A Council for Sustainable Development: A Possible Outcome of the Rio+20 Process (2-3)
A Possible Outcome of the Rio+20 Process was prepared by Jan-Gustav Strandaneas for Stakeholder Forum. It is important to compare the expected outcome from the Conference with the actual results that was agreed upon on Rio+20, so it is necessary to know what the expectation was as detailed in this report under review.
The Council and civil society
Birnie and Boyle state that among the many elements pertaining to international governance, two stand out: one - it is an understanding of international society as something more than a crucible for the resolution of competitive state interests, with law the mere handmaiden of power, and two, governance implies a more cosmopolitan notion of international society than one composed solely of states. Most notions of governance thus envisage participation by other entities, such as non-governmental organisations, industry and business and civil society in
CSD has often been referred to as a crucible of democracy at the UN, and has obviously inspired a number of UN entities to open up their system and process to civil society and allowed members from civil society to participate in working groups, break out groups and plenaries. UNCED in 1992 coined the phrase the nine Major Groups within civil society, and devoted an entire chapter in Agenda 2145 to their position within UN entities working with sustainable development and environment. ECOSOC revised in 1996 their process understanding of the non-governmental organisations to meet the requirements of a ‘new world’ rife with dedicated, knowledgeable and representative members of civil society.
Participation of civil society has been restricted at council levels at the UN. But again progress has been made in this context at the Human Rights Council. The importance of civil society in relation to sustainable development has been thoroughly recognised by the UN General Assembly. The UN resolution on Rio plus 20, of December 2009 has eight specific paragraphs referring to the major groups emphasising their importance at the upcoming high level meeting on sustainable development in Rio 2012.
The best practices involving the major groups at CSD and UNEP with their related organizational activities must be maintained at the new Council on Sustainable Development, and the processes within the UN displaying the best integration of and use of civil society should be the standard for involving the major groups in the Council on Sustainable Development.
Political realities change over time and so do institutions. History shows that the two do not always coincide. Discrepancies between the two can lead to tragic setbacks. “Political institutions develop, often slowly and painfully, over time, as human societies strive to organize themselves to master their environments. But political decay occurs when political systems fail to adjust to changing circumstances. There is something like a law of the conservation of institutions.”
In much the same vein, participants at the “High Level Dialogue on Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (19 – 21 July, 2011; Solo, Indonesia)” described the weaknesses in the present governance structure of sustainable development. “Governments noted that the current institutional framework for sustainable development was inadequate compared to the mounting challenges, lacked effective mechanisms for monitoring or ensuring the implementation of agreed commitments, had led to fragmentation rather than coherence and integration….. A more effective arrangement needs to be built in order to provide leadership and direction to tackle global environmental challenges.”
Reform means strengthen, not diminish. The Chair’s Summary from the meeting in Solo reflects this understanding and talks about strengthening the UN’s institutions that address sustainable development and the environment. The discussions at this meeting reflected a willingness by the international community to take actions that were relevant to the needs of the future.
The global community has a golden opportunity at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to adjust governance institutions to reflect political realities in 2012, and to establish the a governance system that can be effective for decades What was boldly begun in principle in 1972 in Stockholm at the UN Conference on the Human Environment, and extensively codified in 1992 in Rio at UNCED, can in 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development be taken to a higher level of political achievement.
The Solo Message48 and the Chair’s Report from the “High Level Dialogue on Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development” refer directly to discussions revolving around the possibilities of establishing a Sustainable Development Council49, of raising the status of UNEP to specialised agency level50 and of setting up an Inter-Governmental Panel on Sustainable Development.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 16/07/2012