Translated from Spanish
Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations
Note No. 0522/11
The Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations presents its compliments to the United Nations Secretariat Department of Economic and Social Affairs and has the honour to refer to the
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.
The Permanent Mission of Uruguay is pleased to convey, herewith, its national contribution to the compilation document to be drawn up as part of the preparatory process for the Conference.
The Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations takes this opportunity to extend to the United Nations Secretariat Department of Economic and Social Affairs the renewed assurances of its highest consideration.
New York, 1 November 2011
United Nations Secretariat
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Contribution of Uruguay to the compilation document
Informal Working Paper
1. General considerations regarding the objectives and expectations of the Conference and its outcome document
1.1 First of all, it is our understanding that the Rio+20 Conference will be a good opportunity to reaffirm the commitments made regarding sustainable development, particularly those contained in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Programme of Action. Moreover, it should serve as a catalyst to promote the implementation of these commitments by renewing the political will of all parties.
1.2 Achieving sustainable development is the goal of medium and long-term development policies, and it is one of the main challenges of the current development agenda.
1.3 In order to reach this goal, it is essential to have the active participation not only of Governments but also of civil society as a whole, since any commitment reaffirmed there should be regarded as a commitment of all. Accordingly, the Rio+20 Conference is viewed as an inclusive forum which should have the participation of the broadest possible range of actors. Similarly, it should strengthen international cooperation channels, particularly as regards transfer of technology and capacity-building, which are crucial in order to tackle the present-day challenges.
1.4 Moreover, it would be essential to assess the gaps in the implementation of earlier commitments in order to take the necessary measures in order to guarantee effective implementation, bearing in mind the various realities, difficulties and challenges facing individual countries.
1.5 Within this framework, it is necessary and advisable to adopt a plan of action containing the main commitments regarding sustainable development and making it possible to draw up a course of action for the achievement of the commitments and to guarantee sufficient support to the developing countries, including provision of resources, transfer of technology and capacity-building, in order to foster sustainable economic growth. Said plan of action should lay the bases for promoting a growth strategy that can achieve sufficient balance among the three pillars of sustainable development.
1.6 Accordingly, the format could be like the one outlined within the framework of the second Preparatory Committee; in other words, the final document could have an introductory section, a first section which would cover progress made and any gaps/omissions (it could also list new and emerging issues), a second section dealing with specific actions and commitments and a third devoted to the reform of the institutional framework for sustainable development. The means of implementation should, in turn, be looked at from a cross-cutting perspective and be dealt with throughout the document.
1.7 Given the progress made during the past 10 years at the multilateral level as regards regulation of aspects referred to as ?chemicals and waste? and the identification of new areas to be regulated and emerging issues to be studied, it would also be advisable, in that context, to consider specific progress towards the 2020 goal concerning chemicals and waste established at the previous world conference in Johannesburg from the standpoint of sustainable development centred on the eradication of poverty. For that reason the Rio Conference should recognize the need for equitable availability of means of implementation and a financial architecture that can permit effective implementation, particularly in developing countries.
1.8 It would also be good to recognize that a new environmental agreement is currently being negotiated under the chairmanship of Uruguay; it is the legally binding instrument at the global level concerning mercury, regarding which it is important to send a clear message to the Conference so as to encourage it to fulfil its mandate satisfactorily.
2. Green economy
2.1 Regarding the green economy in the context of poverty eradication, it is understood that the concept of green economy is part of the concept of sustainable development. The green economy is a tool or means for achieving the goals clearly defined in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and that should be its fundamental goal. Accordingly, consideration should be given to the various realities and levels of development of the different countries, and account should be taken of their priorities and specific conditions.
2.2 Far from imposing barriers or restrictions on trade and/or conditions on financing, the green economy will give rise to new opportunities for countries in various areas such as, inter alia, the opening of new markets, job creation, preservation of natural resources, increased productivity, investment in and development of new technologies and promotion of transparency in the multilateral trade system.
2.3 Implementing the concept of a green economy will necessarily go hand in hand with commitments regarding international cooperation, including technology transfer, provision of financial resources and training for developing countries so as to safeguard the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
2.4 Increased productivity in the agricultural sector as a result, inter alia, of investing in practices/technologies that permit appropriate utilization of natural resources will have a huge impact on the eradication of poverty and hunger at the global level.
2.5 Bearing in mind the above factors, the green economy, in our view, presupposes:
? reconciling economic and commercial growth with sustainable management of resources and strengthened environmental protection;
? investment in agricultural technologies that permit more sustainable use of the soil and of natural resources in general;
? reduction of carbon emissions;
? promotion and dissemination of ? and investment in ? renewable resources;
? environmentally sustainable management of waste/residues;
? appropriate management of chemical products;
? promotion of sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with the developed countries leading the way in the implementation of measures to that end and with all countries benefiting therefrom;
? promotion of a sustainable social habitat by using clean technologies for construction and by creating employment opportunities in the construction industry.
