- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
THIRD WORLD NETWORK SUBMISSION
FOR THE COMPILATION DOCUMENT OF THE
UN CONFERENCE ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 2012 (RIO+20)
The expectations for the Rio+20 outcome are inextricably linked to the unfulfilled
commitments and promises of the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development,
the accompanying three conventions and the subsequent United Nations agreements and
The paradigm shift from unsustainable economic growth models to sustainable development
was a commitment at the highest political level but this has not taken place.
Today income inequalities between and within States are pervasive. World exports have
increased almost 5-fold while world per capita income has more than doubled. However, the
top 20% of the population enjoys more than 70% of total income and those in the bottom
quintile gets only 2% of global income.
The starkly unfair distribution of wealth from globalization and economic growth is
epitomized in the United States as seen in a study released by the US Congressional Budget
Office on 25 October 2011 that found that the average after-tax real income of the top 1% of
the country?s households grew by 275% between 1979 and 2007 - about seven times greater
than the increase in income by the remaining 99% over the same period. Meanwhile the
income of the poorest 20 percent of the earners in the US grew by only 18% during that
period, less than 1% per year.
That distorted distribution of economic wealth is at the high price of a deregulated and
destabilized international financial system, and a multilateral trade system that is largely
characterized by rules that are not balanced, operating to the disadvantage of developing
countries. This system favours transnational corporations and a minority of the population.
When financial and economic crises hit, the majority especially the poor bear vastly
At the same time, the ecological crisis from resource depletion to pollution and climate
change has worsened since 1992. Social marginalization, and even exclusion, in on the rise
despite some progress in the social dimension in several developing countries. In recent years
and increasingly so, developed countries are also going through social tensions and
Developed countries also agreed to take the lead in shifting from unsustainable consumption
patterns but these have remained largely unchanged, and instead spread to developing
countries with the wealthy adopting similar lifestyles while poverty eradication continues to
be elusive. With income inequalities sharpening in all countries, over-consumption and
unsustainable consumption dominates production choices (and hence natural resources use
and financial resources allocation) while the poor and marginalised are deprived of a
dignified standard of living.
The disenchantment of expectations on the part of young people, women, indigenous peoples,
rural and urban poor and other marginalized populations across the world as well as a middle
class under threat constitute perhaps an unprecedented challenge for governments and the UN
in the next few months as we prepare for Rio+20.
B. Reaffirm the Rio 1992 Principles and re-commit to implement the agreed
sustainable development agenda
There are already sustainable development principles and frameworks adopted in 1992
followed by subsequent programmes, action plans and measures worked out at each session
of the Commission on Sustainable Development, as well as the relevant treaties and
conventions. Between 1992 and 1997 there was a high level of activity as a result of the high
political commitment at Rio 1992 ? many developing countries made efforts to formulate
national sustainable development strategies and policies, a number established national
sustainable development bodies and mechanisms, Local Agenda 21 was a framework
undertaken by local governments in several countries and the CSD sessions themselves were
engaging and productive.
The ?Rio Conventions? on climate, biodiversity and combating desertification and land
degradation are beyond environmental agreements but rather legally binding agreements that
requires development paradigm shifts in accordance with the principle of common but
differentiated responsibilities, that is based on equity and the historical responsibility of
Components of the sustainable agenda are also in the outcomes of the UN Summits and
Conferences since 1992 including on social development, women, financing for development,
the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on development, least developed
countries, small island developing states etc.
There is also further evolution of human rights as a cross cutting dimension for sustainable
development, in particular the adoption by the General Assembly of the UN Declaration on
Human Rights, the contributions of the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food and on
the Right to Health, and emerging work on indicators based on the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Rio+20 must therefore focus on implementation.
Today the implementation gaps of the sustainable development agenda are widely
acknowledged and it is crucial for Rio+20 to acknowledge the fundamental causes for the
implementation failure. These include:
? Overshadowing of the sustainable development agenda by globalisation characterized
by economic liberalization that has created ecological and social crises, increased
concentration of wealth in a handful of large corporations in each sector (industry and
finance) and undermined the policy autonomy and space of States. Such globalization
has itself created economic crises further exacerbating social tensions, conflicts and
? Weakening of multilateralism that is crucial for sustainable development by continuing
unilateralism (such as trade protectionism and rejection of some of the Rio principles
and even the Conventions by some countries);
? Disproportionate influence of global economic institutions and their lack of public
accountability, including to the UN;
? Lack of implementation means (finance, technology and capacity building) that was an
integral part of the 1992 Rio global sustainable development partnership with
governments at the core of that partnership and developed countries committing to
provide the implementation means;
? Lack of integration of the 3 pillars of sustainable development at all levels of policy
and governance despite initial efforts in the 1990s and numerous UN commitments
and programmes related to the 3 pillars.
