Citizen Voices for Sustainable Development: Putting Principle 10 at the Heart of Rio+20
Three governments have called for a binding legal instrument at the global or regional level to ensure implementation of Principle 10. 140 civil society submissions call for greater transparency, participation and accountability. The Zero-Draft should reflect these calls and Rio+20 should provide a venue for national-level commitments to environmental democracy.
As Member States gather again at the Intercessional Meeting in New York in preparation for the Rio +20 Conference, they have a difficult task ahead of them. They will have to review a compilation text based on 650 submissions from all over the world. This compilation document serves as the basis for a “zero-draft” of the outcome document, to be presented for consideration by Member States and other stakeholders by January 2012.
The Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development theme of the conference calls for an examination of reforms to environmental governance at the subnational, national, and international levels. In light of this theme, a review of the submissions to the compilation document reveal the need to improve national environmental governance by strengthening implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. Stakeholders ranging from governments, international organizations and civil society organizations called for improvements in Principle 10 in their submissions to Rio+20.
The Call for National-Level Commitments
The Access Initiative (TAI) carried out an analysis of each of the more than 650 submissions to identify calls for better implementation of Principle 10, greater transparency, participation, and accountability in matters affecting sustainable development. More than 140 submissions made such calls, reflecting broad demand for greater implementation of Principle 10. Additionally, many of the statements and submissions emerging from the regional preparatory meetings for Rio+20, the Declaration of the UN Department of Public Information Non-Governmental Organizations, and the Eye on the Earth Conference also contained strong statements supportive of implementing Principle 10 at all levels. There is a growing sense of urgency and a chorus of national governments, UN agencies and civil society groups calling for the strengthening of Principle 10 worldwide.
At the national level, many national organizations In preparation for Rio+20, civil society groups around the world have presented a list of demands to their governments, next steps to encourage improved national sustainable development governance. Led by TAI, civil society coalitions in 30 countries have put together lists of demands to their governments, with the aim of obtaining public commitments by those governments to greater access at Rio+20 . These demands are collectively known as the Three Demands or 3Ds Campaign. Major themes emerging from the demands include: conventions on Principle 10, improving access to information and participation in environmental assessment practice, broad reforms for access, environmental databases, the establishment of environmental courts, and provisions for citizen enforcement of the law . Given the large number of civil society organizations making these demands, Rio+20 can serve as an unparalleled platform for countries to announce innovations in implementing Principle 10.
The Call for Principle 10 Conventions
International agreements, especially legally binding ones, can play an important role in promoting and strengthening rights to information, participation and justice in environmental matters at the national and local levels. They can catalyse and drive the development of national legislation and practice, bringing about positive changes that would not otherwise have occurred . Three leading governments, a number of important international organizations, and civil society organizations (CSOs) have called for a binding legal instrument at the global or regional level to ensure implementation of Principle 10. Rio+20 can serve as the venue to launch the process for negotiation of regional or global conventions on Principle 10.
Brazil, the host country, has called for the negotiation of an international convention on Principle 10.
Support is proposed for setting in motion a negotiating process at Rio+20, for a global Convention that will ensure the implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration which establishes that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level”.
Jamaica and Chile both call for a regional Latin American convention on Principle 10.
Chile considers it essential that full implementation of the rights of access, participation and environmental justice enshrined in Principle 10 of Rio Declaration. By the same token, Chile promotes the celebration of regional agreements for the adoption of Principle 10. Similarly, Chile calls for facilitating the participation of local communities in decision-making processes. Chile calls for improved control instruments and environmental justice in respect of the sovereignty of each country, and in solving environmental damage internationally as in those on lands not subject to national jurisdictions.
In terms of access to information, Jamaica has a body existing policy on access to information and a system of Environmental Impact Assessment. It also has a bill to develop a Register of Emissions and Pollutant Transfer. While acknowledging the increase in the number of treaties, Jamaica believes that a regional agreement to consider the P10 of the Rio Summit and based on the Aarhus Convention can strengthen public participation in decision-making processes.
Other government submissions call for the re-affirmation of Principle 10 and more efforts to ensure its implementation. The boldest calls come from Croatia, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States of America. In total, 41 Governments mentioned the importance of the right of participation, the right of communities, including women, elderly and youth especially those most affected to participate in decision-making on environmental issues.
Latin America saw a particularly strong call for implementation of Principle 10. The governments of Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and the Dominican Republic included specific mention of access to information, public participation, and access to justice. Bolivia proposed an international court of environment and climate justice. The Government of Mexico supported conduct of a national convention to ensure the implementation of Principle 10. Iceland recognized a need for increased focus on accountability, implementation, and coherence, while Korea and Switzerland spoke of the importance of a transparency and accountability at the regional and global scales. Many other countries, including India, Canada, Serbia, Ghana, Tajikistan, Tunisia, and Algeria stress the importance of access to information and participation in decision-making.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) has supported and offered to facilitate the negotiation of the regional conventions:
Rio+20 could produce a mandate to negotiate international agreements (at the global or regional level) to promote the enactment of legislation pertaining to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration and its implementation, to be possibly, but not necessarily, based on the Aarhus Convention.
The calls for a global and regional convention are also supported in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) submission:
The Conference might consider, for the regional level…developing regional or sub-regional agreements to give effect to Principle 10 of the Rio Principles as noted above.
Additionally, Principle 10 global and regional convention calls are found in many major group submissions including those of The Access Initiative, Article 19, Associations 21, Beyond 2015, Climate Action Network-International, Developement Sans Frontieres, Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement Bwaise Facility, European Committee of the Regions, Faith Based Organizations, Franciscans International, Ibon International, International Court of the Environment Foundation, International Council for Science, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Ford Foundation, Law School of Getulio Vargas Foundation, Chinese Civil Society Organizations, Northern Alliance for Sustainability, Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, International Stakeholder Forum, Transport Research Foundation, Workers and Trade Unions, just to name a few.
SUMMARY and ACTIONS
The call for greater implementation of Principle 10 at the national is unequivocal. In light of this fact, the proceedings of the Rio+20 Conference need to reflect this. In particular a number of concrete outputs from the Rio+20 process should occur in the near term:
• Rio+20 should provide a venue for the announcement of new achievable, time-bound commitments to improve transparency, participation, and accountability at the international, national, and sub-national levels. Governments should seek to commit to new and innovative measures to further implement Principle 10 at the national level. Where possible, commitments should reflect the Three Demands Campaign and similar demands for greater access by civil society.
• The Zero Draft should reflect international concern for greater implementation of Principle 10.
• The Conference should have as a major agenda item, an examination of the need for a global or regional convention, and adequate space should be reserved to begin such a process.
• An inter-governmental negotiation should be launched under the auspices of the UN General Assembly or UNEP through a mandate from Rio+20.
• Rio+20 should direct UNEP to develop and operate a robust program to assist governments to bring their laws and institutions in line with the Bali Guidelines on Principle 10 (2010).
• The conference should endorse the “Access for All: Platform for Principle 10” Special Initiative from the Eye on Earth Conference, Abu Dhabi as a collaborative mechanism for governments, civil society and international organizations to implement Principle 10.
• Rio+20 should provide a platform for achievable, time-bound commitments on implementation of Principle 10 at all levels of governance.
Despite the acceptance of the near universal acknowledgement of its importance for good governance, progress on the implementation of Principle 10 has made uneven progress. It is time to hear the chorus and utilise the opportunity that Rio +20 Conference provides us with to make real progress on implementation.
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