3. Institutional framework for sustainable development
3.1 While it is true that the 1992 Rio summit was productive in ?legislative? terms, it is also true that it triggered a surge in the number of institutions, since the various multilateral environmental agreements (MEA) created their own organic structures based on intergovernmental decision-making centres and secretariats with specific mandates. Hence the ever more pressing need to rationalize international management of sustainable development.
3.2 Generally speaking, the strong presence of MEA as pillars of emerging environmental regulations at the global level has turned the secretariats of the various agreements into international actors with increasing gravitation but varying degrees of influence. At the same time, the perception regarding the lack of coordination and collaboration among them has grown and the configuration of MEA has been questioned, for they are often described as rigid, descriptive, homogeneous and vertical. This has, in some cases, led to serious difficulties as regards implementation by the contracting parties, particularly in achieving balanced integration at the national or regional level of all the sectors involved. Moreover, the proximity between the goals of certain MEA has accentuated certain contradictions and incompatibilities, especially in those countries having to deal with short-term economic needs and while also ensuring long-term environmental preservation.
3.3 As a result of this same phenomenon, we often find the competences or responsibilities of different bodies being superposed, although their aims, rules and procedures are not always properly synchronized. The World Trade Organization is perhaps, the best example as there are currently 20 MEA which clash with the trade rules of that organization. It is worth recalling, in this connection, that nearly half the MEA currently in effect are related to trade.
3.4 As a result, the progressive development of environmental law at the multilateral level has not been conducive ? at least not to the degree and extent necessary ? to the application of collective solutions based on synergistic actions that respond to an integrated approach. Each MEA has followed its own course, from the negotiation of its terms to the focusing of its operative work. While it is true that such specificity has made it possible to concentrate efforts on clearly defined areas or sectors requiring immediate attention, it is also true that there has been no multilateral strategy to coordinate and articulate the international community?s responses to the many challenges posed by environmental degradation ? or if there has been such a strategy it has been inadequate.
3.5 The growing complexity and interrelationship of the various manifestations of such degradation make it increasingly necessary to adopt such an integrated approach, in order to permit coordinated responses at the global level, including with other regulatory areas (as, for example, in the area of WTO). Moreover, the urgency and magnitude of the problems often exceed the institutional capacities that exist at the multilateral level. Hence the need to reform existing institutions or to create new intergovernmental management structures has been on the international agenda for some time.
3.6 Having carefully reviewed the various alternatives formulated by the G-77 core group concerning the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD) and examined their feasibility in scientific, technical and political feasibility, priority should be given in principle to the reform processes of the two main organs of the United Nations system for environmental management, namely, UNEP and the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).
3.7 It is worth recalling that UNEP was given a clear mandate to act as global focal point given, inter alia, its role among United Nations environmental agencies. Nonetheless, it has had limited success; although it has had positive results in various key areas such as monitoring of the environment, scientific evaluation, exchange of information, the MEA momentum and institutional capacity-building at the national and regional level, it has not achieved sufficient political power to develop coherent and coordinated management processes. On the one hand, UNEP has some comparative advantages ? which it could use to better advantage ? but, on the other, it faces serious obstacles when it comes to exercising leadership in all environmental management processes, due to the proliferation of governmental and non-governmental entities which usually have little connection with one another.
3.8 Accordingly, while there is little doubt as to the need to revitalize UNEP, there is disagreement as to the extent of the revitalization. The options put forward range from: partially revising its mandate; to assigning it a new mandate; to transforming the programme into a specialized agency of the United Nations. The first option seeks to ensure that UNEP can serve as a forum for exchanging information and discussing environmental policies, promoting an effective interrelationship between the various agencies and networks and thereby facilitating the implementation of MEA. This would require adopting a set of measures, starting with an independent strategic review of its own mission in order to correct the internal fragmentation within UNEP and giving it a more stable budget that is better financed. Although such measures could help restore UNEP?s role as coordinator of intergovernmental actions at the multilateral level ? which was the original intention ? it is worth asking whether such a revised mandate can give it the political clout it currently lacks vis-à-vis other international agencies, particularly those with greater financing capacity.
3.9 The second option is more ambitious, for it seeks to assign UNEP a new mandate with a view to encouraging greater coherence among environmental, economic and social agencies and ensuring more tangible or effective implementation of the ?environment for development? concept. Among the instruments selected for such purposes we should make particular mention of the establishment of standards and other means of interacting with national, regional and multilateral agencies, but on the basis of the principle of ?common but differentiated responsibilities?. Thus, developed countries would have to foster the transfer of technological and financial resources necessary to increase the participation of developing countries in intergovernmental decision-making centres within and outside the United Nations system.
