First reading of the Rio+20 Zero Draft elements on governance – not yet the future we want

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I have tried last weekend to summarize a few first reactions to the Zero Draft elements on Governance and published my first views on the blog of my organization: First reading of the Rio+20 Zero Draft elements on governance – not yet the future we want.
My first thoughts relate to the following 5 themes, but I think there are surely more that can be said about the Zero Draft. I do feel that this is certainly not (yet) "the future we want", as the document is currently labelled...
Renewed Political Commitment
The text begins by emphasizing renewed commitment to the principles contained in earlier document (Stockholm, Rio and Johannesburg Declaration) - Good. But then the drafters have decided to reiterate the principle of soverignty over national resources, while removing the reference to the responsibility of the state for transboundary damage. This partial reference is a clear drawback that needs to be addressed in the next round of discussions (see Daniel Magraw's more detailed post about this issue).
Towards science-based decision making
The draft does mention repeatedly the importance of science based decision making, which clearly is a positive element of the document. However it fails to make a concrete proposal for an institutional tool which could help strengthen this science-policy interaction. The discussion on sustainable development and environmental governance opened in the document is a good opportunity to not only state the issues but also adopt solutions. We cannot afford to wait until the next global summit to reform international governance.
Integrating the interests of future generations to our decision making
The Zero Draft also refers briefly to the proposal to establish an Ombudsperson for Future Generations. At first sight this reference is most welcome. However, the wording of the paragraph related to the ombudsperson indicates only that countries will "consider" the establishment of such an institution. This very concrete institutional proposal would enable the interest of future generations to be better inegrated in our decision-making. Consequently, the Rio+20 Conference should agree in principle with the creation of such an institution and create a negotiating process to develop the terms of reference of the institution, not simply "agree to consider" the proposal in an indeterminated future.
Conservation of the marine biodiversity in area beyond national jurisdiction
The section on marine biodiversity in area beyond national jurisdiction highlights righfully one of the main challenge with our current model of governance: there is no governance structure for the high seas, where unsustainable levels of harvest too often take place, thus depleting the oceans. A process has been launched already 8 years ago to fill this gap, with little progress. The Zero Draft only "notes" its existence, falling short of bringing a new dynamic to these discussions or suggesting a way to overcome the current deadlocks.

International Environmental Governance (IEG)

One of the most disputed issue in the document concerns IEG, for which several competing proposals are tabled. the environmental pillar of global governance lacks a strong instituton with the mandate to better streamline environmental governance (and address the fragmentation issues recognized by all actors), and to enable a better integration of environmental concerns with social and economic priorities. When the Stockholm Declaration established the UNEP, one did not expect that the Earth will be confronted to the challenges that we now face. Rio+20 should be seen as a timely opportunity to reform ambitiously the UNEP and strengthen IEG.

Margi Prideaux's picture

CITES/Scanlon on International Environmental Governance (IEG)

I am perhaps out of step with many here, but in relation to paras 50, 51, 51 alt and 52 of the 'Zero Draft' I fall into step behind CITES/John Scanlon's recent statement to UNEP GC/ GMEF. I think CITES - smoothly and diplomatically - puts forward an important side of the discussion about the two options. Scanlon wisely articulates areas that need urgent focus - and the case for retaining what we have while focusing UNEP better.

As someone who works very closely with both CITES and CMS I have been concerned for awhile now that the push for a bigger, more powerful UNEP is simply going to focus resources into a bigger administration, when the front line where the work is being done is already starving.

I would welcome hearing peoples thoughts about the CITES perspective

Initial discussions on zero draft in NYC (Tom Jacob)

Tom Jacob commented on 30 January:
The initial discussions of the Zero Draft concluded Friday in NYC.  Sentiment from the countries was varied, but my view is that the draft is doing exactly what was needed:  to provide enough structure and suggestion to give the countries something to react to and on which to provide input on all the major points of concern, but to do so in a way that was not particularly prejudicial. 

This past week's initial input was focused primarily on the first two sections of the paper, the preamble and "taking stock".  Those 3 1/2 pages swelled to about 37 pages by the time the countries got through inputting amending language and its rationale.  I expect we will see similar "expansionism" in the draft for the March meeting, after which the countries will have the task of sorting it all out.  That will be an enormous challenge, particularly for those countries that were urging the draft be pared-down even from the Zero Draft length.

