Dialogue Paper by Non-governmental Organisations
1.Ten years after the Rio Summit, governments and political leaders are preparing to
reconvene and openly admit there is a “crisis of implementation”. Given that combating
poverty has been a declared a priority by all governments and UN summits during the 1990’
s, it is shameful that the actions do not match the words in the agreements. Urgent
action is called for to help the more than 1.2 billion people, over 70% of them women,
who live in abject poverty, while also effectively overturning a situation of deepening
ecological crisis. Inequities exist and have deepened between and within countries. There
is widespread concern over the socially and environmentally irresponsible behaviour of
many transnational companies. The current trend of increasing militarism also threatens
the sustainability agenda.
2.The first three global WSSD PrepComs have been disappointing. There should be no re-
negotiation of agreements already made. At the same time, merely reaffirming previous
commitments will not suffice. Instead, the Johannesburg Summit must agree to a new
framework for action that can generate political will and provide the tools to overcome
the current implementation crisis.
3.An important challenge for the Summit will be to forge the necessary links between
trade, investment, finance and sustainable development, and to make these agendas
mutually reinforcing. The Summit will also need to counter the negative social,
environmental and development trends arising from economic liberalisation and trade
negotiations within the WTO. Furthermore, the Summit needs to address the gaps in the
Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development, including reform of the international
financial architecture. The agreement on Governance for Sustainable Development should
include the strengthening – and where needed reform – of existing institutions at all
levels to enhance democracy, human rights, popular participation, and a “rights-based
approach” to strengthening the political capabilities of the poor and marginalised
Call for political will and an action plan at the Johannesburg Summit – within the
concept of a “Global Deal”
4.NGOs call for the following outcomes of the Johannesburg Summit:
(a)A Political Declaration that strongly commits to step up poverty eradication, with the
Millennium Summit goal as a minimum, and boost sustainable development, including through
improved institutions and mechanisms for speeding up implementation of Rio and other UN
agreements. This should recognise the need for reshaping globalisation to achieve a new
balance between economic, social and environmental development, and a realignment of
power relations between and within States.
(b)A concrete Johannesburg Plan of Action moving from “principle” to “action”,
through a programme with clear targets, indicators, time frames, financial resources, co-
ordination, institutional arrangements and necessary capacity-building. Clear mechanisms
are needed for monitoring, enforcement and compliance, accountability as well as for
improved civil society access to information and decision-making.
5.A number of countries have supported the concept of a “Global Deal”. This could be a
catalyst for political will. It would express what both Northern and Southern governments
are putting ‘on the table’ to accelerate implementation of the Rio and Millennium
Summit goals. In order to be manageable and effective, this deal would need to be between
governments at the highest level, not a tripartite agreement between government, industry
and civil society. Cooperation or “partnerships” can add to and support
intergovernmental agreements dedicated to sustainable development, but should not pre-
empt the role and responsibilities of the State. Public-private partnerships without
capacity for monitoring and enforcement may undermine the UN’s unique role in generating
legally and politically enforceable agreements at the international level.
6.Furthermore, any “Global Deal” should serve to bridge the enormous North-South
differences on key parameters, including: Equity – eradicating poverty through equitable
and sustainable access to resources; Rights – securing environmental and social rights;
Limits – reducing resource use to within sustainable limits; Justice – access to
justice, recognition of ecological debts and cancellation of financial debts; Democracy –
ensuring access to information and public participation; Ethics – rethinking the values
and principles that guide human behaviour.
1. Renew the North-South partnership and Vision that began at Rio
7.The Johannesburg Summit needs to build 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 the
rights of communities and people). More specifically the outcome of the Summit should
include or build upon:
(a)Effective national strategies for poverty eradication and promoting sustainable
livelihoods in a gender sensitive manner, including the necessary linkages and means of
implementation. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, according to
the needs and capacities of countries.
