"The poor of the world stand at the gates of the comfortable mansions occupied by each and every King and Queen, President, Prime Minister and Minister privileged to attend this unique meeting. The question these billions ask is - what are you doing, you in whom we have placed our trust, what are you doing to end the deliberate and savage violence against us that, everyday, sentences many of us to a degrading and unnecessary death! "
" We are apt to observe that to be born in the South, to be born a woman, disabled or amongst the poor - all these circumstances often define one's life possibilities as part of the wretched majority. How do we emerge from here inspired not merely to attend future Summits, but, under the aegis of the UN, to implement programmes that the world and its inhabitants demand and deserve?"
Nelson Mandela, Address to the World Summit on Social Development 1995
In December 2000 the United Nations General Assembly decided to host a new World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. The 2002 meeting will be the first time since the Rio conference in 1992 that heads of state and government from the worlds countries will gather to assess progress on sustainable development. Besides being a symbolic event, it provides the global community with an opportunity to critically assess the importance of international environmental political agreements and their benefits, success or impacts positive and negative at global, regional, national, and local levels. The World Summit on Sustainable Development provides the global community with the opportunity to take another critical look at the implementation of all that took place at Rio in 1992.
However, the immediate question for governments, the private sector and civil society as a whole is whether this will be another environment conference wrapped up in development paper or whether it will also address the other issues of sustainable development, poverty in all its dimensions, a lack of livelihoods, limited access to health care and debilitating debt? . Unless the 2002 Conference addresses issues of global equity, poverty, and consumption, it will not be able to even begin to meet the needs of the present, much less lay the foundations to protect the interest and needs of future generations. Clear commitments at the international level are precisely what are needed by governments to guide and to stimulate their national level activities and to ensure compliance and implementation. The World Summit on Sustainable Development must produce concrete commitments that specifically respond to priority concerns of the South. This is essential to restore the credibility of the Rio process. Urgent measures should be taken to address the needs of the large majorities of the population, in particular women and children, who are forced to live in extreme poverty. If this is not done, globalisation will provide no lasting solutions to the essential problems of developing countries. If the World Summit on Sustainable Development is to advance the cause of sustainable development and poverty eradication, then it should, among other things, reconsider its work in relation to achieving universal access to basic services for the billions of people who currently go without these needs.
This paper provides an introduction to the issues, institutions and international processes with which civil society organisations need to engage in the build up to the 2002 Summit. This paper covers the historical global governance milestones, tracing major events from 1972 through to the 2002 event. It is hoped that this process can contribute to a meaningful and representative contribution towards influencing the outcomes of the 2002 Summit.
The United Nations system has seen a virtual explosion of intergovernmental negotiations to formulate multilateral environmental agreements. The 1990s in particular saw the emergence of a series of global development and environment agreements. These agreements are increasingly seen as important processes to alleviate poverty, social inequities and environmental degradation.
1992 was an important milestone
The most important milestone was undoubtedly the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and is popularly known as the Earth Summit. The Earth Summit was the worlds largest environmental gathering, attracting 103 Heads of State. It was an unprecedented event both in terms of participation and the quantity, range, and scope of the initiatives produced to promote more sustainable patterns of development at the world level. Rio established the growing recognition amongst the worlds political leaders that cooperative global action on a number of key issues is essential. The Earth Summit produced several landmark documents to chart a course that would halt environmental destruction, poverty and inequality.
Post 92 Development Targets
During the years since the Rio Earth Summit, the global community held a series of UN Conferences and Summits dealing with the aspects identified through the UNCED process. These include: The Conference on Human Rights (1993), Population (1994), Disaster Reduction (1994), Social Development (1995), Women (1995), Human Settlements (1996) and Food (1996). These Summits and Conferences should be seen with the Rio Conference as a set of interfacing global plans to move the world towards a more sustainable future. None of these World Conferences and Conventions are a singular or sector specific event, but are to be seen as part of a continuum of a comprehensive development process, which is indivisible and requires collaborative action by the global community.
If Rio is seen as the most important sustainable development milestone, then the 1995 World Social Summit is its contemporary counterpart. The Copenhagen Programme of Action, which emerged from the Summit, aimed to mobilise a global effort to address issues related to social development and the negative impacts of underdevelopment and poverty. Global consensus was reached on the need to create an enabling economic environment to promote more equitable access to sustainable development, and the eradication of poverty. In June 2000 at the twenty-fourth Special Session of the General Assembly in Geneva (26-30 June, 2000), the international community renewed their commitment for the full and effective implementation of the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration. The central recommendation was the need for Governments to place poverty eradication at the centre of economic and social development and build consensus with all relevant actors at all levels on policies and strategies to reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by one half by the year 2015, with a view to eradicating poverty. The overarching objective of the Social Summit received further endorsement by the leaders of the world at the Millennium Summit held at the UN in September 2000.
