- Date submitted: 28 Oct 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable
Development (Rio +20)
CIDSE submission to the Rio+20 Zero Draft Document
The context of Rio+20
The 1992 Rio United Nations Conference on Environment and Development established
the paradigm that Sustainable Development must be holistic and incorporate social,
economic and environment imperatives. For the first time, developed and developing
countries agreed to a framework based on mutual rights and obligations. The Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development affirmed the ?polluter pays?, ?common but
differentiated responsibilities,? and precautionary principles as essential concepts underlying
Already ahead of the 2002 Johannesburg Summit, it was acknowledged that progress in
implementing Sustainable Development has been extremely disappointing since the 1992
Earth Summit. The hope, born in Johannesburg, that the numerous voluntary multi-
stakeholder partnerships, together with governments? aspirational targets on sanitation,
chemicals, fish stocks, and biodiversity, would succeed in implementing Sustainable
Development, clearly has failed to deliver in the ten years since.
The environmental crisis is indeed worsening, with the imperious and yet unsolved threat of
climate change already impacting the most vulnerable and yet least responsible communities.
Positive trends regarding poverty eradication are still contradicted by the persistence of
severe inequality between and within states. The partial progress that has been achieved is
threatened by the confluence of global crises in food, energy, climate, finance and the
The Rio+20 Conference is thus a key opportunity to perpetuate the legacy of a historical
international Declaration and Agenda 21 action plan, which paved the way for the
implementation of Sustainable Development policies, and to give a structural answer to the
current challenges. It is also an opportune moment for the international community, twenty
years after the first Earth Summit, to push forward a credible and efficient pathway towards
Sustainable Development and poverty eradication.
CIDSE is an international alliance of Catholic development agencies working in the north
and with partners in the south to promote global social justice and solidarity. CIDSE
advocates a shift from models that encourage a material conception of being, illustrated by
resource and carbon-intensive consumption along with extreme profits and inequalities, to
models that work in favour of human well-being, living simply, in community, giving priority
to equity, sustainability, and responsibility.
CIDSE?s vision of sustainability is founded on the principle that human beings are stewards
of creation, called to care for the environment in a responsible way so as to pass it on to
future generations. New models of economy and society need to integrate the concept of
finitude. There is a limited quantity of energy and material and a need to share the natural
resources that we have both equitably and sustainably. One element to be explored is
reorienting consumption and production to the local scale, reflecting the need to consider
our ecological footprint, as well as our connection to the environment and to our local
A fundamental recognition of the dignity of every human being, with particular attention to
the poorest and most vulnerable, is also central to our vision of sustainability. This
obligation goes beyond the individual aspect and requires a broader commitment: that each
individual contribute to the common good. The common good is the sum of all those
conditions of living in community - economic, political, social and cultural - which make it
possible for women and men readily and fully to achieve authentic human development. We
are meant to be one human family that lives in peace, justice and solidarity1.
The need for new models has also been highlighted by efforts to redefine measure of
economic performance and social progress (alternatives to GDP), such as the Sustainable
Economic Well-being Index, and similar initiatives in Germany and Italy, as well as Bhutan?s
Gross National Happiness Index.
The Rio +20 Conference: our expectations
Considering the legacy of the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development policies, but also
in view of the shortcomings regarding the implementation of such policies, of the actual
converging crises, calling on holistic and structural solutions achieving real change, the
Rio+20 Conference must put in place a stronger agenda on Sustainable Development
reflecting the ethos behind the Earth Summit, that embraces a rights-based approach, linking
the imperative of ecological sustainability with human development and poverty eradication.
It must succeed to deliver an agreement on a legally-binding, time-bound and ambitious
framework on Sustainable Development, stating clear targets and setting efficient indicators.
A focus on ?Green Economy? should not become a substitute for the objective of
Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and poverty eradication
Sustainable Development is first and foremost about people. Economic development and
opportunities are central to poor people's concerns and aspirations, and yet the relationship
between growth and poverty reduction is far from certain. Research has shown that the
success factors include the fair distribution of income and wealth during the growth
CIDSE acknowledges that an overall concept of Green Economy may be able to provide
tools to achieve Sustainable Development and poverty eradication. However, the UNCSD
must recognise that the focus on Green Economy should not become a shorthand for the
concept of Sustainable Development, and that a broad comprehension of Sustainable
Development should stay the main focus of the Conference agenda. Whilst we recognize
that some aspects of greening of our economies can make a significant contribution to
Sustainable Development, it cannot serve as the main strategy to reach Sustainable
Development. Moreover existing economic models based on growth have proven to be
unsustainable. Therefore a true reflection on Sustainable Development should include a
questioning of existing economic trends and shouldn?t be equated with the notion of
For the Green Economy concept to support Sustainable Development and poverty
eradication it must include notably the following principles:
ˇ Green Economy must take into account the 3 aspects of Sustainable Development :
environmental, economic and social,
ˇ Green Economy must respect all human rights,
ˇ Green Economy must be fair and equitable to northern and southern countries,
ˇ Green Economy should involve the communities and citizens affected by the
proposed policies and projects,
ˇ Green Economy should take into account the protection of natural resources and
biodiversity, by eliminating any harmful subsidy,
ˇ Green Economy should question the unsustainable consumption and production
patterns, including overall levels of resource use, that led to the current
ˇ Green Economy should not be built on the current economic models based on
growth and linking growth to the use of natural resources,
ˇ Green Economy should use indicators other than GDP.
