Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Emerging challenges (3 hits), emerging issues (0 hits),

Full Submission

An Asia-Europe Environment Forum Submission for the ―Rio+20 Outcome Document Zero Draft


The Asia-Europe Environment Forum (ENVforum) convened the Asia-Europe Strategies for Earth Summit 2012: 1st and 2nd Scenario Planning Workshops in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on 16th to 18th July and Uppsala, Sweden, on 10th to 12th October respectively.

The Asia-Europe Strategies for Earth Summit 2012 is a series of three informal consultation workshops to be held among stakeholders of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)1 process in the lead up to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or ‗Rio+20? in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 4th to 6th June 2012.

The series is an initiative of the Asia-Europe Environment Forum (ENVforum), a partnership among the Asia-Europe Foundation, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the Institute of Global Environmental Strategies, the Swedish Environmental Secretariat for Asia, in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme.

Please note that this document reflects the views and opinions emerging from group discussions and does not necessarily represent the views of the institutions involved. The group of over 55 international experts represents different sectors such as policy makers, academics, civil society activists?all being involved extensively in sustainable development and environmental governance.


A. Recommendations for Asia-Europe Meeting governments

The initiative focuses on one of the two Rio+20 themes: Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD) and the need for strengthening environmental pillar as a part of IFSD framework. As such, based on the outcomes of the two workshops, participating governments of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) are encouraged to:
- participate in Rio+20 at the highest levels by the heads of state or government;
- pledge to produce a politically-binding outcome document that secures a renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and Emerging challenges that include the themes of IFSD and green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development;

- agree on measures for strengthening IFSD through fundamental and incremental changes including those that go beyond the current IEG structure.
- ensure greater participation and accountability from civil society in the entire policy process for sustainable development, from agenda setting to decision making.

The failure to come to decisive action in Rio 2012 will be a missed opportunity and the lack of commitment might result in the perpetuation of an undesirable status quo or at best, progress at incremental--but inadequate?steps.
ASEM governments and civil society are furthermore exhorted to forge closer co-operation at bilateral, regional and inter-regional levels.

B. Rio+20: Conference Objectives
The following recommendations are made with regard to the Rio+20 conference objectives.

- Securing political commitment for Sustainable Development

To secure political commitment for Sustainable Development, the creation of a Sustainable Development Council (SDC) is necessary at all levels: international, regional and national that will integrate three pillars of sustainable development: economic, political and environmental.

The SDC should work to achieve broad goals of sustainable development, subject to assessment in terms of transparent indicators through monitoring mechanisms to further allow and facilitate global reporting on sustainable development.

- Acknowledging the need of addressing gaps in already agreed commitments as well as to ensure the overall coordination of sustainable development within UN system and Bretton Woods institutions

To effectively address gaps in existing commitments and ensure the over-all coordination of sustainable development in the international system, the SDC should map and address any overlapping areas and use available funding in an efficient and transparent way.

- Addressing new and Emerging challenges

To address new and Emerging challenges, scientific and technological innovations should be integrated as an integral part of the decision-making process. This should include the use of a future-oriented, foresight approach and long-term planning to ensure flexibility and preparedness for the uncertain challenges that the SDC will need to address in the years to come.

C. Horizontal integration

Human activity has seriously affected planet boundaries that directly endanger ecosystem stability and all countries, especially developing countries, need access to the resources required to achieve sustainable development. The 2011 Solo Message resulting from the High Level Dialogue on IFSD2 called for an international body to promote the integration of the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. The SDC should therefore be established by building upon the precedents and useful lessons to be drawn from relevant institutional reforms, including recent experience in establishing the UN Human Rights Council.

The SDC should:

- ensure horizontal integration and become a central body for sustainable development coordination and coherence;

- be spearheaded by the high level UN representative such as the UN High Commissioner for Sustainable Development or the UN Ombudsman for Sustainable Development;

- address sustainable challenges to be environmentally, socially and economically most effective, based on regular scientific and technical assessment;

- monitor how States adjust policies, reform institutions and enact legislation to meet the achievement of sustainable development targets, adjusting the requirements to their economic and social situation;

- accommodate the need for meaningful public participation and contributions at all levels;

- enhance human security to mitigate the risks of a food, energy, water and climate change nexus, especially for developing counties;

- safeguard the earth?s ecosystems for present and future generations.

D. Vertical Integration

The horizontal integration of the economic, environmental and social pillars should be replicated vertically, according to the principle of subsidiarity throughout the international, regional, national and sub-national levels in the implementation of sustainable development goals.

A multi-level SDC should facilitate the creation of sustainable development bodies, where they do not exist, and complement, where they do, the existing structures at the international, regional and national levels to provide a strengthened mechanism for sustainable development. The legacies of the 1992 Earth Summit and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development?in terms of institutions, mechanisms and good practices?should be mapped and built upon. Fully accounting for National and Local Councils for Sustainable Development that have continued to thrive, for example, could be a first step in this process.

In line with Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, these structures and mechanisms should furthermore be constituted as multi-stakeholder platforms. These platforms can furthermore provide support to (1) synergy among scientists, policy-makers and field researchers; (2) innovative actions for policy development, technology application, social mobilization and partnership building; (3) strategic research; and, (4) higher education, training and capacity development.