Nice words, no action
While the Earth Summit in 1992 generated a tremendous wave of enthusiasm for promoting sustainable development, many non-governmental organisations that have followed the progress of governments and international bodies towards meeting the targets and recommendations which were set out in the Rio pledges, have witnessed little progress in some of the most critical areas In 1999 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-2000), which gave an ominous warning of the future ahead for the global community. The Report, the most definitive of its kind, says that, " the world water cycle seems unlikely to be able to cope with demands in the coming decades, land degradation has negated many advances made by increased agricultural productivity, air pollution is at crisis point in many major cities and global warming now seems inevitable. It concludes that tropical forests and marine fisheries have been over-exploited while numerous plant and animal species and extensive stretches of coral reefs will be lost forever. One of its key findings stated, " that the continued poverty of the majority of the planet's inhabitants and excessive consumption by the minority are the two major causes of environmental degradation. The present course is unsustainable and postponing action is no longer an option." .A similar view is echoed in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution -Resolution A/RES/55/199 20 December 2000 which records the Assemblys deep concern" that, despite the many successful and continuing efforts of the international community since the Stockholm Conference and the fact that some progress has been achieved, the environment and the natural resource base that support life on earth continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate."
2. The Road to Johannesburg: Global Governance Milestones
1972: The Beginning: The Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment
The foundations for global environmental governance were laid at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. It was the first International Forum aimed at addressing global environmental challenges. The conference was rooted in the regional pollution and acid rain problems of northern Europe. The Group of 77 and the Eastern bloc opposed what they saw as an eco-agenda. Attended by 113 countries, the Forum considered the need for a common outlook and for common principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and enhancement of the human environment. The Conference resulted in the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
1986: Growing signs of concern: The Brundtland Report
The findings of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), set up by the United Nations in 1983, were published as The Brundtland Report (Our Common Future) in 1987. This report stressed that critical and globally threatening environmental problems were emerging as a result of both poverty in the South and excessive consumption in the North. Issues of intra- and inter-generational equity were introduced .The report argued that the increasingly threatening and unsustainable consequences of development on the environment could not be addressed without significant international cooperation. It argued that the future well being of the North was not only dependent upon them changing their development trajectory towards more sustainable practises, but would fail unless countries of the South were also prepared to make changes too. The Commission said that the global economy had to meet peoples needs and legitimate desires. But growth had to fit within the planets ecological limits. They called for a new era of environmentally sound economic development.
In its report, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) defined sustainable development as "that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs". The Report contains within it two key concepts;
The Report called for strategies for integrating environment and development. As a result, the UN General Assembly decided in 1989 to hold a conference that would produce these strategies using the Brundtland Report, as a reference. Negotiations began in 1990 in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), or the Earth Summit, which was held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992.
1992: Taking Global Action -The Rio Earth Summit
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and is popularly known as the Earth Summit. It was the world largest environmental gathering, attracting 103 Heads of State and 179 governments. Rio established the growing recognition amongst the worlds political leaders that cooperative global action on a number of key issues is essential. The Earth Summit produced several landmark documents to chart a course that would halt environmental destruction, poverty and inequality. The Summit marked the coming age of sustainable development the point at which this concept moved from the environment literature to the front page, and from there into the lexicons of governments and international agencies. It empahsised that economic and social progress depends critically on the preservation of the natural resource base with effective measures to prevent environmental degradation. The Conference pointed to the need for a global partnership if sustainable development was to be achieved, and that it was necessary to induce developing countries to cooperate in addressing global environmental threats. There were 8000 journalists covering the meeting, and the results were seen, heard and read about around the world.
Outcomes of the Rio Earth Summit - 1992
Other landmark processes and developments included;
Some basic weaknesses of UNCED
Despite the achievements of the UNCED process, there were, however, basic weaknesses and failures. Among these were:
Lack of commitment to resolving structural problems
The refusal or inability of Northern governments to commit themselves to a reform of international economic relations or structures, or to initiate a new North-South economic dialogue. This meant that there was no commitment to resolve structural external problems that weigh heavily on a majority of developing countries (particularly the poorer ones), such as external debt, a review of structural adjustment policies, low and falling commodity prices and the trend of a decline in terms of trade, and the poor position of developing countries in the world financial and trading systems, all of which result in large outflows of economic resources from the South or in opportunities foregone.