Green Economy roadmaps should not be considered as anything other than a tool.
Moreover as soft law does not give us the needed results, international legal frameworks,
products norms and regulations have to be part of the toolkit for achieving Sustainable
Institutional framework for Sustainable Development
Tackling the current challenges to reach Sustainable Development requires an institutional
framework that embraces all its complexities and inter-linkages. It is therefore essential that
the institutional framework is sufficiently resourced and influential to guarantee that
frameworks and policies such as those on development, ecology, agriculture and food
security, for tackling climate-change and regulating finance and the private sector in general
are coherent with it. It must also be able to address the fundamental value frames that form
the basis of our common humanity and will define our collective future.
The Colombian government?s proposal to formulate Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) is a good starting point in this endeavour. The proposal is a useful attempt to update
the existing Sustainable Development agenda to new challenges and reconcile this agenda
with concerns for creating a Green Economy. Moreover it rightly emphasizes the need for
clear goals and indicators and a process of decentralization and consultation to arrive at
commitments that are owned by countries and for which they can be held accountable.
Building on the SDGs, creating a new institutional framework will require the following
1. The framework should build on the existing Sustainable Development agenda but
also addresses current challenges such as climate change, the finitude of natural
resources, increasing global poverty and inequality and today?s financial and
economic governance crises.
2. The framework should uphold international law and agreements, most notably the
UN Charter, the UN Human Rights Conventions, the Convention to eliminate all
forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of
the Child and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
3. The framework should include clear commitments which can be translated into
national and even community-level goals and indicators.
4. The framework should also include clear operational commitments including gender
disaggregated reporting requirements, requirements to undertake human rights
impact assessments and public consultations.
5. The framework should be legally binding. Public and private actors should be legally
accountable for their actions in fulfilling or undermining the framework?s
6. The framework should include a clear time-frame. This would underline the urgency
of implementing sustainable pathways to secure the well-being of present and future
7. The framework should be formulated on the basis of extensive public consultation.
Lessons must be drawn from the formulation and implementation of another such
framework: the Millennium Development Goals. Research done by CIDSE?s
member organization CAFOD with development practitioners whose work was
impacted by the MDGs have emphasized that if a framework of public
commitments is to overcome the limitations of the MDG framework, it must be
formulated after extensive consultation with its final beneficiaries and those
potentially affected by it3.
To this end, CIDSE recommends that the Rio+20 outcome document should contain:
1. A clear statement that the UN will play a central role in the governance of
Sustainable Development policies.
2. A commitment to ensure coherence of policies in the areas of development, tackling
climate change, protecting ecosystems, on agriculture, trade, finance, investment and
the private sector with the Sustainable Development framework.
3. Commitment to formulate a global legally-binding, time-bound Sustainable
Development Framework by 2015.
4. Commitment to translate the Framework into goals and indicators at the national
and local level.
5. Commitment to a process of extensive and meaningful public consultation in
formulating the Sustainable Development Framework.
The UN should have a central role in formulating, implementing and securing accountability
of this framework. To this end, it would be important to upgrade the Commission of
Sustainable Development at the UN to become an Intergovernmental Council. Alternately, a
reformed and strengthened ECOSOC could be mandated to take on this function.
The ambition of the Rio+20 Conference: Sustainable Development and poverty eradication
On this basis, the Rio+20 Conference must focus its agenda on a consistent and coherent
vision of Sustainable Development, able to bring the necessary change and to progress on
the way to poverty eradication. This implies to get clear agreements towards binding
commitments on the following issues:
a. Regarding the private sector :
1. Increased prominence to the role of the private sector must be balanced by concern
for its responsibility and accountability. Enthusiasm for partnerships and financing
should be matched by equal attention to adequate regulation, and government
capacity to supervise and address negative impacts of business models and
operations on Sustainable Development. The UN ?Protect, Respect and Remedy?
framework and Guiding Principles on business and human rights provide one
element of this more comprehensive approach.
