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CSD NGO Women's Caucus

CSD Update

August 2000, SPECIAL  ISSUE

RIO + 10
1992 - 2002

The countdown has begun, and less than two years remain. In 2002, the world takes a critical look back at the historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is time to start now on making the ten-year review comprehensive, frank and useful.

A Pioneering Outcome

The Earth Summit made history by bringing global attention to the understanding, new at the time, that the planet's environmental problems were intimately linked to economic conditions and problems of social justice. It showed that the social, environmental and economic needs must be met in a balance with each other for sustainable outcomes in the long term. It showed that if people are poor, and national economies are weak, the environment suffers; if the environment is abused and resources are over consumed, people suffer and economies decline. The conference also pointed out that the smallest local actions or decisions, good or bad, have potential worldwide repercussions.

The Rio de Janeiro gathering outlined the way that various social, economic and environmental factors are interdependent and change together. It identified the critical elements of change, showing that success in one area requires action in the others in order to continue over time. 

UNCED proclaimed the concept of sustainable development as a workable objective for everyone around the world, whether at the local, national, regional or international level. That integrating and balancing economic, social and environmental concerns in meeting our needs is a must to continue human life on the planet, and that such an integrated approach is achievable if we put our heads and hands together. But that achieving this kind of integration and balance between economic, social and environmental dimensions would require new ways of looking at how we produce and consume, how we live, how we work, how we get along with each other, or how we make decisions. The concept was revolutionary and like all original ideas it started a lively debate among governments, and between governments and their citizens on how to achieve sustainability. 

A major achievement of UNCED was Agenda 21-- a thorough and broad-ranging programme of actions demanding new ways of investing in our future to reach global sustainable development in the 21st century. Its recommendations ranged from new ways to educate, to new ways to care for natural resources, and new ways to participate in designing a sustainable economy. The overall ambition of Agenda 21 was breathtaking, for its goal was nothing less than to make a safe and just world in which all life has dignity and is celebrated. 

What has been accomplished since 1992? What have the participating countries done so far to implement Agenda 21? Have they adopted the National Sustainable Development Strategies as they agreed they would by 2002? Have they ratified the conventions that aim to prevent loss of biodiversity or ensure women's rights as they agreed to do in 1992? What obstacles have they encountered? What lessons have they learned about what works and what does not? And what new factors have emerged to change the picture? What mid-course corrections need to be made to reach the goals? Where should further efforts be concentrated? It is time to find out. 

Assessing the Past, Planning the Future and Winning Contests

Rio+10 will be a summit gathering in 2002 of world governments, concerned citizens, United Nations    agencies, multilateral financial institutions and other major actors to assess global change since the Earth Summit of 1992. A focused agenda will foster discussion of findings in particular environmental sectors (forests, oceans, climate, energy, fresh water, and so on) as well as in cross-sector areas such as economic conditions, new technologies and globalisation. 

The gathering will consider fully the impact of the revolutions in technology, biology and communications that have changed most of the world since 1992, while remembering that one out of every six individuals on Earth is yet to make a telephone call. New financial instruments, the functioning of international financial institutions and markets will also be evaluated for their implications for the future.

The summit gathering will not open Agenda 21 for revision, but it will seek consensus on the general assessment of current conditions, and on priorities for further action in new areas or issues. Decisions will aim to strengthen commitment of all parties to achieving the goals of Agenda 21.

All types of citizens' groups from business and industry to scientists, from indigenous people to young people, from community leaders to trade unions are urged to take part in the evaluation process that are now being launched in every nation. Broad participation is critical. This global stock taking must begin with the facts of life as individuals are living it now. Governments cannot do this alone if further action is to be owned by all and thus be effective in achieving the ultimate goal of sustainability.

This initial stage is crucial to the overall process. Comprehensive data already on hand from local sources worldwide need to be pooled with policy information and analyzed for meaning. Making the outcome meaningful must be a shared responsibility among  governments and all major groups. And, the critical analysis must begin now at every level if the findings are to be ready in time for Rio+10

How is this process best to be undertaken? The CSD Secretariat suggests that in addition to the usual methods, countries organize national competitions that will encourage local groups, community leaders, schools, families, and individuals from all walks of life to look about for evidence of change and bring it to their governments' attention. More on this below. 