As a result of the inability of the UNCED process to place these basic items prominently in Agenda 21, the items that dominated North-South negotiations became the pledge for 'new and additional financial resources' (with Northern countries pledging to strive to meet the earlier commitments for aid to reach 0.7% of their GNP) and the pledge for implementing 'technology transfer' (at least for environmentally sound technologies). These two items are a poor substitute for more basic reforms to international economic relations. Given the situation, they however became the 'proxies' or symbols of the North's commitment to help the South in a new global environment-development partnership.
Even though 'technology transfer' was prominently discussed during the UNCED process and is given high profile in Agenda 21, in reality the Northern governments made it clear that the protection of the intellectual property rights of their corporations would not be compromised. This would effectively render technology transfer (even if only of environmentally sound technology) on favourable terms by and large inoperable. Nevertheless, on the insistence of the South, Agenda 21 did incorporate some reference to the need for technology transfer, and for intellectual property rights not to hinder the process. A similar principle was established in the Convention on Biological Diversity. The language and references in both cases are however guarded and ambiguous and relatively weak, although the acceptance of the principle provides grounds for fuller development in the follow-up of UNCED.
Soft on Multi national Corporations
The downgrading of the need for regulating transnational corporations and big commercial interests. As pointed out clearly by the NGO community, the big corporations are the main actors in generating environmental problems such as pollution, resource depletion and unsustainable production and consumption patterns. The UNCED process sidelined this role, and did not result in action proposals for regulating or disciplining the behaviour of big corporations. Thus, the most important action required for sustainable development was omitted, and an opportunity for making the main economic actors more responsible and accountable was missed. This rendered many of the Agenda 21 proposals 'toothless' or much less susceptible to implementation.
No Commitment to sustainable consumption patterns
The refusal by Northern governments, particularly the United States (whose delegation notably declared 'Our lifestyles are not up for negotiations'), to effectively commit themselves to changes in lifestyles as part of the move towards sustainable consumption patterns. Thus a crucial element in the reduction of waste of natural resources was sidelined. Despite the many action proposals on environmental problems, there was relatively weak real commitment by both North and South to resolving many of the problems. As a result of not wanting to have constraints put on their growth or development opportunities, Southern governments were not forthcoming in agreeing to disciplines on resource depletion, in particular on deforestation. There was resistance by Northern governments to place effective environmental safeguards on the development of genetic engineering, or to develop better international regulations on the transfer of hazardous products, projects and activities to the South. The commitment by Northern governments (especially the United States) to reduce emission of Greenhouse Gases was inadequate to the task of dealing with climatic change.
What about equity?
Given these weaknesses, the concept of sustainable development remained controversial. Whilst there was general agreement that progress on the environment had to be accompanied by development, the place and role of equity, the need for reforms towards more equitable international relations and institutions as well as equitable ways of combining environment and economy nationally, were not agreed upon. Thus whilst the role of equity was implicit, it was not explicitly elaborated at UNCED. This opened the strong possibility of its being sidelined in the follow-up process.
Martin Khor - extract from Effects of Globalisation on Sustainable Development after UNCED, Third World Resurgence No. 81/82, May/June 1997
1997: The State of Progress -Rio+5
Rio +5, the name given to the special UN General Assembly session, was held in New York from June 23-27, 1997. It reviewed and appraised the implementation of Agenda 21, and other commitments adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development. Rio+5 had the following objectives:
However, this major UN follow-up conference was seen as a major disappointment by most observers. Unable to reach agreement on a self-standing political declaration that was to be a popular-style summary of the outcome, delegates substituted a Statement of Commitment as a preamble to the final document. In six brief paragraphs, Governments reaffirmed Agenda 21 and the principles adopted in Rio, and recommitted themselves to the global partnership established there.
