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  • Published on: 1 Feb 2012
  • Submitted by: World Vision International
  • More information

World Vision's response to Zero Draft outcome document
The draft Outcome Document for Rio+20 identifies the major issues and priority areas concerning sustainable development, particularly with regards to the progress to date and new and emerging challenges.

The Zero Draft, however, misses the opportunity created by the legacy of the Rio Summits to call for significant action or inspire bold steps. The document demonstrates a considerable lack of urgency in tackling these fundamental issues, and the effort to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development is vague and abstract. Commitment and urgent action will require significantly greater detail on concrete deliverables for governments. The outcomes of Rio+20 must also address the means of implementing actions with tangible commitments concerning the provision of resources.

World Vision affirms the following within the Rio+20 Zero Draft outcome document:

 Participation
World Vision welcomes the section on Civil Society participation [C. Engaging Major Groups]. In
the submission to the compilation document, World Vision called for the promotion of local action and participation of communities, including children, and ensuring accountability to the poorest and most vulnerable people. World Vision supports acknowledgement of the role of national parliaments and local governments in furthering sustainable development outcomes [17,20].

 Children
World Vision welcomes the specific references to reflecting the views of children and youth [17,21,102]. However, we believe the notion of intergenerational equity and the participation of children should be strengthened (discussed below).

 Health
World Vision?s submission urges member States to address the link between health and sustainable development and accelerate the development of an action plan which prioritises the health of children. The draft Outcome Document makes explicit the fundamental importance of freeing humanity from hunger, the continuing challenge of undernourishment and disease, and the need to ensure proper nutrition for people [2,11,64]. For the most part, however, the importance of health in sustainable development receives little attention throughout the document (discussed below).

 Governance
World Vision calls for policy coherence and cross-sectoral governance across international,
regional, national and local levels, and notes the emphasis on strong governance at all levels in the draft Outcome Document [44] and the need for integrated planning at the national level for the implementation of sustainable development commitments [59,61].

Areas that require strengthening

 Increased focus on children and intergenerational equity
Intergenerational equity is at the heart of sustainable development, yet a specific focus on children has been largely missing from discourse on the environment and sustainable development. This is despite the fact that around three million children under five die each year from diseases due to a number of largely preventable environment-related causes, exacerbated by existing adverse social and economic conditions such as poverty, conflict, urbanisation and under nutrition. The draft Outcome Document should emphasise the specific vulnerabilities of the world?s poorest children.

 Greater emphasis on health and wellbeing World Vision believes that the health of people is largely overlooked in the draft document and this constitutes a significant omission. The lack of focus on the health of children is of particular concern. Healthy populations are central to sustainable development.1 The links between good health and the pillars of sustainable development - environmental sustainability, social outcomes, and economic progress - are well known: healthy people are better able to contribute to the societies in which they live through employment and education; while a healthy natural environment is essential for good health. Reduction in environmental risks could prevent a large proportion of childhood deaths, and well-designed health systems can protect individuals from illness and impoverishment, contribute to the resilience of societies, and enable communities to hold national governments accountable.

Addressing the health needs of children should be prioritised. The health status of children is one of the best measures of sustainable development. For example, research shows that ?a 5% improvement in child survival raises economic growth by 1% per year over the subsequent decade.?2

Rio+20 offer an opportunity to ensure coherence across the economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainable development, with the health of human beings at the centre. World Vision urges member States to place specific emphasis on health in the following priority issues:

Food Security [64-66]

While World Vision welcomes food security as a priority area, this section is disappointing from a health and nutrition perspective. There is no evidence to support the notion that food production, access to markets and reduced waste throughout the supply chain will by themselves result in 'ensuring proper nutrition for all our people'. In particular, there is no mention of undernutrition in children (0-5 years), one of the largest contributors to child morbidity and mortality. Given the number of references to food security and/or hunger in the draft, there is a clear need to include a stronger focus on nutrition in relation to sustainable agriculture and food production.

Under-five nutrition should be included as a key outcome measure. Investing in adequate nutrition supports the social and economic pillars of sustainable development: studies demonstrate that investing in nutrition can decrease costs by as much as 5 times compared the cost of providing therapeutic feeding to malnourished children; and can positively impact GDP by as much as 2 or 3%.3 The Outcome Document should emphasise the 1000 day ?window of opportunity? for ensuring adequate child nutrition, after which time damage to children?s cognitive and physical development is irreversible, thereby undermining sustainable development.
This section should also place greater emphasis on resilient, climate-sensitive, and sustainable agricultural practices. Attention to the role of smallholder farmers, including women, as central to food production and food security should be strengthened.

Energy [70,71]
The Outcome Document should explicitly recognise the urgency of addressing energy poverty, and the importance of equitable access to energy in the development process across populations.
There are significant health co-benefits of using cleaner fuels and using energy more efficiently which should be given attention, particularly the benefits for respiratory illness in children exposed to indoor air pollution.

Cities [72]
The health implications of urbanization - slum environments, unhealthy lifestyles and changing patterns of consumption which contribute to the growing burden of non-communicable diseases ? should be addressed. A goal which renews commitment to the realisation of safe drinking water and sanitation for all should be explicit in the document, as a follow-on from the MDG targets for water and sanitation.

Climate Change [88,89]
This section is very weak. In particular, the health implications of a changing climate should be a focus. Climate change not only increases the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, but threatens the fundamental requirements for health - clean air, safe drinking water, a secure food supply and adequate nutrition.

 Increasing accountability with global goals and targets
Explicit mention of the need for indicators of progress towards a green economy, and for targets and goals is made in the draft [33,105-111,128]. While World Vision recognises the need for contextualised responses for sustainable development, a scaled-up global effort will require tighter guidance for member States than that currently proposed. The Outcome Document of Rio+20 should agree specific global criteria within the 'Framework for Action' for the Green Economy section [37-43] and for each priority sector/theme.

3 Effect of a nutrition intervention during early childhood on economic productivity in Guatemalan adults, The Lancet, Volume 371, Issue 9610, Pages
411 - 416, 2 February 2008

 Use health as a measure
Rio+20 will only be a success if the outcome charts a course for measurable progress towards sustainable development goals. Given the central role of health in sustainable development, direct measures of health should be included: for example, indicators of child nutrition as a measure of food security. Health indicators provide a powerful means for measuring progress and will be critical in tracking the impact of sustainable development beyond Rio+20 and into the post-2015 development agenda.

 Fragile contexts
The outcomes of Rio+20 should recognise the specific challenges of implementing action and providing development assistance in fragile states. No low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet achieved a single MDG. Particular attention should be paid to ensure that a framework for action for sustainable development meets the needs and aspirations of people living in conflict affected and fragile contexts.


1 as noted in Principle 1 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992)
2 Anderson, E. and Hague, S., 2007, The impact of investing in children: assessing the cross-country econometric evidence, Overseas Development
Institute and Save The Children, Working Paper 280, London
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