With the perspective of a vertically-integrated sustainable development institutional framework, further emphasis is given here to regional-level SDCs and International Environmental Governance:

1. Regional-level SDCs

The regional SDCs should:

- review existing mechanisms for Sustainable Development pillars and map best practices;

- promote complementarity between the UN system (including the regional commissions and offices) and the regional organisations;

- produce a regional report on the achievement of sustainable development goals based on a clearly-defined set of indicators;

- monitor the performance and implementation of national and regional goals based on long-term sustainable development strategies;

- initiate actions and distributing resources for programmes at the different levels, in order to meet the targets set; initiate mitigating measures if targets are not met; and,

 propagate a model(s) for regional bodies that work under similar principles and functions albeit tailored to regional needs, realities and institutions; and,

 propagate a model for national bodies to best organise existing institutions for sustainable development or mandate appropriate agencies as needed, tailored to the needs, realities and institutions at the national and sub- national levels;

- support the peer review of national policy performance;

- allow the individual petition/communication and administer a mechanism for complaints and redress. The national mechanism for SDSs should be integrated within the SDC and regional SDCs system. The structure is to be decided by national governments based on the best practices models, possibly in the consultation with the appropriate regional SDC.

2. International Environmental Governance

Additionally, there is a strong need for strengthening the environmental pillar within UN system for better balance. It is therefore vital to strengthen IEG through the measures that will enhance overall coherence, effectiveness and efficiency. To do so requires the reform of the UNEP within the UN structure. It is recommended to upgrade UNEP to an agency that:

- has full and universal membership of member states and other stakeholders;

- has a mandate to oversight environmental strategies and programmes and to cluster similar issues;

- is legitimate to partner with Bretton Woods institution and can:

 ensure the contribution of financial bodies to environment enhancement;

 facilitate high-level dialogue between Bretton Woods decision makers and stakeholders;

 ensure the involvement of the market in environment protection through market-based incentives (eg. subsidies and taxes);

- plans programmes that deliver tangible outcomes in order to receive increased funding;

- has a mandate to require environmental assessment of the projects, especially in case the project will have a

- transboundary effect;

-works with a panel of inter-disciplinary experts representing relevant stakeholders groups such as governments,

- international organisations, major groups and academia to enable knowledge sharing as well as technology transfer;

- includes stakeholders input via organizing meetings and conducting research that enables the agency to act as an

- interface between policy and science, developing practical actions for the environmental pillar;

-provides indicators and general framework for measurement of sustainable development that is unified and allows to

- build up capacity to report at the regional and national level and compare regions progress;

-operationalizes planetary boundaries3 in terms of regional limits and biosphere carrying capacity;

-conducts regular assessments on carrying capacity using the available scientific knowledge and communicate results to public;

-enables mechanisms to share good practices and knowledge;

- safeguards finances for environmental aid, guided by a bottom-up approach based on local expertise and local needs;

- supervises mechanisms for project assessment which include guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment at down to the local level for international projects and local consultations;

- has a reinforced role in addressing the securities Nexus, with a mandate to synergistically address energy, water and food issues.

A strengthened IEG could include the creation of a Court for Environmental Justice that:

-takes into account existing environmental law;

-can evaluate the efficiency of development aid and technology used across the needs of local communities seeking assistance.

E. Access to information

Access to information, public participation and environmental justice is needed in order to promote compliance that ensures transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness at all levels. Based on Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development, the Aarhus Convention could be enlarged into a global convention.

Governments must ensure the effective implementation and adequate compliance with the national freedom of information acts or relevant legislative measures on the public access to environmental information.

Transboundary environmental management programmes and bodies should reinforce and institutionalize measures for ensuring the public access to environmental information and public participation in environmental decision-making. To foster and ensure compliance with Principle 10, it is vital that the bilateral and multilateral aid agencies and organizations incorporate Principle 10 objectives; particularly the public access to environmental information, environmental information disclosure and public consultation on the projects funded by the aid and/or investment programmes.

Failing a global convention, other regional instruments?such as for the Asia-Pacific region?could be considered. An Asia?

Pacific regional convention on Principle 10 should include the following features:

-compliance mechanisms through the peer review of national level convention implementation;

- individual/non-state actor?s communication on non-compliance issues.

The proposed regional convention should also include the provision that will ensure the effective implementation of impact assessment at the project level (EIA: environmental impact assessment) and at the planning level (SEA: strategic impact assessment) taking into account the UNECE Espoo Convention on SEA. Such assessment must include social and environmental impact assessments and follow the public consultation procedures.

F. Civil society accountability framework

Civil society participation in the IFSD, particularly the SDC at all levels, must be assured. Conversely, civil society representatives need to be accountable to their constituents through a democratic, self-managed mechanism that ensures transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in CSO participation in the Council?s deliberations. Developing an accountability framework for civil society should, as a first step, review the major group participation system to assess its representativeness and accountability.

The principle of subsidiarity concerning representation (from local to national, regional, and international levels) may be relevant but the aggregation of representation must be complemented by direct access to the international level. Guidelines could be developed along these lines.

G. Legal framework

In order to pave the way for the establishment of the SDC that would integrate the three sustainable development pillars ? social, economic and environmental ? and promote sustainable development governance at the global, regional, national and local levels, it is recommended to consider the following options:

-UN Charter change;

- an international convention for sustainable development; or

- decisions and resolutions at the UN and other relevant bodies.



Ms. Sol Iglesias, Director

Intellectual Exchange Department

Secretariat for the ENVforum

Ms. Grazyna Pulawska

Tel: +65 6874-9738


The Aarhus Convention refers to the UN Economic Commission for Europe 1998 Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-
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