Draft NGO Dialogue Paper
This draft NGO paper seeks to highlight some key issues and demands that cut
across sectoral issues. These have emerged from the NGO inputs and
consultations in the preparation for PrepCom II, the multi-stakeholder dialogue
and numerous NGO discussions at PrepCom II, as well as preliminary inputs since
The next MSD will be at PrepCom IV in Bali (27 May – 7 June) and the WSSD
Secretariat has requested a short NGO paper by April 12. Our proposal therefore
is to work with this draft NGO paper. Consultations with NGOs will be held at
PrepCom 3, and on the Internet. Any imporant developments at PrepCom III need
to be incorporated into the draft before the deadline. NGOs can continue to
debate and modify this paper until the MSD at PrepCom IV, but for process
reasons we must turn in a ‘final’ draft of this paper to the UN WSSD
Secretariat by April 12.
Various NGO caucuses, task forces and working groups are working on specific
issues and demands. Others are tracking the Chairman’s Paper and preparing
responses accordingly, drawing on the work of issues groups and those
addressing cross-cutting issues (consumption and production patterns;
technology; finance; trade; capacity-building; governance; etc). All these will
feed into the collective NGO lobby activities towards and at Johannesburg.
The WSSD Chairman’s paper for PrepCom III has nine substantive sections (see
www.johannesburgsummit.org for the full text). The topic on Governance will be
discussed at PrepCom III, and a Discussion Paper has been prepared by the two
Vice-chairs of the WSSD responsible for this topic. This, and a number of other
papers (including one from the WTO Secretariat), are also available on the WSSD
This paper is a very prelminary first draft, drafted by Third World Network and
building on input from the Danish 92-Group and Environment Liason Centre
International (ELCI). We look forward to reading your comments.
Chee Yoke Ling, Third World Network, www.twnside.org.sg
Barbara Gemmil, Environment Liaison Centre International, www.elci.org
Torleif Jonasson, The Danish ’92 Group, www.92grp.dk and www.rio10.dk
The 1990s was the decade for historic UN Summits and treaties that sought to
integrate environment, social and economic dimensions of development under the
rubric of ‘sustainable development’. The obligation to make a paradigm shift
from business-as-usual was to be guided by the principle of common but
differentiated responsibilities. There was hope that the environmental crisis
and vast socio-economic inequalities within and between nations would galvanise
political will beyond rhetoric to legal commitments and action. Citizens
groups, women’s organisations, indigenous peoples and local communities also
committed themselves to this goal.
Ten years later, governments and political leaders prepare to reconvene in open
admission that there is a ‘crisis of implementation’. Commitments at Rio and
afterwards remain largely on paper. The ecological crisis is deepening, the
global economic system is more uneven and already display structural flaws,
corporate scandals are increasing, while social injustices abound. Political
will, especially from industrialised countries, for sustainable development is
absent. North-South cooperation is weak. The current trend of increasing
militarism and threats to engage in nuclear warfare makes the sustainability
agenda even more elusive.
The WSSD Chairman’s Paper from PrepCom II contains at least 185 distinct calls
for actions. These appear to be unmanageable on the one hand. On the other
hand, they represent only a fraction of the total political and legal
commitments that were excruciatingly negotiated over the past 10 years. Even
then, most of the demands are couched in soft language – ‘urging, promoting,
encouraging’ – when many of them are in fact clear commitments under legally
binding treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention
on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention to Combat
desertification. This is not enough.
The paper also lacks an overall conceptual framework and context for
sustainable development. With growing disillusionment over globalisation as the
panacea for poverty, even at the governmental level, the WSSD must boldly move
forward with the sustainable development paradigm.
We therefore call for the following outcomes of the WSSD:
* A Political Declaration containing a conceptual framework or Vision backed by
political commitments of Heads of States;
* A rigorous Plan of Action backed by clear political commitments to implement,
and to add value to the existing treaties and agreed programmes. Central to
this Action Plan are the means of implementation (financial resources,
technology for sustainable development, capacity building) with clear targets
and time-frames. Developments in the trade and finance arena must also be
reviewed through the sustainable development perspective and appropriate action
be propelled from the WSSD.
