CoNGO Committee on Sustainable Development
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: CoNGO Committee on Sustainable Development
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Integration (1 hits),

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CoNGO Committee on Sustainable Development, NY

Environmental, social and economic development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Earth Summit Rio + 20

General Background

Twenty years ago, following the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Maurice F. Strong, Secretary General of the Summit, said that ?the movement to turn the world from its self-consumptive course to one of renewal and sustenance has unmistakably spread.? He added, however, that ?there is not yet a concerted and decisive response to the magnitude and urgency of the task.? As Strong said, ?There is still a great deal to do.?

Today these words ring true. There is still a great deal to do! An unsustainable and unjust model of development prevails. It commodifies and exhausts Earth?s resources and relies heavily on unequal trade liberalization which favors developed countries and transnational corporations over people, healthy ecosystems, and the needs of present and future generations. A growing inequality exists between the wealthy and those who are impoverished by the lack of access to adequate food, water, energy, land, education and health services.

This growing gap in wealth is recognized as one of the root causes of conflict and violence worldwide. As the Johannesburg Summit acknowledged, these ?deep fault lines that divide human society between the rich and the poor, and the ever-increasing gap between the developed and the developing worlds, pose a major threat to global prosperity, security and stability.? The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) must reclaim and advance an ethical and inclusive global vision that promotes ecological and social integrity, the global common good, and the well-being of all peoples and Earth. Moreover, in the words of the Earth Charter, Rio+20 must move us to realize our ?responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life and to future generations.?

Opportunities and Challenges

Mr. Sha Zukang, Secretary General of the upcoming Rio + 20 Conference, said, ?Rio + 20 is humanity?s chance to commit to a transition to a green economy, to lift people out of poverty. We cannot wait another 20 years.? The 1992 Summit?s promise to make ?environmental protection?an integral part of the development process? has not been fulfilled, and its call to action document, Agenda 21, which at the time 178 governments agreed to adopt, is largely forgotten. This document provided a framework for action to be implemented globally, nationally and locally by governments, organizations of the United Nations and major groups in every area in which the activity of humans has a direct impact on the environment. Why this failure when the international community has the technological expertise, a clearer, scientifically-based understanding of Earth as a living system of interdependent, interrelated components of which humans are a part, and the financial resources to explore and implement more sustainable modes of development? Clearly, there is reluctance to critique present economic and social systems, as well as a lack of political will for action based on such critiques. The October 2010 Report of the Secretary General, Harmony With Nature, ?provides an overview of how the life-style of the twenty-first century, through its consumption and production patterns, has severely affected Earth?s carrying capacity, and how human behavior has been the result of a fundamental failure to recognize that human beings are an inseparable part of nature, and that we cannot damage it without severely damaging ourselves. ?The philosophy of holism, embodied in the concept of sustainable development, rests on an understanding that all things are interconnected and that nothing occurs in isolation.? Any substantive alteration of one of Earth?s components affects the health and vitality of the entire system.

The prevailing economic theory, grounded in limitless expansion and growth, is in contradiction with finite resources. The competition that is a hallmark of the current model has led to ever increasing inequity between the rich and those who are living in poverty, at both global and national levels. Furthermore, at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, one of Maurice Strong?s greatest disappointments was the failure to move firmly enough against the world?s industrial-military complex. Since then, the business of war has intensified ? destroying human life and well-being, abusing the environment, consuming resources and blocking the United Nations? main agenda of fostering sustainable pathways to peace and security. Therefore, we see the following elements, rooted in an equitable and holistic understanding of the interconnectedness of all of life, as foundational in the deliberations that will take place during Rio+20.

Green Economy

The limitless growth and production model of development must be abandoned. We support a green economy that reflects an Integration of the environmental, social and economic pillars of sustainable development; that places equity of access to green technology, jobs and practices for developing countries over green capitalism, which disproportionately benefits developed countries and transnational corporations. ?A green economy results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities?it can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.?

A green economy must recognize the limits of the free market economy, and favor a more locally-based economy; respect the diversity of cultures, and the consequent need to develop ?diverse green economies;? while addressing structural change that would genuinely address the eradication of institutional poverty and its accompanying injustices. In addition, in a green economy GDP cannot be the strategic marker of development to the exclusion of all other indicators. It is important to utilize a variety of indicators, including the Human Development Index (HDI), based on the premise that ?people are the real wealth of a nation.? The HDI, however, does not currently include any environmental measures in its calculations despite an emphasis on the environment in the 2010 Human Development Report ? ?human development, if not sustainable, is not true human development.?

Human Rights and Earth Rights

We firmly advocate a shift from an ethic of exploitation to an ethic of right relationship ? an ethic based on the rights of humans and of Earth as essential for individuals, society and ecosystems to flourish. The concept of the rights of nature is also emerging, with the growing awareness of Earth as a living system of interconnected components. This concept highlights the importance of human beings living in a more balanced and harmonious relationship with nature, as opposed to the prevailing relationship of domination. This planetary vision can lead to a just and sustainable peace.

?Earth rights are human rights; they are not separate rights.? If people do not have access to clean water, food and sanitation; if people are restricted in their prudent use of land in the name of ?progress;? if people are victimized by governments and corporations which engage in unbridled extraction, pollution and devastation of land and bodies of water, then human and Earth rights are violated.

In conclusion, we support the following recommendations that promote an integrated approach to sustainable development:


? Enforce the following principles as referred to in Agenda 21:

o Apply the Precautionary Principle to ensure that new products and technologies (e.g., genetically modified seeds) do not have destructive or irreversible damage that results in environmental degradation.

o Enforce the Polluter Pays Principle and apply payment to the adaptation and mitigation needs of developing countries.

o Guarantee the representation of local peoples, especially Indigenous Peoples, as active participants in decision-making processes to bring about equitable, fair and just sustainable development.

? Acknowledge the human right to water and proper sanitation, and hold accountable those corporations which both deplete and pollute the global water supply.

? Sponsor educational programs for citizens on sustainable development and, specifically, on patterns of consumption and production within each country?s context.


? Endorse the establishment of the proposed Financial Transaction Tax to contribute to climate adaptation and more equitable economies in developing countries.

? End subsidies for fossil fuels and industrial agriculture in order to move toward the end of fossil fuel dependency; and invest in small farmers and agro-ecology.

? Facilitate the transfer of innovative technology from the developed world to assist the developing world in an approach to development that does not rely on fossil fuels.

? Shift from free trade liberalization to the implementation of fair and just trade policies.

? Evaluate global military expenditures and reallocate significant resources to sustainable development, green technology, and financing of climate adaptation and mitigation for developing countries.


? Support the establishment of an effective international institutional environment framework which calls governments and international corporations to transparency and accountability.

? Include environmental measures in the Human Development Index, and encourage the use of a wide range of indicators, beyond GDP and the HDI, to assess development.

NGOs that support this Paper

World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, INSEDA Integrated Sustainable Energy and Ecological Development Association, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries, Seroptimists International, Seroptimists National Council of Women USA, Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, Information Habitat: Where Information Lives, International Council of Psychologists, Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc., Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Passionists International, Association of World Citizens Institute for Planetary Synthesis, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Dominican Leadership Conference, Loretto Community, Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Sisters of Charity Federation, Pax Christi International, Gray Panthers, International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation, Edmund Rice International, Geneva, International Peace Research Associates, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sisters of Mercy, International Council of Women, National Council of Women USA, International Federation of Women Lawyers, International Federation of Women in Legal Careers, Congregation of Notre Dame, Baptist World Alliance, Center for Women, the Earth, the Divine, Al-Hakim Foundation
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