One hope in perhaps lending more of both order and inspiration is the work being coordinated by Colombia in pulling together possible Sustainable Development Goals.  That is proceeding at a very measured pace, however, and is not yet in a tangible form.

Regarding our topic of International Environmental Governance, a number of countries had comments relating to that, but it was not substantively on the table yet, so difficult to see where folks are lining up there...

Sub-zero/negative draft (Dan Magraw)

Dan Magraw commented on 28 January:
This draft is a sub-zero/negative draft in so many respects.

I am returning to the US now from an interesting but discouraging discussion of the draft focusing on human rights, regarding which the draft is woefully deficient.

Arthur Dahl's picture

Additional comments on the zero draft

We all recognize that the zero draft is mostly generalities and lacks specific action proposals in response to the issues it raises. I have noted a few additional problems with the zero draft text. We should consider others as the negotiations move to sections III-V, drawing on the specifics in our proposals to UNEP and the bureau.
Paragraphs 2, 25 and 30 refer to "growth". Since this term is problematic with respect to sustainability, it should be replaced with "prosperity" which does not imply an endless increase.
Paragraph 17 urges the participation of major groups at all levels, but only refers to their contributing to national and local policy-making. International should be added.
Before paragraph 22, we could add a paragraph on ethical principles such as:
"We commit to processes that are ethically‐oriented, forward‐looking and focused on finding unified yet locally‐ and regionally‐appropriate approaches toward achieving equitable and effective solutions, based on trustworthiness, integrity, transparency, solidarity and inclusiveness, prioritizing the concerns of the most vulnerable communities."
Paragraph 52 calls for a regular review of the state of the planet. Since this is basically an environmental assessment, it might better be the responsibility of UNEP which has the technical competence, rather than the Secretary-General.
Paragraph 62 supports local authorities to work with national governments and to cooperate internationally, but does not give them a special role in international processes and policy making as called for by the AGIEG.
I shall post an annotated version of the zero draft combining all the AGIEG proposals and comments.

kassem's picture

Additional feedback on the zero draft sections I and II

In light of Arthur’s email and the decision to discuss sections I and II of the Zero Draft in the forthcoming meeting to be held on 25 and 26 January 2012; I would like to share the following comments and feedback in an attempt to influence the discussion.
In general, there seems to be an attempt to dilute some commitments that we were struggling to maintain; namely to the progressive Agenda 21 (which need commitment to ensure the needed resources to implement), the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities CBDR, which developed countries are trying to find ways to by-pass it!; among others.
1.       A key international declaration needs to be first reaffirmed/ reconfirmed in the preamble; namely the There the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and its Agenda 21, recommitting to making every efforts to accelerate progress in implementing Agenda 21 before referring to the MDGs 2015.
2.       (para. 5):  when addressing the concept of sustainable development, we shall refer to the three dimensions NOT pillars!; namely: the economic, the social and the environmental.
3.       (para. 9): there should be clear commitment to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) not merely a reference to …( in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities …) as stated. There seems to be an attempt to dilute the commitment to the CBDR.
4.       (para. 11) There was no direct reference to the structural defects in the economic system and policies which led to the crisis in 2008. Neither was there any reference to emerging challenges related to economic disparity among regions; widening gap between the poor and rich; unemployment; and some unstable security/ arm conflicts/ occupation issues in some parts of the words…
5.       (para. 13) the barriers hindering the implementation of the int’lly agreed commitments need to be well defined and addressed and action-planned.
6.       (para. 14) Nurturing sustainable development and sustainable consumption and production patterns needs to be done in line with the principle of CBDR.
7.       (para. 17): the notion of major groups should not undermine some unrepresented groups such as the elderly, disabled, academia, among others… it is time to acknowledge their role and rights. Besides, “it is important to incorporate the needs of all members of civil society… not only their “specific knowledge and practical know-how into national and local policy making”; .
8.       (para. 18) there needs to be a reference to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration as well as to the recent Eye on Earth Declaration with regard to the right to access to information. Hinting to Aarhus convention, as an int’l agreement, would be of great value.
9.   An addition para needs to be added “recognizing the need to enhance the MGS approach to ensure wider participation, representation and wider groupings with clearer accountability and decision-making processes.  
10.   (para. 23) the commitment to “to address the common sustainable development challenges we face” needs to be in accordance with the principle of CBDR.