Present to Spring 2001:  National preparations for Rio+10. 
Governments will be setting up national preparatory processes to document and evaluate domestic conditions in the interdependent triangle of social, economic and environmental dimensions and to propose new commitments for national action. The preparatory committees will seek the greatest possible dialogue among the greatest possible range of people, giving all of them a stake in achieving sustainable development. Such a multi-stakeholder dialogue should involve government ministries, agencies and branches as well as a broad range of representatives from the non-governmental sectors. National focal points, National Sustainable Development Councils (where they exist), and national Parliaments need to enlist in the effort. This wide outreach will ensure the maximum possible public interest in and contribution to the assessment process.

Through surveys, observations, interviews, community gatherings and national competitions, the national preparatory committees will collect information on local and national changes since 1992, as well as suggestions for strengthening trends toward sustainable development. The National Reports that governments have prepared since 1992 will be a useful place to begin outlining domestic progress in implementing the goals of Agenda 21, describing  successful practices and achievements and obstacles to further progress. The national preparatory committees will also report on areas where future effort might best be concentrated, where the transition to sustainable development seems to be   underway, and areas where mid-course corrections are indicated. A focus on specific indicators of movement, in the form of three or four targets for future national sustainability progressions, will provide tangible and specific outcomes.

Spring 2001 to Winter 2001/2002:  Regional Preparations. 
Governments, NGOs and other interested parties will send delegations to a series of regional conferences that will compare national findings and seek consensus on regional priorities. Such gatherings are planned for Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Western Asia, Europe, and Asia and the Pacific. Each regional meeting will guarantee dialogue among as many regional stakeholders as possible. These gatherings will formulate a "platform" of regionally relevant policy issues and priorities, with action areas of greatest success and local examples highlighted in a regional report, along with areas of primary concern. 

A Regional Agenda 21 Roundtable will precede each regional preparatory conference. These roundtables will bring together prominent regional experts to conduct an unfettered discussion of regional problems, solutions and priorities including identification of regional progression targets for the next phase of work towards sustainable development.

Fall 2001 to Summer 2002:  Global Preparations and Summit Conference. 
The United Nations Secretary General will prepare reports based on the findings of the national and regional preparatory meetings as well as inputs from the concerned United Nations agencies (such as the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the Rio Conventions and others) and contributions from non-governmental sectors.  A number of special inputs are already in preparation.  For example, UNEP has initiated preparations for the third Global Environmental Outlook (GEO3). The GEO3 process will take a  30-year retrospective (starting with the 1972 Stockholm conference on environment) and a 30-year forward looking perspective with the aim to re-frame the way international community understands and responds to the environment in the new millennium. GEO3 will gather and synthesize knowledge of over 850 experts in more than 35 scientific institutions around the world and will be completed in 2002.

The outcomes of other recent global conferences such as the 1994 Cairo conference on population, the 1995 Beijing conference on women, and the 1996 Istanbul conference on human settlements will be considered. The South-South Summit of April 2000, the Global Ministerial Environmental Forum in Malmo in May 2000, and the high-level consultation on Finance for Development 2000-2001 will also contribute. The findings from the Earth Summit+5 review, the Programme for the Further  Implementation of Agenda 21 adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997, will be thoroughly assimilated. This comprehensive progress report will fully and fairly  represent the voices of developing countries, and stress measures to combat poverty along with measures to change consumption patterns. 

The Commission on Sustainable Development will start the inter-governmental work on the global assessment in early 2002. In each step of the global assessment exercise, special multi-stakeholder dialogue segments will be included to welcome views from stakeholder groups based on their experience and aspirations. 

The culminating step in the Rio+10 process will be a Summit Conference in which Heads of State or Government will seek consensus on the outcomes of the assessment process and on the priority targets for further national, regional and international action to implement Agenda 21. A special multi-stakeholder dialogue at the Summit meeting will allow leaders of Governments and major non-governmental institutions to share with each other their specific sustainable development commitments for the next phase of work. The Summit meeting will attempt to offer a time-bound set  of recommendations on ways to overcome obstacles to implementation, along with the institutional and financial requirements of those recommendations. If feasible, the conference will seek to identify  likely sources of the necessary financial support.

Can We Get There From Here?

With less than two years to go to Rio+10, national preparations are urgent. Countries and citizens should already have begun setting up preparatory processes. But to promote the kind of public interest and personal involvement that is essential to the ultimate success of Agenda 21, an innovative approach is required. Citizens at large must become informed about sustainable development and committed to its principles in their own lives if those principles are ever to effect the necessary global change. 

