AGIEG input to UNCSD Bureau

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Submission to the UNCSD Bureau as input to the
Zero Draft Outcome Document for the
UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

from the
UNEP Major Groups and Stakeholders
Advisory Group on International Environmental Governance
31 October 2011

The UNEP Major Groups and Stakeholders Advisory Group on International Environmental Governance ( consists of 9 experts and their alternates named by the Major Groups and 6 experts and their alternates from the regions, working in their personal capacities. It was created by the UNEP Major Groups Facilitating Committee with UNEP support to be a body through which input from major groups and stakeholders could be channelled into the International Environmental Governance (IEG) processes leading to Rio+20. It prepared an information document for the UNEP Governing Council (UNEP/GC.26/INF/19*, January 2011), and now offers these proposals for the draft outcome document for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. These proposals are a compilation of submissions from a range of major group and regional perspectives, and do not represent a consensus of all members of the Advisory Group. Rather they reflect the diversity and sometimes contradictory nature of the perspectives of major groups and stakeholders. Contributors to this paper who support its submission include Neth Dano (NGO - Action Group on Erosion Technology and Conservation ETC), Sascha Gabizon (Women - Women in Europe for a Common Future WECF), Laura Martin Murillo (Trade Unions and Workers - SustainLabour), Sébastien Duyck (Youth - Service Civil International), Satishkumar Belliethathan (Farmers - Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre), Lucy Mulenkei (Indigenous People and their communities - Indigenous Information Network), Maria Ivanova (Local Authorities - Environmental Governance Project), Mehdi Ahmed Jaaffar (West Asia - Environment Society of Oman EDO), Robert Bakiika (Africa - Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement Bwaise Facility), John McDonald (North America - Institute For Multi-Track Diplomacy), Philip Vergragt (North America - Tellus Institute) and Arthur Dahl (Europe - International Environment Forum). The Business & Industry Major Group (Thomas Jacob) contributed to the drafting but disassociated itself from the final document.

Objective of the Conference


There is a huge tension between the nation-state and the forces of globalization, with the nation-state as the dominant organizing institution of governance and decision-making, while being limited by its own sovereign bounds from impacting directly on global forces. Efforts at global regulation must necessarily reflect compromise among the varying sovereign interests, and therefore often fall short of what any given state or interest would wish. One result is that the UN has failed to meet Agenda 21’s objectives for environment and sustainability, demonstrating that governance by State action, and a private sector regulated only at the national level and dominated by financial and trade institutions, are inadequate in a world of global markets and environmental problems. To deliver more consistently and globally against those objectives requires a more inclusive approach to governance that more effectively harnesses the variety of actors and rights holders. Renewed political commitment to multilateral action by governments is essential, but must be supported by measures to build trust among governments that their engagements will be respected. Peer review and accountability mechanisms should be complemented by a clear role for civil society and rights holders, including all the major groups.

To address the integration of issues across sectors, the existing structure of nation states and intergovernmental organizations needs serious rethinking and restructuring, with new cross-linkages reflecting interconnected problems, and bottom-up as well as top-down modes of functioning. Single-issue approaches are no longer effective when all problems are reflections of complex systems interactions. States and intergovernmental organizations should open up to wider partnerships and collaborations with all non-state actors, especially rights holders and civil society in all its diversity, to enable practical solutions to emerge. Only through such collaborations will it be possible to mobilize greater resources, reach the public more widely and deeply with information and educational programmes, build capacity and empowerment at multiple levels, and observe, analyze and report on the complex interlinked processes of natural and human systems as a basis for collective reflection on the further actions required. Each Rio+20 decision, partnership and initiative needs to incorporate explicitly the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication


