Rio +20: ‘involving civil society’ (and squirrels)

They are from a few months’ ago, but I’ve been looking at the consolidated comments from ‘civil society or stakeholder sectors’ to the Rio+ 20 outcome document.

Here’s just one sentence from the already verbose original:

We are convinced that a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication should contribute to meeting key goals – in particular the priorities of poverty eradication, food security, sound water management, universal access to modern energy services, sustainable cities, management of oceans and improving resilience and disaster preparedness, as well as public health, human resource development and sustained, inclusive and equitable growth that generates employment, including for youth.

Here are the comments:

[Implementing Green economy had to be seen as one of the means for achieving sustainable development, which must remain our overarching goal. – NGOs] [We – NGOs – Delete] [are convinced – Women – Delete] [that a green economy in the context of – Women / NGOs – Delete] [green economies – NGOs] [reaffirm– Women] [Transforming the economy in the context of – NGOs] [sustainable development and poverty eradication –NGOs –Delete / NGOs – Not Delete (Non-agreement between NGOs)] [policies – NGOs] [has the potential – NGOs] [as our overarching goals, and that greening of the economy – Women] [should contribute to meeting – NGOs – Delete] [key – Women/NGOs – Delete] [these – Women] [goals – NGOs – Delete / NGOs – Not Delete(Non-agreement between NGOs)] [This will result in development which brings human well-being, social equity and gender equality whilst remaining within the carrying capacity of the planet and halting irreversible damage to our environment and natural resources. – Women] [ in – Women/NGOs – Delete] [particular – NGOs – Delete] [the – Women/NGOs – Delete] [priorities – NGOs – Delete] [of – Women/NGOs – Delete] [poverty eradication, – NGOs – Delete] [access to voluntary reproductive health services, nutritional security – NGOs] [health, – Women/NGOs] [social inclusion, safeguarding human health, food and nutrition – NGOs] [food security, – NGOs – Delete][food sovereignty, sound resources management – NGOs] [reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity conservation, land restoration, – NGOs] [sound water management, universal access to – NGOs – Delete] [modern – Women/NGOs – delete] [sustainable – Women] [energy services, sustainable cities, – NGOs – Delete] [ecosystem resilience, – NGOs] [management of oceans – NGOs – Delete] [and landscapes – NGOs] [and improving resilience and disaster preparedness, as well as public health, human resource development and sustained, inclusive and equitable – NGOs – Delete] [growth – NGOs] [and sustainable use of natural systems – NGOs] [growth – NGOs – Delete] [development – NGOs] [that generates – NGOs – Delete] [that respects traditional livelihoods and occupations and – NGOs] [employment – NGOs/Workers & Trade Unions – Delete] [green and – NGOs] [decent work – Workers & Trade Unions / NGOs], [including – NGOs – Delete] [expanded opportunities for women and – Women] [for youth. – NGOs – Delete] [, while remaining within the carrying capacity of the planet. – NGOs] [, while combating climate change and respecting a range of other critical natural boundaries at relevant scales – NGO]

In total, there are 90 odd pages of this garbage – and that’s just where civil society ‘clusters’ have been able to reach a common position.

Individual organisations then flog their own hobby horse half to death for a further 200 pages. My favourite comes from the International Organization for the Protection and Welfare of Squirrels, which suggests additions such as these:

…many Species of wild animals that inhabit the mountains, some of them of a vital importance and value for the life of mountains – such as Squirrels, which are credited with maintaining and developing the forests for millions of years by burying the nuts and planting the trees.

Beyond parody.

Oceans: The Story Of Hope For Rio+20?


With six weeks to go before the Rio+20 circus arrives in town, negotiators are working the corridors of the UN to agree on the outcome document so that the 120 world leaders who are planning to come will have something to sign. Oceans have had pride of place within the draft text since the beginning, and although things are delicate, it looks like increasingly likely that we might see a real agreement on the high seas at Rio.

Perhaps to raise the profile of the oceans, we could send Juan Carlos of Spain on a fishing trip?

Should we have Sustainable Development Goals as well as (or indeed instead of) MDGs?

Later today in New York, a 2 day meeting on the idea of ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ will begin, bringing together numerous countries’ Permanent Representatives to the United Nations plus a whole host of environment and development experts from capitals. It’s going to be an interesting meeting.

The idea of ‘SDGs’, after all, has acquired a lot of political momentum in recent months. Partly that’s because they’re seen as a potential outcome from this summer’s Rio+20 sustainable development conference – at a point when very few concrete outcomes from Rio appear to be in prospect (see the ‘zero draft outcome document’ pdf that was published earlier this month). The SDGs agenda is also topical given that the Millennium Development Goals are due to hit their 2015 deadline pretty soon, raising the question of what should come after them. (See Claire’s excellent recent publications, like this and this, on that for a full briefing on where things stand on that front.)

But the funny thing is that there’s remarkably little clarity on what SDGs would cover, or how they’d work. Would they just run from now to 2015, alongside the existing MDGs, and cover a few ‘gaps’ that were missed out in the MDGs – like access to energy? Or would they in fact take over from the MDGs after 2015, thus becoming the new organising framework for global development policy? These are big questions – and at a time, of course, when multilateralism has really been struggling to make much running not just on Rio preparations, but also on climate, trade, and any number of other key issue areas.

Against this backdrop, David and I have just published a short CIC briefing paper (pdf) that discusses where we are on the SDGs agenda – and how it might usefully pan out from here. In a nutshell, our argument is that policymakers should think twice before regarding SDGs as an “easy win” from Rio. We argue that this is a very complex and potentially very contentious area of policy – and that policymakers should play a long game at this stage rather than going for quick wins that could all too easily backfire. Accordingly, we think that discussion of SDGs at Rio should go no further than discussion of broad principles and raising the level of ambition. A lot more shared awareness – not just between policymakers, but also with publics, private sector, media, civil society and so on – is needed before the discussion about specifics gets underway in earnest.