Governments must not backtrack, dilute or re-write commitments as has been
happening in many cases since 1992. The Millenium Declaration with specific
targets, focusing on poverty reduction, provides a building block.
To reclaim and implement the sustainable development agenda, the WSSD has to
launch work on the Governance for Sustainable Development, especially at the
global level. This includes the building or strengthening of institutions at
all levels to counter negative globalisation. WSSD needs to reverse negative
trends from the Doha ministerial decisions and work programme of the WTO, and
bridge the gaps in the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development,
including reform of the international financial architecture.
A number of countries have supported the idea of a ‘Global Deal’. Any such pact
must be between governments at the highest level, and not a tripartite
agreement between government, industry and civil society.
Collaboration, cooperation or ‘partnerships’ can add to inter-governmental
agreements, dedicated to sustainable development, but not pre-empt the role and
responsibilities of the State.
1. Renew the North-South partnership and Vision that began at Rio
A Vision, based on the positive and forward-looking results from Rio (the
environment-development link; the North-South partnership; the government – non-
government dialogue; equity in and between countries and generations; expanding
rights of community and people). Content/themes of this vision should include
or build upon:
* the principle Common but differentiated responsibilities;
* the Precautionary Principle;
* the North must take the lead (in changing unsustainable production and
consumption models, helping the South’s transition to sustainability,
initiating global policy and governance reforms);
* the South must give priority to the social and environmental agenda;
* the forces of unfettered globalisation must be tamed by a collective effort
of governments, amongst other issues to reverse the negative trends from Doha;
* a review, reform and strengthening of Global Governance for sustainable
* the rights of individuals, communities and groups that are fighting for
sustainable development and justice, must be recognised and expanded.
The realisation of many of the changes called by NGOs require sincere political
commitment to global well being, and not just to the furtherance of the short-
term economic goals of a few nations, or transnational corporations, or elites
within a country. They need strong political leadership, particularly from
industrialised countries, but also from Southern leaders. They will also need
strong alliances with civil society. We hope that governments participating in
the WSSD will show the strength, vision and commitment necessary to bring about
2. Governing Globalisation
The phenomenon and institutionalisation of globalisation dominate global,
national and local spheres of life, while sustainable development remains an
elusive goal. The United Nations itself, the institutional home of sustainable
development that was expected to bring along the financial and trade arms of
the global system, has been weakened. The principle of common but
differentiated responsibilities has lost out to economic competition and the
survival of the strongest.
We call upon the governments of the world to establish a fair and equitable
framework for an integrated approach to global governance of sustainable
development, based on the principles of democracy, equity and social justice;
and on a clearly defined set of rights – not governance improvised to benefit
corporations by freeing markets.
With reference to environmental governance we call for the establishment of
institutional mechanisms at the global, national and local levels to ensure
that all human beings have:
* the right to a safe and healthy environment;
* the right to effectively participate in the governance of their environment,
and determine their own path to development;
* the right to information; and
* the right to redress and environmental justice.
The rights of local communities and indigenous peoples to natural resources are
Any such global governance framework will also need to establish democratic
mechanisms to ensure compliance with global environmental rules, which are
applicable to rich and poor nations alike, in accordance with the principle of
common but differentiated responsibilities.
The current tools of trade and aid are available only for the rich nations to
use against the poor. Global rules and governance in trade and finance (not
just aid, but also the global financial system and architecture) must thus be
reformed or changed to meet the goal of sustainable development.
Frameworks have to be established and enforced to combat corruption at all
3. Corporate Accountability
Rio paved the way for business as a ‘partner in sustainable development’ and
the 1990s saw continuing deregulation and the supremacy of market forces in the
policies and laws of almost all countries. This has increased concentration of
wealth, power and undue influence in a small part of the world’s business
community, to the detriment of sustainable development and human rights.
As political and financial support from major developed countries for the UN
system falls, moves have grown to embrace the private sector, especially
transnational corporations as deliverers of sustainable development. However,
global rules that have been shaped to turn natural resources and people into
commodities and markets are resulting in major problems. From global warming to
the financial crisis that hit Asia and now Argentina, the tip of the corporate
scandals that is represented by Enron and Arthur Anderson – these and more are
urgent signals for a reaffirmation of the sustainable development agenda and
fundamental changes in governance at all levels.