3.10 This proposal is also based on the inclusion of a series of guidelines or models intended to revitalize UNEP from the operational standpoint. As has been mentioned, these guidelines could include: integrated planning that would include all dimensions of sustainable development; search for consensus regarding a long-term vision for UNEP; strengthened monitoring in order to focus management processes better and to evaluate their results; and inclusion of linking strategies in the financial and budgetary planning.
3.11 In fact, organizational review of UNEP is part of the United Nations reform process in line with the 2005 World Summit outcome which recognized the need for ?better integration of environmental activities in the broader sustainable development framework?. Accordingly, there is nothing new about the discussions and proposals regarding instruments or modalities to strengthen the work of UNEP since they have been taking place in the context of the item ?Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit?.
3.12 As for the third option, when we look at the presence and participation of UNEP in the United Nations system as a whole, we can see that one of UNEP?s ?endemic? weaknesses is that it is a programme, in other words it does not meet the requirement of specialized agency (pursuant to Article 57 of the Charter), which is to be a legally independent entity with its own regulations, membership, organs and financial resources that has formalized its ties with the United Nations through a negotiated agreement as is the case with the 18 agencies currently represented on the United Nations System Chief Executives Board (CEB).
3.13 Thus UNEP falls within the category of programme established by the General Assembly (in accordance with the powers conferred by Article 22 of the Charter), as is the case, for example, of UNDP, UNICEF, UNCTAD and others. Such programmes ? established to meet needs that were not foreseen at the San Francisco Conference in 1945 ? are financed with resources from sources other than the regular budget of the United Nations. Given the growing perception that the economic and social pillars of global sustainable development are determined by the environmental pillar, there would seem to be sound justification for ?prioritizing? UNEP so as to place it on the same level, institutionally, as other specialized agencies. The international priority given to preserving the environment and managing sustainable development is no less ? in comparative terms ? than that given to the problems of agriculture (FAO), labour (ILO), culture (UNESCO), health (WHO), civil aviation (ICAO), industrial development (UNIDO), intellectual property (WIPO), telecommunications (ITU), postal services (UPU) and meteorology (WMO).
3.14 Whatever option ultimately prevails, it will be necessary to give greater vigour or emphasis to this reform or review process ? whichever one it is ? and to move ahead with a few key initiatives leading for example to:
? recognizing and revitalizing UNEP?s scientific role;
? significantly increasing its regional presence and action;
? proposing guidelines for the establishment of national and regional platforms on environmental protection and sustainable development policies that can integrate the application of MEA into the countries? evaluation and assistance processes;
? establish, clearly and precisely, the division of labour between international development agencies, UNEP and MEA in terms, not only, of regulatory but also operational capacity for the environment and sustainable development.
3.15 With respect to CSD, there is little doubt as to the need to modify its structure and mandate in order to turn it into a more dynamic mechanism, capable of meeting the new and emerging challenges on the international agenda. The Commission ? which was set up to evaluate the implementation of the commitments assumed at the 1992 Rio Summit ? could have played a role in shaping the international community?s responses to the many challenges posed by environmental conservation, but it has long been known for its institutional weakness and this has prevented it from achieving the results that efficient integration of the three pillars of sustainable development required and continues to require.
3.16 It would seem as though CSD, like UNEP, needs some prioritization in order to enable it to play a role in shaping, coordinating policies and providing guidelines or models that can improve the implementation of the commitments assumed, with the operational objective of including sustainable development in the entire United Nations system. Again, as in the case of UNEP, CSD could undergo institutional transformation and become a sustainable development forum or a council on sustainable development.
3.17 Either way, the new institutional architecture should preserve the review function that was originally granted to CSD, but it should also focus on monitoring and implementing the commitments assumed, and on new and emerging challenges. It should also tackle issues of a cross-cutting nature which are related to the three pillars of sustainable development.
3.18 As for its work, the executive organ should meet annually for two or three days at a time in order to ensure a political presence at the highest level. An active exchange of ideas among the various relevant actors should be encouraged in a variety of formats. Members of CEB whose mandates are linked, directly or indirectly, to sustainable development, and the executive secretaries of MEA and of the regional commissions could also be invited to attend.
3.19 Finally, discussion of the institutional framework for sustainable development at the 2012 Rio Conference could (in addition to reformulating the existing structures) focus on connecting efforts to ensure coherence and integration of the environmental, economic and social pillars; encouraging synergies; strengthening analysis, technical advice and scientific advance; strengthening implementation, monitoring and responsibility with regard to rules and approved goals; actively participating at the public and private level on a global scale; and strengthening national capacities.