Therefore the CSD Secretariat invites country governments to set up four  national competitions that will involve all sectors of the public and the media, as well as all sectors of the government itself, in thinking and talking about the elements of sustainable development. The contests will engage citizens everywhere in considering national achievements and challenges in their own lives since 1992, and will elicit their ideas for making further progress. The four suggested competitions are as follows:

A.   101 Ways to Sustainable Development
National preparatory committees will invite their national stakeholders to nominate local sustainable development activities for selection as the one that has brought the most successful results in that country. The national  finalists and winners will be listed for notice at regional and global preparatory meetings, posted on the Rio+10 website, and honoured and publicised at the Summit meeting. 

Policy changes, local projects, community partnerships, media campaigns, school programs and other efforts will be eligible for   nomination by national and local authorities, NGOs, professional associations, media outlets, schools and teachers and individuals. National preparatory committees will select finalists and one winner in each country, using the following criteria:
Does the activity focus on specific objectives of Agenda 21?
Does it include objectives, targets and outcomes in the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, social and environmental)?
Does it show tangible results?
Is it participatory in design and  implementation?
Does it demonstrate an element of innovative co-operation? 
The selection process will contribute to the country's national assessment by spotlighting useful projects, identifying innovative ways that have been found to implement Agenda 21 for sharing elsewhere, and promoting new partnerships among disparate groups.    Detailed descriptions of national winners and their projects will be collected into one publication for distribution to regional and global preparatory conferences. This will facilitate the sharing of successful practices worldwide, generate hope where it may be needed, and demonstrate the way that international co-operation can be mobilised in support of national efforts. Some project leaders or initiators of the winning activities may be invited to regional preparatory conferences, or to the main 2002 event, and a special exhibit or presentation of the collection of 101 Ways is being considered.

B.   Visions of Sustainable Development for the 21st Century
The national preparatory committees will invite their citizens to compose essays visualising the challenges, concerns and opportunities of sustainable development during the 21st century. The national committee may group the entries by age, profession or theme, and select one 'winner' in each group. Cooperating national media may be encouraged to publish the visions of the national finalists and 'winners'. The winning visions will be compiled and published as a United Nations publication that will be widely disseminated worldwide including at the regional preparatory meetings and at the Summit event.

C.   Children's Agenda 21 Posters
Schoolchildren age 7 to 12 will be invited to prepare and submit posters capturing the aspirations and concerns of Agenda 21 themes. National preparatory committees will enlist support from national teachers' associations, United Nations information Centres and UNESCO offices, as well as any other co-operating local children's welfare or assistance organisations, to collect the entries and help judge the contest. As with the other competitions, winners' work will be exhibited at the 2002 Summit.

D.   Progressions: National Targets for Progress
The national preparatory committees will engage in a broad-based consultation involving national agencies as well as citizen's groups so far as it is feasible. The consultations will identify 3-4 specific sustainable development targets that are achievable in the next five or ten years and which could make a significant difference in the country's progress towards sustainable development. The progressions could range from launching processes for developing legal instruments, to comprehensive data gathering programs, or experiments with new and innovative financing mechanisms. The identified targets could be announced at the 2002 Summit event in a high-level multi-stakeholder dialogue segment. The progression targets could also be shared with other governments at the regional preparatory conferences.

The CSD website will publicise all four contests and track national progress  in recruiting entries and selecting   winners. Non-governmental networks and media organizations wll be enlisted to co-operate and to take part by submitting or encouraging entries and offering suggestions for contest administration. 

For all events, the CSD Secretariat proposes that planning be completed and competitions announced by 1 December 2000. Publicity and excitement should build throughout the following months, with finalists selected in the government for the essay and project competitions by 15 April 2001, for compilation and transmission to regional and global preparatory conferences. Winners of the Children's Agenda 21 Posters contest should be selected by 1 January 2002, to allow time for reproduction in publications for the 2002 main event.

Let  Us  Hear  From  You

The CSD Secretariat would like to hear from you about your work in promoting sustainable development in preparation for Rio +10. We will be printing regular reports in CSD UPDATE about the conference planning process and gatherings as they occur, and we will post news continually on our website:

The Rio+10 review process will  require significant personal involvement and commitment by thousands of people worldwide if it is to be useful, relevant  and comprehensive. We welcome your suggestions and stand ready to assist wherever possible.

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CSD Update is a bi-monthly newsletter of the Secretariat of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.

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Coordinator, CSD Update
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Tel:  (212) 963-8429
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Ms. Zehra Aydin-Sipos
Major Groups Focal Point
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U. S. A.

Tel:  (212) 963-8811
Fax:  (212) 963-1267

Mr. Andrey Vasilyev
Sustainable Development Advisor
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Tel:  (212) 963-5949
Fax:  (212) 963-4260

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