Thus there is an urgent need to reaffirm the internationally agreed principles contained
in the Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Environment and Development of 1992, in
particular the fundamental principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as
the political framework for sustainable development.
Secondly, political commitment must be renewed to implement the agreed sustainable
development agenda, building on accumulated knowledge and experiences over the past 20
years, starting with Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Action.
Thirdly, a ?revitalized global partnership for sustainable development? must be based on
States resuming their responsible role and asserting policy autonomy as a counter to the
unfettered market forces that are causing instabilities at all levels. Accordingly, Rio+20 must
revive the work of the UN on a global framework for corporate accountability.
Fourthly, in any private-public sector collaboration there is a need to ensure independence of
public policy and governance from undue influence by the private sector, especially
transnational corporations and large enterprises. There is a need to distinguish these from
family and community enterprises and small and medium sized enterprises that are often left
out of consideration or not given their due recognition.
Fifthly, recognizing the importance of appropriate technology for sustainable development
Rio+20 needs to establish an intergovernmental body on technology that facilitates
technology transfer and innovation (and deals with barriers such an intellectual property
rights) and builds capacity for technology assessment. The CSD in its first session in already
stressed the need for technologies to be assessed for their health, safety, environmental,
economic and social impact.
C. Rebuilding confidence and seeking consensus for post-2012 implementation
Confidence building is needed in the next few months due to the retreat by most developed
countries of their international sustainable development commitments, and even rejection by
some of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Since equity is the
necessary framework for operationalising sustainable development at all levels, the emerging
divergence of views on CBDR in various multilateral fora where decisions and commitments
are being negotiated raises deep concerns.
UNGA Resolution 64/236 called for discussion and refinement of ?a green economy in the
context of sustainable development and poverty eradication? as one of the 2 themes.
However, it is clear from the preparatory process and numerous related discussions that there
is still no universally accepted definition or common understanding on the term ?green
economy?. While parts of the UN system such as ESCAP has facilitated Member States in
arriving at some common understanding of green growth, its details and operationalisation
remain unclear to most governments.
At the level of national and local governments, communities and enterprises, and civil society
organisations, a wide range of activities including policies, programmes, projects and
measures are developed and implemented that all concerned term these ?green? in accordance
with their respective interpretations and descriptions.
At the same time concerns by many developing countries are being reiterated especially on
the substitution of the sustainable development framework by an undefined concept of green
economy, trade protectionism and new development assistance conditionality.
However, it is also emerging strongly from the preparatory process, especially the regional preparatory meetings (including those of civil society and Major Groups prior
to each regional meeting), the Beijing Symposium and the Delhi Ministerial Dialogue
that there is a growing consensus on reaffirming the Rio principles and sustainable
development framework at the international level and allowing national strategies to be
formulated that can refine the 3 pillars along the best principles, approaches and
practices. In these efforts the best of ?green economy? could be assimilated within the
sustainability paradigm and the context of national and (sub)regional realities.
Instead of a disproportionate focus on the green economy theme and on goals and roadmaps
at this juncture that could undermine confidence building and consensus at Rio+20 the
Outcome document could address the widely expressed concerns (this is gaining support from
Member States) and reflect the above growing consensus.
D. Institutional framework for sustainable development
The UN is the primary forum for an Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development
(IFSD) for the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development and the
implementation of the sustainable development agenda. In this context, there is an urgent
need to strengthen institutional arrangements on sustainable development at all levels in
accordance with the Rio principles, especially common but differentiated responsibilities. The
meaningful participation of developing countries in the IFSD is also a key principle.
Multilateral environmental agreements have increased in number in response to
environmental challenges and effective leadership is needed to address policy fragmentation,
and avoid overlapping and duplication. Major agreements such as the 3 ?Rio Conventions?
are in fact about sustainable development requiring fundamental shifts in all the 3 pillars to
deal with climate change, biodiversity and land degradation. Accordingly the institutional
framework needs to facilitate the interface and integration of the 3 pillars.