Basis for Action
Achieving sustainability through a green economy implies both top-down and bottom-up governance processes. Institutional innovation needs to begin with the basics and systematically build up a sequence of actions to create confidence in the new institutions. Governance reform has to be fundamental as it needs to change core structural elements, but reform has to be incremental as only sequential steps can lead to systematic change. Systematic and well thought-out incremental reform at multiple points and levels in the overall system can do much to advance effective, fundamental reform. Global businesses need consistency in sustainable practices and standards to function in global markets, which should be encouraged by intergovernmental institutions. Governance for a green economy is also relevant at the local level, where green economic activities should be characterized by ecologically sound, socially equitable, transparent and democratic business and consumption practices. Contributing to these are not only the evolving practices within business and industry, but also local policies, multi-stakeholder grassroots experiments, local entrepreneurs and social enterprises. Such experiments and practices should be endorsed by national and state policies, as well as through international frameworks and mechanisms. Public policies should contribute to voluntary business sustainability and responsibility, stimulating and rewarding innovation in this direction.

To create governance mechanisms that provide an enabling framework for a green and equitable economy, thus stimulating and rewarding business and community innovation and local experimentation.

1. Governments should provide a clear framework of incentives and regulations to encourage more sustainable economic activity, while removing distorting and unsustainable subsidies as determined by the World Trade Organization.

2. Adopt the 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production as negotiated to closure during CSD-19, supported by a global research programme to develop means of implementation.

3. Intergovernmental organizations should deliver norms, models and guidance and catalyze workable and predictable state-level regulatory governance with reasonable international consistency, to facilitate and reward evolution of economic activities in private, public and social enterprises toward a more level global framework for sustainability.

4. Establish a global centre or policy bank of expertise and technical assistance to help governments adopt public policies to stimulate non-statutory above-compliance standards of social and environmental performance, so that governments can adopt more such policies and learn from them.


Basis for Action
To address concerns that the green economy might ignore the social dimension of sustainability, governance mechanisms for the green economy should insure that it includes not only green technologies, infrastructure, investments and jobs, but also a more equitable and nurturing rights-based and inclusive society with chances for everyone to earn a living wage in decent working conditions, partake freely in democratic political activities, and increase their own well-being, as well as the well-being of their communities and of the entire planet. The participation of young people, women, poor and low-skilled workers is important.

The operative economic models have demonstrated fundamental flaws in repeated financial and economic crises, vulnerability to speculation, and excessive debt. In many traditional cultures there was no concept of private property, but alternatives based on shared rights and responsibilities, community decision-making and reciprocity. As part of institutional arrangements, an international process is needed to explore alternative value systems and indigenous economic models and ask what they may have to offer to a more equitable and sustainable global to local economy that goes beyond the present economic paradigm. Global financial governance needs restructuring based on principles of equity, transparency, accountability and democracy.

To ensure that governance for economic reform addresses social issues founded on principles of justice, equity, transparency and accountability.

1. Launch an international consultation on alternative economic models, cross-cultural and indigenous perspectives, including a review of the underlying purposes of the economy and the values by which it operates.

2. Accelerate the consideration of the necessary international regulation of the financial system to control excessive speculation, ensure just taxation including socially-progressive and environmentally friendly tax reforms, and provide a stable framework for international banking, investment and commerce.

3. Create institutional rules to support the expansion of mutual credit systems and complementary currencies at the community level.

Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development


Basis for Action
While States through the United Nations have made a major effort to define moral standards and ethical principles in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and many other instruments and declarations, these too often remain abstract ideals when faced with political expediency. Moral and ethical paradigms remain challenged in providing sufficient direction for society in times of rapid change and growing inequities, resulting in increasing difficulties with law enforcement, security and governance. Globally, there is a generalized lack of accountability, posing a challenge in building consensus on governance mechanisms. Civil society can play an important supporting role to governance in this area by contributing to an ethical framework for decision-making and drawing attention to the ethical implications of policy proposals. The UN needs mechanisms to express the fundamental interests of all humanity, assisting its member states to see that global sustainability is in their national interest, and raising the level of debate. Decisions that are justified by reference to ethical principles like justice and equity will also have a better chance of receiving the adherence of the peoples of the world in their implementation. In the context of Rio+20, there is a risk that the issue of green economy merely displaces the main questions, failing to acknowledge problems of poor governance, corruption and human and environmental exploitation, rather than going back to core human values of respect for biodiversity, a moral obligation to ensure inter-generational sustainability, and a faith, belief, or rights-based reverence for the relationship between nature, local territories, and the individual’s own sense of identity and culture.

