Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Environment and development at Rio+20: Splitting them up again?

The Rio+20 Summit will fail if it agrees to current proposals, which risk worsening the divide between environment and development efforts, warned anti-poverty and environmental campaigners. Agreement on Sustainable Development Goals is expected to be one of the major outcomes from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which starts on 20 June in Rio de Janeiro.  

The UN has already begun to deliberate on the post 2015 global development framework, starting with a review of lessons learnt from the existing Millennium Development Goals and options for after they expire in 2015. The current proposal on the table in Rio would effectively create a second process for global goals in the post-2015 period. A separate process focused on the environment will not provide the solution urgently needed to end poverty and inequality while protecting the planet, said international agency Oxfam and the international campaigns, Beyond 2015 and the Global Campaign against Poverty (GCAP).

“Ending poverty and protecting the environment are inextricably linked and cannot be addressed in isolation. The current proposals are a recipe for diluted commitment, duplicated effort, and dispersed focus,” said Antonio Hill of Oxfam. “The world’s poorest people, who still suffer a lack of quality healthcare and education, are also denied their fair share of water, land and clean air. Poor people will be the first to lose out if Rio+20 fails to aim for one set of goals for one planet. We need a single guiding framework whose purpose is to end poverty and restore the living world that sustains us all. “

The groups believe that commitment in Rio to a single process that brings together the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 development framework could represent a landmark agreement to eradicate poverty and ensure prosperity for all by sharing the Earth’s limited resources. But the move could fail if this integration does not happen from the start. The groups also warn that the success of any future goals hinge on the progress made towards ending poverty through the Millennium Development Goals. “Governments in Rio are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while 1.4 billion people still live in poverty, in a daily struggle for food, water and energy. For these people environment and development are not separate choices. We need a race to deliver the existing Millennium Development goals, and a single framework to succeed them,” said Rajiv Joshi from GCAP.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Civil Society Reflection Group seeks post-2015 agenda

On the eve of the United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20), 18 leading civil society activists and scholars from around the globe proposed concrete measures to effectively overcome the obstacles that prevent the world population to achieve a real sustainable development that enhances social equality and protects the environment. In its report, No FutureWithout Justice, the Civil Society Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives “describes the root causes of the multiple crises” that suffers the planet, “reconfirms the framework of universal principles and rights, reconsiders development goals and indicators, and draws conclusions for the post-2015 development agenda.”

The text “seeks to stimulate debates about alternative development paths, participatory and inclusive governance structures, and the transformation in politics and societies that future justice for all will require,” reads a statement launched by the Group, comprised of members of Social Watch, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, terre des hommes, Third World Network, Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Foundation, DAWN and the Global Policy Forum. “Governments failed to bring their policies into line with the agreed principles of sustainability and human rights. Instead, policies are still too often sectorally fragmented and misguided, with an overreliance on economic growth and self-regulation of the ‘markets’. New concepts like ‘green growth’ are, at best, attempts to treat the symptoms of the problems without tackling their root causes,” warns the Group.

“All too often, national and international policies have not aimed at reducing inequalities,” summarizes the statement. “The dedication to stimulating economic growth has provided the incentive to exploit nature, rely on the use of fossil fuels and deplete biodiversity, undermining the provision of essential services. Women, especially the poor, continue to suffer from social and economic discrimination and in many places are deprived of their bodily, reproductive and sexual rights. Biodiversity and the bounty of nature, while cherished, are not respected, protected or valued. Communities and populations that seek to live in harmony with nature find their rights ignored and their livelihoods and cultures jeopardized.”

“We have exceeded the ecological limits and ignore the planetary boundaries. With the climate change threat we are already living on borrowed time. However, we refuse to cut back on emissions and allocate the scarce resources to those who have not yet benefitted from their exploitation,” warned the Reflection Group. The activists and experts propose “fundamental changes at three levels”: (1) “changes in the mindset, the guiding concepts and indicators of development and progress”; (2) “changes in fiscal and regulatory policies at national, regional and international levels in order to effectively overcome social inequalities and the degradation of nature and to strengthen sustainable economies”, and (3) “changes in institutions and governance mechanisms at national, regional and international levels.”

“To date, a holistic approach of sustainability has not been adopted for action. It is necessary to redefine, for public policy and public life, the concepts of development and well-being, along with their content, their metrics and their strategies,” adds the Group and remarks that “every concept of development, well-being and progress in societies is based on a set of fundamental principles and values” that “are rooted deeply in our cultures, our ideologies and our belief systems.” In that sense, it proposes a “set of eight principles as the foundation for a new sustainability rights framework”, that “are interconnected and must not be applied in isolation” and “should build the cornerstones of a universal sustainability rights framework”. They are the “solidarity principle”, the “’Do no harm’ principle”, the “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”, the “’polluter pays’ principle”, the “precautionary principle”, the “subsidiarity principle”, the “principle of free, prior and informed consent”, and the “principle of peaceful dispute settlement”.

The statement also refers to “fundamental values, which are also essential to international relations,” some of them included in the Millennium Declaration, such as “freedom, equality, diversity and respect for nature”. But most of the governments “have mostly failed to translate them into enforceable, guaranteed obligations and specific policies.” The document postulates “a framework for global sustainability goals”, with a preliminary list that is the “result of a joint brainstorming exercise of Reflection Group members”. It is made up by six “core goals”: “dignity and human rights for all”, “promoting equality and justice”, “respect for nature and the planetary boundaries”, “building peace through disarmament”, “fostering fair and resilient financial systems”, and “strengthening democratic and participatory governance”.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

G20 must tackle hunger by fighting its roots causes

The Caritas-CIDSE G20 Network of Catholic agencies says making sure all people have access to appropriate food must be the priority for the leaders of G20 economies as they meet 18-19 June in Mexico. There are 925 million people in the world without enough to eat. About 300 children die from malnutrition every hour while one in four children is stunted, and in developing countries that figure rises to one in three. Yet we produce more than enough food globally to feed everyone. The Caritas-CIDSE G20 Network says reducing inequality and promoting sustainable development must be at the heart of the G20s plans to address food insecurity in the short, medium and long term.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy said, “Hunger is not inevitable. It must be tackled by fighting its structural causes, primarily by promoting sustainable agricultural development of poor countries.” CIDSE Secretary General Bernd Nilles said, “The Mexican G20 has a real opportunity to show leadership on the issue of food security by ensuring better regulation of markets, strengthening of local food production and creating better access to markets for small-holder farmers. The G20 also have a particular responsibility to lead the fight against global poverty, since more than half of the world's poorest people live in G20 countries.”

Caritas-CIDSE G20 Network calls on the G20 to live up to the promises they made in Seoul in 2010. The Caritas-CIDSE G20 Network says increasing food production alone will fail without addressing the problems of access and distribution by building food reserves, curbing speculation in commodities´ markets and introducing social protection schemes. The G20 must act on the financial markets where under-regulated speculation is increasing food prices that are harming the poor. Tackling this problem requires greater intervention by public authorities, including at a global level, to rein in speculation, improve supervision of and increase transparency of markets. Emergency reserves and buffer stocks are needed in the poorest countries to protect the most vulnerable and stabilise market prices.

The Caritas-CIDSE G20 Network is a Network of 180 Catholic agencies working in collaboration to advocate at the G20 for the most vulnerable in our world.