2. The requirement of corporate reporting on human rights, social and environmental
impacts of domestic and foreign operations, and related contract disclosure.
3. The requirement of Country by Country Reporting as part of the international
accounting standards for Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) in all sectors. While
such accounting requirements are important for all TNCs, they are needed with the
3 CAFOD. 100 voices: Southern perspectives on what should come after the Millennium
Development Goals, March 2011.
utmost urgency for improving governance and domestic accountability in relation to
exploitation of oil, gas minerals and other natural resources, because these are finite,
non-renewable resources. If these resources are not managed wisely, the
development chances of many ordinary people will have been squandered in this
generation and in future generations.
b. In the area of food and policies related to trade and agriculture:
1. Agriculture in its multifunctional dimension (economic, social, ecological...) should
play a central role in the conference discussions. The sector touches on all facets of
sustainability ecological, economic, social, energy...
2. In an effort to guarantee coherence between policy and action, donor governments
and international institutions should effectively support the scaling up of agro-
ecological modes of production in their development policies and practices, as
espoused in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
Technology for Development (IAASTD) report. Support should be targeted to
enable the scaling up of these sustainable modes of production which demonstrate
?strong conceptual connection to guaranteeing the right to food? and which have
yielded results in contributing to local economic development, food security among
the poorest as well as delivering on environmental benefits4.
3. The industrial food production system, which is driving force of environmental and
climatic changes, contributing to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions need to be challenged along with the commodification and
commercialization of natural resources. In addition to supply side restructuring there
is a need to address our consumption models more generally not only in regards to
food, but also energy consumption. Efforts should be made to reduce waste in the
food system and increase energy efficiency. Special attention should be paid to the
negative impacts of biofuel directives which are compromising the realization of the
right to food and putting increasing pressure on land.
4. The FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS) should be legitimized as the
governing body for global food, agriculture and nutrition policy. It should be the
central interlocutor on these issues, hence whatever decisions are taken at the Rio
conference should be aligned with the processes being driven by the CFS.
c. In the area of climate change:
1. The international community must raise its commitments towards GHG emissions
reduction and adaptation efforts, taking into account the CBDR (Common but
Differentiated Responsibilities) principle, and commit within the climate talks of the
2. States should ensure that the needed long term climate finance will be delivered,
beyond the pledged $100 billion per year by 2020.
4 Report submitted by Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to the Human
Right?s Council, 16th Session, December 20, 2010.
3. Governments, businesses and civil society should agree on practical steps at local and
national levels, to address climate change, both via mitigation and adaptation
projects. These projects must be developed on the basis of strong environmental and
d. In the area of finance:
The Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development must be reaffirmed. At
the same time taking into consideration the challenges brought with the magnitude
of multiple crises that the world faces, it is important to go further, building on this
agenda. This would include:
1. Ending the opacity of the financial system. This opacity undermines Sustainable
Development, reducing countries? financial resources. Ending tax havens;
sanctioning those jurisdictions that do not comply with international efforts to end
financial system opacity; and ensuring greater transparency and reliability of financial
data to prevent tax avoidance are some of the broad areas that will need to be
addressed to tackle this problem.
2. Putting in place mechanisms to strengthen the financial capacity of countries to deal
with crises. Securing international monetary stability; fair predictable and transparent
treatment of sovereign debt crises; and reforming the system of Special Drawing
Rights are important measures to strengthen countries? ability to weather crises.
3. Regulating financial markets to end speculation and reorient the financial sector to
provide credit for activities that contribute to Sustainable Development. A new
framework for cooperation on international banking supervision and regulating
commodity markets are some of the important issues to be addressed in this regard.
4. New and innovative financial mechanisms should trigger structural and systemic
changes which will lead to Sustainable Development. Reform of taxation, removal of
harmful subsidies and other measures are needed to discourage harmful activity in
the real economy and financial sector, reflecting true costs to environment and
society while contributing to greater equity. The European Commission has shown
leadership in its proposal for a Financial Transactions Tax within Europe, as a step
towards a global FTT. A substantial portion of the resulting revenues should be
secured for the global challenges of poverty and climate change.
CIDSE is an international alliance of Catholic development agencies. Its members share a common
strategy in their efforts to eradicate poverty and establish global justice. CIDSE?s advocacy work
covers global governance; resources for development; climate justice; food, agriculture & sustainable
trade; and business & human rights - www.cidse.org
Contact: Emilie Johann, firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 (0)2 282 4071, Rue Stévin 16, B-1000 Brussels