To keep ethical principles at the heart of UN governance, and to ensure that decision-makers have available the relevant principles and ethical implications when taking decisions and approving proposals and programmes.

1. Establish a UN Permanent Forum on Ethics, patterned after the Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples, to provide a space for systematic consultation on the ethical implications of issues, proposals and projects before the Security Council, the General Assembly, and other UN organs. Membership would be open to faith-based, spiritual and other organizations of civil society with an ethical focus, that accept the principles of the UN Charter and other instruments, including freedom of conscience for all peoples, and that renounce prejudice, bigotry and violence. Their involvement in UN processes would implicate them more directly in finding constructive solutions.

2. Create a UN Office of Ethical Assessment in the Secretariat, similar in function to the Offices of Technology Assessment that have operated effectively at the national level, to be staffed by experts knowledgeable in the major religious and ethical perspectives, and to draw on outside consultants as necessary. The office would assemble and codify all the ethical principles adopted by intergovernmental processes as the framework for its work. It would prepare reports on the ethical implications of policy-relevant issues at the request of the organs of the UN system, the secretariat, and member governments. It could also provide ethical input to scientific advisory processes. It must be able to operate with complete independence from any political pressure or interference in its work.


Basis for Action
The rise of civil society is among the most significant developments of institutional evolution since UNCED. Civil society has developed its engagement on all fronts and at different levels, providing leading forums, pioneering in implementing, advocating for a shift in paradigms, and actively pushing to introduce reforms globally and regionally. Civil society organizations are effective in program design, implementation and monitoring. They have proven experience and success in fundraising for diverse projects, and possess strong advocacy skills. Most manage well and harness local expertise and skills. Indigenous peoples in particular are holders of valuable traditional ecological knowledge which can make an important contribution to sustainable environmental, social and economic policy making. On the monitoring side, civil society organizations have effectively played a watchdog role, worked with and pressured governments, and advocated for more progressive agendas. Civil society reaches from the local to the global level, and is able to leverage linkages and information, and to mobilize ideas and resources across sovereign boundaries. Indeed, it is this adaptation of civil society to leverage the forces of globalization that represents the major opportunity for advancing sustainability globally. The Major Groups defined in Agenda 21, ranging from business and industry to labour to indigenous peoples, have provided a working mechanism for inputs to the Commission on Sustainable Development and other UN processes. It is time to acknowledge their constructive role, and to increase civil society participation in UN processes with greater responsibility and direct engagement in discussion forums. Institutional arrangements for sustainability should capitalize on the unique global capabilities of all the major groups and civil society. The reformed Committee on World Food Security (CFS) under the auspices of the Rome-based UN agencies provides an existing innovative model for civil society participation in decision-making, as do the various industry-specific initiatives to advance sustainability practices throughout entire value-chains within global markets. The UNEP Major Groups and Stakeholders Advisory Group on International Environmental Governance is an example of civil society expert input to intergovernmental processes.

Civil society, including the spectrum of interests represented as UN Major Groups, should be enabled and supported to provide input in its various forms: data collection and analysis, improving management and decision-making processes, reflecting on the role of the various actors, and agenda-setting and policy development. It should advocate for environmental justice, provide expertise and analysis, intellectually challenge government counterparts, mobilize public opinion, and legitimize decision-making mechanisms.

