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Rights at risk in Rio+20 preparation process

In an Open Letter an international coalition of over 400 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from 67 countries is challenging the preparation process for UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as Rio+20 scheduled to take place 22 to 24 June in Rio. The coalition includes Oxfam International, Greenpeace International, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Council for Canadians, CIVICUS, and Women in Europe for a Common Future. WDEV documents the letter in full.

Open Letter

To the Secretary General for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), the Secretary General and Member-States of the United Nations

We – the civil society organizations and social movements who have responded to the call of the United Nations General Assembly to participate in the Rio+20 process – feel that is our duty to call the attention of relevant authorities and citizens of the world to a situation that severely threatens the rights of all people and undermines the relevance of the United Nations.

Remarkably, we are witnessing an attempt by certain countries to weaken, or “bracket” or outright eliminate nearly all references to human rights obligations and equity principles in the text, “The Future We Want”, for the outcome of Rio+20.

This includes references to the right to food and proper nutrition, the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, the right to development and others. The right to a clean and healthy environment, which is essential to the realization of fundamental human rights, remains weak in the text. Even principles previously agreed upon in Rio in 1992 are being bracketed – the Polluter Pays Principle, Precautionary Principle, Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR).

Many member states are opposing prescriptive language that commits governments to actually do what they claim to support in principle and act as duty bearers of human rights, including the provision of finance, technology and other means of implementation to support sustainable development effort in developing countries. On the other hand, there is a strong push for private sector investments and initiatives to fill in the gap left by the public sector. This risks privatizing and commoditizing common goods – such as water – which in turn endangers access and affordability, which are fundamental to such rights.

Although economic tools are essential to implement the decisions aiming for sustainability, social justice and peace, a private economy rationale should not prevail over the fulfilment of human needs and the respect of planetary boundaries. Therefore a strong institutional framework and regulation is needed. Weakly regulated markets have already proven to be a threat not only to people and nature, but to economies and nation states themselves. Markets must work for people, people should not work for markets.

From the ashes of World War II humanity gathered to build institutions aiming to build peace and prosperity for all, avoiding further suffering and destruction. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out this collective will, and the United Nations organization was created to make it a reality. Alarmingly, this very institution is now being used as a platform to attack the very rights it should safeguard, leaving people without defense and putting the very relevance of the UN at stake.

We urge the UNCSD Secretary General and Member States to bring the Rio+20 negotiations back on track to deliver the people’s legitimate agenda and the realization of rights, democracy and sustainability, as well as respect for transparency, accountability and non-regression on progress made.

We call on the UN Secretary General to stand up for the legacy of the United Nations by ensuring that Rio+20 builds on the multi-generational effort to strengthen rights as the foundation of peace and prosperity.

We urge our fellow citizens of the world to stand up for the future we want, and let their voices be heard. To that end the Rio+20 process should be improved by adopting the proposals we submit below.

On Greater participation for MGs

We are concerned by the continuing exclusion of Major Groups from the formal negotiating process of the Rio+20 zero draft. Unlike in the Preparatory Committee Meetings and the Intersessional Meetings, Major Groups and other Stakeholders have not been allowed to present revisions or make statements on the floor of the meeting. Nor, we suspect will we be allowed to make submissions or participate fully in the working negotiation group meetings that are likely to follow. Despite the UN DESA having compiled a text that shows all the revisions suggested by Major Groups, these revisions to the zero draft have so far not been included in the official negotiating text.

We request that the Major Groups be given the opportunity to submit suggestions and wording which would then be added to the official text for consideration, indication of support or deletion, and potential inclusion by governments.

We appeal to the UNCSD Secretary General to urgently reverse this state of affairs and to ensure that Major Groups have a seat at the table and a voice in the room where the negotiations are taking place. Please ensure that at the very least, Major Groups are allowed a formal statement at the commencement of the next negotiating session and at every session where a new draft text is introduced.

To endorse the letter please click >>> here.
Recommended citation: WDEV documentation (2012) ‘Rights at risk in Rio+20 preparation process’, World Economy & Development In Brief (WDEV), Luxembourg, 28 Mar (www.wdev.eu)

Posted: 28 Mar 2012

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