(b)Phasing out by developed countries of trade-distorting and environmentally harmful
subsidies, and improving market access for developing countries. Governments need to
collectively rein in the forces of unfettered globalisation to reverse the adverse
effects of economic liberalisation.
(c)Reform of unsustainable production and consumption models, particularly in developed
countries, to help developing countries make the transition to sustainability.
(d)Increased development assistance (ODA) beyond the Monterrey consensus, including
commitment to reform the international financial architecture and resolve the debt crisis.
(e)Technology assessment in all countries, and more transfer of sustainable and clean
technology to developing countries.
(f)Application of the precautionary approach and the “polluter pays” principle.
(g)Strengthening of the social and environmental agenda in the developing world as well
as the necessary institutional reforms, education and capacity-building for
(h)Improvement of international and national governance based on democracy, good
governance, human rights and access to justice, public participation and decision-making
at the lowest appropriate level.
(i)Recognition and expansion of the rights of individuals, communities and groups
fighting for sustainable development, human rights and democracy.
8.The realisation of many of these changes requires sincere political leadership and
commitment to global well-being, and not just to the short-term economic goals of a few
nations, transnational corporations, or elites within a country.
2. A “rights based” approach to natural resources
9.Many communities, especially in developing countries, rely on natural resources such as
land, forests, fisheries, wetlands and coral reefs to meet their basic needs and those of
future generations. Poverty eradication thus requires the promotion of sustainable
livelihoods and a more gender-disaggregated understanding of poverty and environmental
concerns. The rights of local communities and indigenous peoples to natural resources are
essential. It requires a “rights-based approach” that secures the access of poor and
vulnerable groups to financial and natural resources (including land rights and tenure).
This poses new challenges for political structures, where the poor could gain increased
10.The WSSD should recognise that all human beings have the right to a safe and healthy
environment; the right to redress and environmental justice; and the right to determine
their own path of development. The need for the right-based approach is underlined by the
tensions between diverse interest groups and countries over access to and control over
natural resources, which are contributing to conflicts. These tensions may be played out
in fights over water, valuable minerals, land rights or appropriate technology (e.g.
organic agriculture versus genetically engineered seeds). More attention is thus needed
for domestic, regional and international policy and priority to prevent civil conflicts
The Summit should recognise the role of rural people as stewards of ecosystems and
ecosystem functions and place the rural poor at the very centre of the development
process, including in meeting the Millennium Summit Development Goals. In connection with
this, the WSSD should:
a)Affirm that food is a human right, and that all countries must provide their citizens
with the opportunity to feed themselves through their own production and/or purchasing
power. Therefore, it is unacceptable that the current multilateral trade rules hinder
many developing countries from securing the right to food. Sustainable food production in
developing countries should be promoted through fair prices and market opportunities for
farmers. Thus, there must be a phase-out of export subsidies and other trade-distorting
subsidies to agricultural products in the developed countries. Their tariff barriers on
agricultural products from developing countries should be removed.
b)Affirm the importance of organic/ecological agriculture as a sustainable production
system and support research, community programmes and expansion of lands under these
forms of agriculture.
c)Recognise access to sufficient and clean water and sanitation as a human right, and
emphasise that national law should protect such access. The Dublin principles stress the
social value of water. Nevertheless, in many countries privatisation and user tariffs are
undermining equity and social justice by restricting poor people’s access to this public
good and fundamental right. The Summit should develop an action plan to reach the
Millennium Summit targets through promotion of community-based and integrated water
d)Governments must make further progress on energy, including the reduction of greenhouse
gases far beyond the Kyoto Protocol target. The WSSD should commit to a global initiative
to use sustainable, decentralised forms of renewable energy to provide affordable energy
by 2012 to the two billion people, mostly in rural and remote locations in developing
countries, who currently have no access to modern energy services.
e)Call for action to secure local livelihoods and conserve marine biodiversity and
resources, including the adoption by 2004 of an agreed framework for the establishment of
representative high seas protected areas, and through fisheries access agreements with
coherent development and environment objectives.
f)Initiate actions on forest landscape or ecosystem restoration to promote sustainable
livelihoods and ecosystem integrity, including through national and regional action, as
well as by launching a global initiative on this in 2002 and by encouraging the
development of a joint work programme between the conventions on desertification, climate
change and biodiversity by 2004.