1. Allow substantive involvement of civil society in discussion and policy-making processes, including granting major group representatives full access and active participation (not only observer status) in international/regional/national conferences and forums, and establishing processes to engage them in negotiations.

2. Develop inclusive and transparent guidelines/standards for civil society engagement in these forums and processes across the UN system and intergovernmental institutions, including special sessions for presentations by civil society.

3. Set up expert advisory groups from civil society at the highest level of UN bodies to participate in policy development.

4. Recognize the major role of civil society in scientific advisory processes, giving weight to scientific expertise (including the social sciences) as well as indigenous and local knowledge with relevance to sustainability.

5. Include civil society representatives regularly in national delegations to intergovernmental deliberations.

6. Implement the principles of transparency and access to information, meaningful opportunities for public participation, especially by parties at interest, and accountability as fundamental elements of institutional arrangements for sustainability, and provide access for civil society parties at interest to effective legal remedies, mediation and dispute settlement mechanisms at the international level, such as a complaint procedure (like at the Human Rights Council) and a dispute resolution mechanism (like at the World Trade Organization).

7. Support knowledge generation and sharing among key players, civil society and social movements within and across countries.

8. Empower indigenous peoples as stewards of nature, particularly ensuring land rights and using the international system and instruments to constrain behaviour by nation-states and the private sector that is undermining indigenous governance, value systems and sustainability.

9. Create a viable and stable financial mechanism to assist and support the participation in international governance of civil society organizations from the global south and of those constituencies that are most directly affected and might not have the means to participate without encouragement and support.

10. Link the institutional arrangements for sustainability to the educational processes, media and institutions of civil society that play an important role both in building the human and institutional capacity to implement sustainability and in preparing public opinion to support the necessary actions to ensure equity and protect environmental systems and resources.


Basis for Action
Local authorities were included as a Major Group of civil society in Agenda 21, but they are governments and have a legitimacy similar to national governments. Since sustainability requires multilevel governance at the local through global levels, the institutional arrangements for sustainability should include a place at the table for all levels of government and not just nation-states. Many cities today have populations and economies larger than most nation-states, and local governments are critical to implementing sustainability. Sub-national governments (regions, provinces, states, cantons, etc.) also have important responsibilities and are closer to their citizens.

To base institutional arrangements for sustainability on a multilevel concept of governance.

1. Acknowledge that local and sub-national (regional) governments have a democratic legitimacy comparable to national governments and an important role in implementing sustainability. Institutional arrangements for sustainability should include representation of multiple levels of governance including local, sub-national, national, regional and ultimately global levels.

2. Provide concrete mechanisms in local and sub-national governments for civil society and rights holders to participate actively in the development, implementation and monitoring of sustainable development strategies.


Basis for Action
UNEP was created in 1972 to catalyze the integration of environment into all parts of the UN system. In this it largely succeeded. Today there is a need to integrate sustainability into all parts of the UN system so that they all see sustainable development as part of their fundamental mandate. This will only happen if there is an entity with this catalytic responsibility across the economic, social and environmental dimensions. UNEP success was due in part to the use of the Environment Fund to support other agencies in implementing environmental activities within their areas of responsibility. A similar financial mechanism would facilitate the transition to sustainability today. UNEP would continue to be the environmental voice in the UN system. Also, a new more inclusive approach to national sustainable development strategies is needed, since few countries complied with the recommendations in Agenda 21, and implementation was poor.

To create an entity or process in the UN responsible to advance the pace and coordinate the integration of sustainability into all activities under UN auspices, with a funding mechanism to support this action.

1. Establish an office, programme or council at a high enough level in the UN structure to influence all parts of the UN system, charged with integrating sustainability into all UN activities through expert advice, review and evaluation, and policy-making.

2. Create a Sustainable Investment Fund supported by innovative financial mechanisms, to provide investment capital for environmentally-responsible and equitable projects of international organizations, regional and national governments and the private sector.