Inadequate proposals from the North
According to Johanna Bernstein from the Brussels based, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), one of the central failings of Rio+5 was the lack of clear time-bound concrete targets and commitments. In 1997, there was a distinct lack of convergence between the force of public opinion and the degree of corresponding political will to engage in concrete commitments. She argues that, Rio+5 clearly revealed a lack of understanding of the conceptual framework of sustainable development. This factor, combined with key political factors, resulted in the fact that the Northern environment agenda did in fact dominate Rio+5 discussions. Many Northern governments brought forth lengthy proposals, which were wholly inadequate in their total lack of focus on the development concerns of developing countries. The Northern-environment focus of Rio+5, led to insufficient and inadequate discussions of the development dimensions. Rio+5 lacked a meaningful overarching vision, and this in turn deprived the process of a framework within which a more strategically focused review could have been carried out. Instead, efforts were directed towards keeping up with the minutiae of complex negotiations, instead of addressing the larger and more important question of what vision for the future does the international community actually want to promote. The Rio+5 preparatory process was simply inadequate to engage national capitals, key stakeholders, the UN system, and to carry out the necessary preparatory work that is needed to ensure a successful outcome. The Rio+5 preparatory process was not carried out in a strategic or focused manner, with most of the meetings discussing the same issues over again.
2002: The World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2002
In December 2000 (20), the United Nations General Assembly decision on the Ten-year review of progress achieved in the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - Resolution A/RES/55/199- resolved to:
South Africa to host 2002 Summit
South African Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Rejoice Mabudafhasi believes that the UNs decision to bring this conference to the African continent is a major boost for Africa as the major conference on sustainable development on our soil will firmly place these issues and debates on the agenda of our continent". Mabudafhasi said that the significance of this conference went way beyond the actual event as it set the agenda for sustainable development and the environment for the next decade. It is therefore significant that is should take place in the developing world where the issues of development and the environment are fundamental to the daily struggle against poverty. The Earth Summit 2002 should deepen the global commitment to sustainable development through a new global compact, and bring environmental issues to the fore of sustainable development. There is wide consensus that the primary focus of the Summit should be on poverty, development and the environment.
Besides being a symbolic event, it provides the global community with an opportunity to critically assess the importance of international environmental political agreements and their benefits, success or impacts positive and negative at a national, provincial and local levels. Rio +10 provides the global community with the opportunity to take another critical look at the implementation of all that took place at Rio in 1992.
Clear commitments at the international level are precisely what are needed by governments to guide and to stimulate their national level activities and to ensure compliance and implementation. The Earth Summit 2002 must produce concrete commitments that specifically respond to priority concerns of the South. This is essential to restore the credibility of the Rio process. Unless the 2002 Conference addresses issues of global equity, poverty, and consumption, it will not be able to even begin to meet the needs of the present, much less lay the foundations to protect the interest and needs of future generations. At The Twenty-third Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 held in New York on 24 September 1999, Ministers underscored the need for early substantive preparations for the 10-year review of the implementation of the outcome of the UN Conference on Environment and Development with a view to attaining meaningful results. Specifically, they noted the lack of progress in implementation of commitments at the international level, particularly in areas such as enhanced concessional financial resources and transfer of environmentally sound technology on concessional terms, which was evident at the Rio+5 in 1997 and expressed the hope that preparations for the 10 year review would focus on identifying challenges and constraints in meeting such commitments and evolve mechanisms and measures to remedy this.
Putting Development on the Agenda
The challenge for 2002 Ten Year review is to ensure that the development agenda is placed squarely at the centre of debate, with a serious focus on poverty and the related issues. The challenge to better integrate the environment and development dimensions is important not just for the sake of promoting a more accurate conception of sustainable development. It is also essential to restore legitimacy to the international process in the eyes of the South. The immediate question for governments, the private sector and civil society as a whole is whether this will be another environment conference wrapped up in development paper or whether it will also address the other issues of sustainable development, poverty in all its dimensions, a lack of livelihoods, limited access to health care and debilitating debt.
Maximum Stakeholder Participation
The success of 2002 will in part depend on the ability to engage not only the key stakeholders, but the media, local governments, academia, as well as the key sectoral ministries, including those such as trade and finance, who do not typically engage in international sustainable development meetings, such as the CSD. 2002 must build on the successes achieved in the past years in the engagement of the local government sector, business and industry and of course the civil society movement. It is essential that the 2002 process be as open, transparent and participatory as possible given the very nature of issues under discussion. The Minister of Environment from Ghana, Mr Cletus Avoka, says that the success of the occasion will depend to a large extent on the process that takes place prior to the Summit. It will therefore be necessary to evolve a preparatory process, which is very participatory, involving all stakeholders. The Southern NGO Caucus, which coordinates Southern NGO activities at the Commission on Sustainable Development, believes that the main challenges of the 2002 review will be the ability to organise an effective and efficient, participatory event of high political profile and visibility. In 2000, the Caucus suggested that 2002, should look at the adoption of measures for encouraging and supporting initiatives for obtaining maximum feasible participation of vulnerable and under represented groups and people in sustainable economic development, geared to the elimination of poverty in their communities.