3. Democracy, popular participation and institutional capacity building
11.A trend of the on-going globalisation is privatisation and weakening of the state’s
role. NGOs call for progress to be made at local, national, regional and international
level regarding good governance, democracy and stronger institutions. This should include
WSSD agreement to:
(a)Promote democracies conducive to freedom of expression and association, justice and
(b)Strengthen good governance based on subsidiarity (decision at lowest appropriate
level), participatory planning, accountability, transparency and elimination of
(c)Promote institutional reforms for promoting more efficiency and accountability in
service-delivery to the public. In addition, institutions need to increase capabilities
for multi-sectoral, integrated and multidisciplinary approaches.
(d)Create and support mechanism for resolution of conflicts and further integration of
environmental, social and human rights.
(e)Adopt measures to implement citizen’s rights to access to information and
participation in decision-making (Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration), possibly through
regional conventions inspired by the PanEuropean Aarhus Convention.
(f)Establish institutional mechanisms at all levels that ensure a “rights-based
approach”, including rights to a safe and healthy environment; redress and environmental
justice; and to determine one’s own path of development.
(g)Strengthen local, national and regional institutions through sustainable
development/environmental education, public awareness and capacity-building initiatives.
This applies particularly to capacity-building in developing countries and countries with
economies in transition in order to enable their implementation of ratified agreements
and their participation in international negotiations on sustainable development,
including trade negotiations.
4. International institutions for sustainable development
12.Economic liberalisation dominating international, national and local spheres of life
is a matter of concern, while sustainable development remains an elusive goal. The United
Nations itself, the institutional home of sustainable development of the global system,
has been weakened since 1992. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities
has lost out to economic competition and survival of the strongest.
13.However, political regulations to balance the negative impact of globalisation are not
in place yet. Policy-making is dominated by Northern interests and stakeholders, such as
transnational companies, international financial institutions and donor agencies. The NGO
community calls upon the governments of the world to the following:
(a)Strengthen the existing framework for global governance of sustainable development, to
create a more balanced global power structure with a far more active and internationally-
oriented civil society.
(b)Strengthen a global governance framework based on the principles of democracy, equity,
transparency and justice.
(c)Ensure stronger enforcement and compliance with global environmental rules, which are
applicable to rich and poor nations alike, in accordance with the principle of common but
(d)Establish and apply indicators for tracking progress of nations and international
institutions in promoting good governance and democracy.
(e)Counterbalance the international financial institutions and the WTO with stronger
institutions on environment and social issues.
(f)Strengthen governance structure that is accountable, transparent and provides an
effective way for mainstreaming sustainable development within the economic institutions.
(g)Strengthen UN institutions (UNEP, UNDP etc.) and to enhance the coordination, policy
and monitoring role of the CSD. Any such efforts will require a clear mandate, less
fragmentation, more resources and institutional strengthening.
(h)Integration of long-term sustainable development goals into the policies, country
strategies and operational guidelines of relevant UN agencies and international financial
institutions, ensuring that their activities are consistent with the priorities of
5. Stakeholders and Partnerships
14.Partnerships can be valuable. Cooperation among different parts of society, including
governments, is nothing new, and has often produced positive results. However, there is
serious concern in the NGO community that the strong promotion of partnerships as Type 2
outcomes could result in governments evading any meaningful commitments at the WSSD.
Governments and the UN cannot relegate the vital goal of sustainable development to
largely voluntary initiatives, especially since the current emphasis is on global private-
public sector partnerships.
15.The reality is that private corporations are a major part of the problem. Corporate
accountability and regulation are needed, not further expansion of corporate rights.