3. Encourage the adoption of global, regional, national and local Sustainability Strategies constructed with input from multi-stakeholder dialogues, including a comprehensive sustainability and equity vision, and a strategy and pathways how to get there. The strategy could include an analysis of local strengths and weaknesses, external threats and opportunities, as well as local assets. Such a mechanism would foster trust among stakeholders, create a long term perspective, and inspire a positive outlook towards change.

4. Increase the efficiency of multilateral governance by synchronizing and streamlining the number of intergovernmental meetings needed to oversee treaties and agreements, and rationalizing treaty secretariats to improve coherence and optimize financial management.

5. Secure collective commitment for the establishment, at the national level, of offices for Ombudspersons for Future Generations. These independent institutions would be mandated to take part to the assessment of long-term impacts of policies, to seize the justice system in case of projects undermining the position and resources of future generations, and to respond to citizen petitions.

6. Establish an independent office for a High Commissioner for Future Generations within the UN system with both an advisory role with respect to long terms impacts of UN policies and decisions, and a mechanism to respond to citizens' petitions on transboundary and international environmental issues. The office could be assisted by an Intergenerational Assembly to facilitate a global foresight process. It could also enable the establishment of Ombudspersons for Future Generations at the national level, including supporting the capacity of developing countries to implement this proposal and providing a forum for the exchange of best practices.


Basis for Action
Institutional arrangements must ensure fair multilateral negotiations, taking into account financial, economic and power asymmetries, moving toward a more coherent principle- and rule-based institutional structure with universal participation. Developing countries’ priorities – meaning an integrated approach to poverty eradication, development and environment – should figure more prominently and be embedded within sustainability policies, supported by more effective governance. A set of clear and enforceable rules would also ensure that fairness and equity in terms of benefit and burden sharing, guided by the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, are built in and that decision making is based on democratic principles. The obligations of industrialized countries to advance more sustainable production and consumption patterns should also be negotiated, decided and complied with.

Resource consumption, biodiversity loss and climate change are aggravating poverty and instability and reducing options and opportunities for developing countries in the future. The vulnerable, poor, and disempowered peoples cannot rely on market mechanisms, because they cannot invest or discount the future. They need rights to protect their lives and livelihoods. In the present global market economy, the poor will lose out to the rich in the distribution of increasingly scarce resources. Mechanisms for international management of trade in resources for the collective benefit of all peoples and the planet will be the best means to protect the interests of the weak against exploitation by the powerful, and ultimately to ensure the equitable distribution of resources in the common interest. Such management must aim both to reserve adequate resources for poverty reduction and to ensure sustainability for future generations.

Institutions and actions at the regional level can respond more effectively to the specificities and needs of developing countries within their regions. Some regions have organized effectively, as with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and some of the Regional Seas Programmes. Africa has struggled to go beyond policy prescriptions to actions by governments for implementation.

1. Ensure that the rules of procedure for intergovernmental processes in the institutional arrangements for sustainability protect the rights and clarify the responsibilities of all nations as an expression of global solidarity, while ensuring that planetary requirements for sustainability take precedence over limited national interests.

2. Strengthen the capacity of countries of the South to implement effective sustainability policies, in particular with regards to the rule of law, through technical assistance and advocacy of justice and rights, and ensure integration of environmental considerations therein.

3. Integrate global environmental objectives in national sustainable development and poverty eradication strategies, with assistance from the UN to developing countries to move effectively towards a sustainable development path that integrates economic progress, social progress and equity, and environmental protection.

4. Launch a process to consider the implications of essential resource (including food and energy) shortages and price volatility on the poor, and to explore mechanisms to ensure access to the requirements for life regardless of ability to pay, while stimulating local subsistence activities and job creation.

5. Provide a supportive international framework for regional programmes, conventions and intergovernmental organizations, and ensure that they have a place alongside nation-states in the institutional arrangements for sustainability.