The WSSD must endorse Corporate Accountability and Regulation. A legally
binding framework/convention for corporate accountability and liability under
the UN, with independent mechanisms for monitoring progress and enforcement, is
needed. These should be determined in an open and transparent manner.
Meanwhile, WSSD must decide to fundamentally review and reform the UN Global
Compact to ensure transparency and accountability.
4. Stakeholders and Partnerships
There is a proliferation of the concept of ‘stakeholders’ evolving from the
Agenda 21 characterisation of Major Groups. Multi-stakeholder processes,
following the MS Dialogues initiated by the CSD, can be valuable but the
term ‘stakeholder’ undermines those in society, especially communities and
individuals, who are struggling for their rights. It also implies equality when
the reality is the reverse.
The official WSSD process is now strongly promoting the notion
of ‘partnerships’ in the face of the failure of governments to turn commitments
to action. While collaboration and cooperation among different parts of society
among themselves, and also with governments are not new, and have often
produced positive results, the current emphasis is on private-public sector
partnerships, especially involving transnational corporations. The reality is
that corporations are a major part of the problem: corporate accountability and
regulation are needed, not the further expansion of corporate rights.
Communities and citizens have rights that must be recognised and expanded as
they are at the much weaker end of the scale of power relations. Thus, while
the CSD and other international processes have increased civil society
participation to some extent, there is a false assumption that society,
compartmentalised into Major Groups and stakeholders, can sit at roundtables to
reach consensus. Often, the interests of industry and communities (and their
organisations) are diametrically opposed. Mechanisms are needed to deal with
such conflicts, not diffuse or sideline them. Accordingly, governments have
their due role to play.
WSSD must reaffirm the role and responsibility of governments to fulfil their
obligations to implement sustainable development by acting on government
commitments under the UN Summit Action Plans and multilateral environmental
agreements. Governments have to be responsible to provide transparent and
accountable frameworks for partnerships.
Such frameworks must extend to the global level as many UN agencies are already
engaged in partnerships with transnational corporations. A review of such
partnerships, as well as the UN Global Compact is needed.
5. Access to Information, Participation and Justice
The WSSD must adopt a rights-based approach to implement Principle 10 of the
Rio Declaration: access to information, right to participate in planning and
implementation of sustainable development, transparency, freedom of expression
and association, justice. The Aarhus Convention is a significant achievement
and should be implemented at the national level, while other countries and
regions should move towards similar initiatives.
The multi-stakeholder approach, while positive in some ways, cannot substitute
the rights approach to citizens’ effective participation in decision-making at
all levels. Any effective participatory process should take into account, inter
alia: diversity of interests; capacity-building needed for public access to
information and participation; timely access to information held by both
governments and corporations; empowerment of the marginalized; transparency and
6. Institutions for sustainable development
UNEP should remain the primary global environmental body, operating within the
framework of sustainable development. Other UN agencies and bodies that deal
with social and economic dimensions should be strengthened and their policies
directed towards sustainable development. The CSD can and should be the over-
arching body to ensure integration of the 3 pillars of sustainable development
at the policy and monitoring level. The CSD should thus be strengthened by
making it more independent, with increased resources.
The WSSD has to initiate the reform, building or strengthening of institutions
at all levels to counter negative globalisation. WSSD needs to redress the
imbalances and reform the agreements of the WTO, as well as re-orientate the
multilateral trade system (especially the WTO) towards sustainable development.
Initiatives should also be started to bridge the gaps in the Monterrey
Consensus on Financing for Development, including reform of the international
7. The role of States
Globalisation carries the risk of privatising the role of the State, a trend
that is already happening. The strengthening of local and national governments;
The importance of balance between the local and the international; Balanced
Decentralisation; Good Governance at all levels; Combat corruption at all
levels. Reverse negative globalisation trend where the shift of policy and law
making to the global level undermines national options for sustainable
development and violates human rights.
8. Ratify Conventions, Integrate and Implement UN Summit decisions
We call on developed country governments to show commitment and support the
multilateral environment conventions that have been concluded since 1992, and
call on developing country governments to implement their commitments.
[Note: In this section, we will highlight the status of ratification of the
conventions that have been negotiated since 1992]