For the last 30 years, the effects of unsustainable growth, environmental degradation and poverty have contributed to a renewed emphasis on environment and development as a global collective issue and not simply as the concern of sovereign states. In part, this is motivated by a concern that environmental disasters might prove as devastating as war, but also by the recognition that the majority of environment and development related problems cannot be solved by one country acting alone.
Not enough progress
The international community's response to the environmental crisis has paved the way for a framework in which to co-manage the worlds natural resources in a manner that will aim to avert environmental catastrophe. Internationally, co-operation and legality offer the only hope to protect the global commons. According to French (2000) there are more than 200 international environmental treaties that already exist. However, while the interlinkages between environment, development and the economy have been recognised as far back as the 1972 Stockholm environmental conference, all too little progress has been made toward the integration of environmental dimensions into global development and economic policies.
Institutional framework has weakened
The post Rio era has seen a flurry of multi-lateral environmental agreements (MEAs), however, the institutional framework has progressively weakened. The trend in environmental negotiations remains one that has been unable to establish the rules for future governance of natural resources in a manner that will apply equally to the rich and the poor.
Many words, but little action
According to Jonasson little real progress or substantial decisions have been seen, since 1992, and at least not enough to meet the environmental needs. There are a lot of nice words but far too little true political commitment leading to action. Despite UNEPs impressive list of international governance achievements, as little as two years ago, many developing countries diagnosed UNEP as being ineffective and irrelevant. The system is corrupted by ongoing battles amongst the secretariats of the scattered conventions to maintain the status quo over their own turf, which has led to a dilution of the environmental agenda.
Underdeveloped environmental instruments
Many of the UNs environmental instruments are underdeveloped and tend to be double edged swords - their global vision often tends to penalise the poor countries by putting additional stress on under-resourced developing countries and few of them stipulate stringent commitments and effective enforcement for developed countries. A 1999 statement of shared concern, coordinated by the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi, India, argued that the trend in environmental negotiations have not been able to establish rules for future governance of natural resources in a manner that will apply equally to the rich and the poor.
Learning to live together - equally
For ten years, the United Nations negotiations have repeatedly floundered on the linked questions of international fairness and global environmental security. One is how quickly must the dependency on growth and wealth be switched away from unsustainable consumption of non-renewable resources? The other is precisely how will this task be equitably structured between and within the nations of the world in the socially polarised conditions of economic deregulation and instability? The United Nations community faces an enormous challenge in the coming century- learning to live as one interdependent world. Global environmental negotiations can only be based on a prerequisite of global equity in which long lasting agreements are reached that are based on the linked principles of global environmental protection and global equity.
If the UN is to strengthen its efforts for a long lasting global partnership to address and solve global problems, it will have to gather the political will to change the global inequity in consumption patterns and to establish an equitable and sustainable basis for sharing the global natural resource base. One of the greatest challenges to building an environmentally sustainable future is the creation of appropriate institutions to support that vision. There is a need for governance frameworks that allocate rights and enforce responsibilities for environmental management at the appropriate level: local, national, regional or global. Such frameworks must enable the participation of all stakeholders in environmental decision-making, and include mechanisms for ensuring transparency and accountability.
In sum, developing and maintaining a sustainable development anti-poverty strategy that will work on the ground, must now be at the core of all intergovernmental interactions to address global sustainable development. The goal of sustainable development will only be achieved in conjunction with a redistribution of power and resources to the poor.
These are the challenges that must be concluded at The World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2002.
UNED FORUM Earth Summit 2002 Explained (2000)
The SA NGO Caucus for World Summit on Sustainable Development.
South African NGOs have formed an interim caucus to organise around the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in South Africa in 2002. Preparations started some months ago with the establishment of an interim caucus group which now consists of the South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF), Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and Durban branches, Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), National Land committee (NLC), Group for Environmental Monitoring, Wildlife and Environment Society (WESSA), Environment and Development Trust (EDA), Wilegspruit Fellowship Centre (WFC) and the Port Elisabeth Civic Forum.
SA NGO Caucus for World Summit on Sustainable Development.