Communities and citizens have rights that must be recognised and expanded, as they are by
far the weaker part in the scale of power relations. Thus, while the CSD and other
international processes have increased civil society participation to some extent, there
is a questionable assumption that civil 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.
16.The WSSD must (a) reaffirm the responsibility of governments to implement sustainable
development by acting on their commitments under the UN Summit Action Plans and
multilateral environmental agreements. Governments have to provide (b) transparent,
accountable and participatory frameworks for partnerships. Such frameworks must extended
to the global level, as many UN agencies are already engaged in partnerships with
transnational corporations. The WSSD must call for (c) a review of such partnerships,
including the UN Global Compact.
6. Corporate Accountability
17.When Rio paved the way for business as a “partner in sustainable development”, it
was part of the decade of continuing deregulation and supremacy of market forces in the
policies and laws of almost all countries. This has increased the concentration of wealth
and power in the hands of a small part of the world’s business community, to the
detriment of sustainable development and human rights.
18.The current tools of trade and aid are available to, and often used by, the rich
countries against the poor, and to subsidise the exports of the private sector. Global
rules and governance in trade, investment and finance (including the global financial
system) must thus be reformed to meet the goal of sustainable development. Frameworks
have to be established and enforced to combat corruption at all levels.
19.Since political and financial support from major developed countries to the UN system
is on the decrease, attempts have been stepped up 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.
20.The WSSD must endorse corporate accountability and regulation. NGOs will campaign for
a legally binding framework/convention for corporate accountability and liability under
the UN, with independent mechanisms for monitoring progress and enforcement. Meanwhile,
the WSSD must decide to fundamentally review and reform the UN Global Compact, or even
dissolve it if necessary, to safeguard the public credibility of the UN.
7. Sustainable consumption and production
21.Over-consumption is undermining sustainable development and can exacerbate poverty.
Sustainable development cannot be achieved without fundamental changes in the way
industrial societies produce and consume. WSSD should request governments to adopt the UN
Guidelines on Consumer Protection and to undertake the following recommendations: (a)
raising consumer awareness of the importance of sustainable consumption and production
patterns; (b) examining and addressing the use of media and advertising on sustainable
consumption and production especially with the aim of addressing the negative impacts on
developing countries and vulnerable groups like children; (c) identifying and reporting
on the progress of phasing out environmental and social harmful subsidies that encourage
unsustainable patterns of production and consumption; (d) encouraging and supporting
civil society development of awareness campaigns, monitoring and assessment of national
and international progress towards sustainable consumption and production; and (e)
actively promoting eco-design, eco-labelling and other transparent, verifiable and non-
misleading consumer information tools.
22.The Rio principles of precaution and polluter pays should be followed up in practice.
Thus a binding international agreement on liability should be negotiated, making
producers financially liable for the environmental effects of their products released to
the market. Concepts such as “ecological footprint” and tools such as green taxes,
internalisation of external costs and emissions bans need to be implemented. Technology
assessment that covers environmental, social, safety, health and economic impacts needs
to be integrated into national policies, and the agreed actions at the first session of
the CSD should be implemented.
8. Trade and sustainable development
23.If the WTO is to live up to its own objective to contribute to sustainable development
in a meaningful way, its work programme must not focus narrowly on market liberalisation
as the prime and overall objective. Instead, the focus must be on the need for making
trade a tool that serves sustainable development, incorporating social and environmental
concerns. In the last 10 years, small producers, particularly the rural poor, are at a
marked disadvantage when competing in this new economic context.
24.The rich nations should fulfil their commitments to grant market access to the
agricultural and industrial products of the South. Such increased market access requires
a massive confrontation with vested interests. It will require significant changes in EU
agricultural subsidies and US preferential treatment of its own farmers. This is
something the rich countries must be willing to accept whilst at the same time giving the
developing countries practical help in order to utilise and shape the international trade
rules in the best possible way. While multilateral rules are needed in some respects,
countries must retain the right to shape their own national sustainable development
policies and priorities in a democratic manner.