Basis for Action
The deep gap between scientific rationality and political expediency is often perceived to be great. Yet the best available scientific understanding of the planet and its environmental and socio-political processes is an essential foundation for decision-making at all levels of governance. The scientific questions need to be developed in cooperation with developing countries, and with as much input and involvement as possible of their scientists, including social scientists and holders of traditional knowledge. A responsive scientific assessment component in institutional arrangements for sustainability will help improve the capacity of developing countries to understand, manage, conserve and sustainably utilize their human resources and environmental systems, especially their natural ecosystems, the impacts of climate change, and the poverty/environment nexus. Committed North-South cooperation in a global research network and scientific assessment can both compensate for the often-weak scientific infrastructure in developing countries by providing collective access to scientific information, and assist in reducing the knowledge gap by building capacity for environmental assessment and reporting in all regions. It should facilitate access of developing countries to appropriate scientific knowledge, technologies and policy responses that respond to their specific needs and situations, and be supported by stable financial and technical components.

To ensure that action for sustainability is supported by the best scientific advice available, at all levels of governance.

1. Establish a UN Office of Technology Assessment advisory to the UN General Assembly, with independent status and funding, to conduct research, investigate trends and make future studies, to trace present and future consequences of technological innovations like geoengineering, biotechnology, new materials, information and communication technology, etc., and to translate these studies into policy recommendations.

2. In all international scientific assessments, implement transparent selection processes for the best natural and social scientists, ethicists, and holders of environmental and human dimensions knowledge, with disclosure of any affiliations, and apply procedures to arrive at the best consensus or peer-reviewed scientific information.

3. Create a UN mechanism similar to the UN Statistical Commission to establish criteria for all international scientific review and assessment processes, to verify their methodologies, and to build national capacity to participate in such assessments.

4. Ensure that scientific assessments build to a fully integrated assessment of planetary sustainability, including systematic reporting on the main environmental and human dimensions challenges and constraints, incorporating existing assessments but also considering the interactions among all environmental systems and human impacts.


Basis for Action
Areas beyond national sovereignty, including the high seas and the atmosphere, are subject to some of the most extreme forms of unsustainable use, including overfishing and atmospheric pollution. Global trade and wide-ranging fishing fleets have rendered regional fishing agreements inadequate. Discussions of individual moratoria on technologies posing grave threats to the planet and the people (such as geoengineering), without sufficient technology assessment or global agreement on their implementation, demonstrate the need for an institutional framework for assessment and governance of these areas. The development of mechanisms for collective international responsibility and governance of the global commons, with due respect to the precautionary principle, would not infringe on national sovereignty and could begin to build confidence in operational management of resources by global institutions in the common interest.

To establish an international mechanism for governance of global commons issues not already subject to global processes, to complement the present governance by nation-states and to fill the gaps in existing international arrangements.

1. Building on the Law of the Sea, establish a coherent global mechanism for the regulation of ocean fisheries mandated to reduce fishing pressure to the capacity of the resource, and ultimately to restoring the productivity of the seas. The mechanism should include provisions for high seas marine protected areas, and for environmental impact assessment and regulation of activities such as seabed mineral extraction beyond national jurisdictions.

2. Build on the moratoria on geoengineering, ocean fertilization and Terminator technology agreed at the CBD by establishing an objective international procedure for technology assessment for proposals with potential planetary impact, coupled with a mechanism within the UN for collective approval of the testing and implementation of such technologies, and a requirement for international insurance of the risks of adverse consequences. The mechanism could be an Office of Technology Assessment advisory to the General Assembly, or a rejuvenated UN Centre on Science and Technology for Development.

3. Seek the opinion of the International Court of Justice on whether manipulating the environment through geoengineering could be in violation of the Environmental Modification Treaty of 1978, or whether a new legal framework is required.

4. Complement the scientific and technological assessment of new technologies with social and economic assessments of winners and losers from the application of such technologies, and wide public consultation with affected groups and civil society.