To accomplish this integration of the three pillars and achieve sustainable development, the
IFSD should at least meet the following functions:
1. Identify specific actions to fulfil the sustainable development agenda, starting with
the implementation Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Action
2. Provide support to regional structures and national mechanisms in developing and
implementing their national sustainable development strategies
3. Provide support for developing countries to participate meaningfully at the
international and regional levels of decision making
4. Provide guidance and identify specific actions in order to fulfil the sustainable
5. Monitor progress in the implementation, including commitments for provision of
means of implementation and recommend actions to correct and address challenges
6. Assess the balanced integration of the 3 pillars in the international system and
establishment necessary mechanism to follow up commitments on sustainable
development and to identify weaknesses or gaps that affect the full implementation of
the sustainable development agenda
7. Promote the participation of civil society in the sustainable development agenda.
The IFSD requires adequate Secretariat actions and functions. These include: (a) Research,
analysis and reports and recommendations, to alert governments and the public of trends and
developments and to give alerts on emerging problems. (b) Provide technical assistance and
advice in general; (c) To make arrangements for convening meetings, their reports and follow
up on the outcomes.
The IFSD should take a balanced approach to the three pillars, so that each pillar is equitably
developed in concepts, outcomes and actions. There should be cross-fertilisation and crossreferencing
between the three pillars. For example, the social pillar has to take account of the
economic and environmental dimensions; the economic pillar has to take account of the social
and environmental dimensions; and the environment pillar has to take account of the social
and economic dimensions. In some issues, the connections are even more obviously direct,
for example, the management of energy and water resources have to link to access of the poor
to energy and water resources.
Further, the following would enhance the IFSD:
1. Creation of a Council on Sustainable Development under the General Assembly: This
would be the umbrella organization, building on the experience and roles of the Commission
on Sustainable Development, with the core function of the Council is the integration of the
three pillars, the development or updating of the general sustainable development principles,
and the international cooperation components of finance, technology and capacity building.
This general component could include mechanisms for coordinating among the agencies,
committees or secretariats of the three pillars; the mobilizing and operations of finance and
technology transfer; and the convening of high-level meetings of Ministers or Heads of
Governments and States on ?Sustainable Development? overall in which the issues of the
three pillars are on the agenda.
Under this umbrella architecture, there should be more time given for the
convening of meetings on sustainable development pillars and issues, for example climate
change, biodiversity, financial and economic issues, intellectually property and sustainable
development issues where there is now a felt need for more time for intergovernmental
discussion. There would be space to explore new mechanisms or better coordination for
important but relatively neglected issues such as water or energy. There can be more time for
more effective mobilizing of financial resources and technology development and transfer.
2. International financial architecture reform: the latest series of financial crises has not
triggered the political momentum for the much needed reform of the international financial
architecture largely due to the reluctance of the major developed countries to make this a
priority at the UN and IFIs or to put in place a rigorous regulatory framework on the private
financial sector. The UN has a legal mandate in its Charter to deal with financial issues and
Member States have adopted far reaching recommendations in the wake of the 2008
financial/economic crisis. Rio+20 needs to provide political commitment for the needed
reforms as the road to Rio continues to be paved with fresh financial scandals.
3. Fair and equitable trade rules: the current impasse at the World Trade Organisation
largely reflects the rejection by many developing countries of further liberalization that
undermines sustainable development and the imbalances in the existing agreements. For
example, implementation of the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights is violating the right to affordable medicines and access to information, facilitating
private expropriation of seeds, plants, animals, microorganisms and traditional knowledge,
and restricting technology transfer and innovation. The growing trade disputes over subsidies
for renewable energy technologies and products and other climate related unilateral trade
restrictions between developed and developing countries reveal the flaws in existing rules.
At the same time there is a proliferation of bilateral free trade agreements
(mostly between developed and developing countries) that go beyond trade to almost every
aspect of a country?s development and requires liberalization beyond WTO requirements,
undermining sustainable development.
Thus there is a need for the existing trade rules to be to be aligned with sustainability
principles and norms, and for the push for ?business-as-usual? economic liberalisation to be
4. ECOSOC to play its mandated role: the socio-economic policy role of ECOSOC and
its coordination role vis-à-vis the various functional commissions have been discussed and
refined over the years and its relationship with the proposed Council on Sustainable
Development would need to be defined.
5. Broaden UNEP's mandate and increase its resources: UNEP should be enabled to
function to support developing countries in the implementation of the sustainable
development agenda, assisting countries with formulating their institutions, action plans,
policies, laws and implementation mechanisms; assisting countries obtain information,
knowledge, technologies, good practices, recovery from natural disasters, etc., and fostering
more effective coordination and cooperation in implementation activities among policyformulating
and implementing agencies, at international and regional levels, and national