25.The following are specific recommendations for making trade policy more sustainable:
(a) Improve market access for developing countries, progress on tariffs and subsidies,
industrialised countries should phase out subsidised agricultural over-production and
export dumping; (b) Fundamentally reform the role of export credit agencies that have
largely become subsidies providers for the private sector of exporting countries; (c) End
the IMF-World Bank use of conditionalities that force poor countries to open their
markets indiscriminately, regardless of the impacts on poor people and the environment;
(d) Promote diversification and end over-supply in major commodities, in order to raise
prices to fair and equitable levels for producers in poor countries; (e) Promote fair-
trade strategies allowing agricultural producers to charge more by placing a price
premium on greater social benefits and less environmental harm; (f) Review and reform the
intellectual property rules to enable developing countries to afford new technologies and
basic medicines, and farmers to benefit from adequate seed provision systems, retaining
the ability to save, exchange or sell seed, as well as to benefit indigenous people; (g)
Prohibit rules that force governments to liberalise or privatise basic services vital for
poverty reduction or the public interest; (h) Democratise the WTO; (i) Eliminate
all “environmentally perverse” subsidies, and redirect such resources to environmental
protection and social development; (j) Government should address the tension between the
trade environmental regimes. Trade rules must respect environmental and social/poverty
objectives; (k) Integrate the precautionary principle and “common but differentiated
responsibilities” principle into trade disputes and trade rules;(l) Introduce mechanisms
to assess the social, economic and environmental (sustainability) impacts prior to the
negotiation of any new WTO agreement; (m) Improve the quality of private-sector
investment and labour standards.
9. Financing Sustainable Development
26.Better financing for development is needed through improved and increased development
assistance targeting poverty reduction and sustainable development. Unfortunately, the
outcome of the Monterrey Financing for Development conference was disappointing, without
a clear deadline for achieving the commitment of developed countries to provide 0.7% of
their GNP to development assistance.
27.NGOs underscore the need for: (a) time frame to reach the 0.7% of GNP target for
development assistance by developed countries; (b) more transparent systems to ensure the
effective use of such assistance; (c) allocation of at least 20% of the funds to
education, health, agriculture for food security and natural resource management in the
least developed countries; (d) further relief or cancellation of the debts of highly
indebted developing countries, and restructuring of debt for countries with economies in
transition, taking into account environment and social aspects; (e) enhancement of
multilateral financing mechanisms, including replenishment of the Global Environment Fund
(GEF); (f) reallocation of budgets from military spending to poverty eradication and
sustainable development; (g) mechanisms such as global taxation to ensure that financial
markets and the private sector contribute to sustainable development; (h) financing the
transfer of environmentally sustainable technologies to enable developing countries to
leapfrog to sustainable technologies.
10. Focus on Africa’s Sustainable Development Initiatives
28.Urgent actions are required to stop the African region from being marginalised and
negatively affected by globalisation and structural adjustment programmes. The WSSD needs
to call for speedy action for change, which can support country and regional owned
processes aiming at sustainable development, poverty eradication, peace, security and
stability in the continent. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is
being promoted by a number of African governments. However, more public debate and
consultations with civil society are needed. African civil society has not played any
part in the conception, design and formulation of the NEPAD.
29.The Summit should agree to give special attention to the least developed countries in
Africa, including funding commitments, resolution of the debt burden, genuine technology
partnerships, capacity-building, and support for implementation of the Convention to
Combat Desertification. Furthermore, the Summit must address the impact of HIV/AIDS on
all aspects of Sustainable Development, implementing the actions and fulfilling the time
lines adopted at the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001.
11. Convention Ratification
30.The NGO community calls on all countries to ensure the ratification by the Summit of
conventions relevant to sustainable development, including the Kyoto Protocol, the
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement, the Basel Ban
Amendment, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP), Convention on
Prior Informed Consent in the Trade in Dangerous Chemicals and Pesticides (PIC), on which
negotiations have been concluded.