Wednesday, 25 April 2012

NGOs call on EU to keep its development commitments ahead of Rio+20

With just a few weeks to go until the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Eurostep in collaboration with ANND, Social Watch, Third World Network and ALOP have called on the EU not to shy away from its commitments to a global sustainable development agenda. In a letter sent to EU officials and member state representatives, the coalition points to a move away from a rights-based approach to development during the conferences’ preparatory process, and avoidance of any discussion about the current unsustainable consumption and production patterns in developed countries.

The letter points out that in the context of the massive Eurozone debt crisis — which has been dominating the EU’s agenda — it is more important than ever that the EU adheres to its core principles — including human rights and equity. In the zero draft outcome document for Rio+20 on the other hand, some UN members, including the EU, have weakened or even undermined these core principles. “In such critical times, the focus of some actors is simply not acceptable — whether that focus is on preserving short term and narrow interests or on trying to dismantle the core pillars of the UN development agenda to the detriment of wider and future populations”, they warn.

EU officials are urged to reaffirm key principles agreed on in previous conferences regarding sustainable development. Most important is the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) among developed and developing countries. This principle is being contested in the negotiations, with developed countries trying to diminish their share in responsibilities, to the detriment of developing countries. “Even though this principle is at the core of the development and sustainable development agendas, it is crucial to stress that while new countries have emerged as economic powers, developed countries are historically responsible for the current state of the planet and are still the greatest per capita emitters of CO2 emissions”, the letter states. “Recognizing the CBDR principle is about acknowledging responsibility, ensuring the realisation of the right to development, striving for more equity, committing to differentiated targets for sustainable development and about providing an enabling environment for developing countries in international relations and assistance according to countries’ needs”, it continues.

Eurostep and its partners call on the EU and its member states to spell out — in the outcome document — certain rights, including the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, and to reiterate the EU’s core principle to uphold and promote all human rights. “Human rights are legal guarantees that contribute to people’s empowerment and improved equity and ensure equal protection of people before the law; they are fundamental requirements for a sustainable world. Given the EU’s laudable engagement on human rights, to improve democracy, inclusiveness and participatory approaches and increase the role of civil society organizations in decision making processes, we urge the EU to listen to these pleas”, the letter concludes.

These concerns have been echoed by a wide range of international actors including civil society organisations and UN representatives. In an Open Letter, 22 Human Rights Councils‘ independent experts called on all states negotiating the Rio+20 Outcome Document “to incorporate universally agreed international human rights norms and standards in the Outcome Document of the Rio+20 Summit with strong accountability mechanism to ensure its implementation“.

In anotheropen letter, international civil society and non-governmental organisations address the Secretary General for Rio+20 and UN member states to bring the “negotiations back on track“, so that Rio+20 can deliver “the realization of rights, democracy and sustainability” while adhering the principles of transparency and accountability and thus strengthen the foundations of peace and prosperity.

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