focus of the Conference will include the following themes to be discussed and refined during the preparatory process: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development".

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