Improving the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development: UNEP Deputy Executive Director Mon, Mar 26, 2012

20 years after the Rio Earth Summit we all know that while part of that journey has been made, the safari towards full citizen participation, full access to information and access to justice in environmental matters remains a sign post rather than a journey's end.

Welcome remarks by Ms. Amina Mohamed,

UN Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director, UNEP

"Improving the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development"

March 25, 2012

Church Center for the United Nations

777 First Avenue at 44th Street, New York

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

Dear Friends,

It is an honor for me to welcome you on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme and our partners to today's workshop.

It is aimed at addressing the key elements of reform of an Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development.

  • Ones that can ensure a full application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.

  • Ones that can lead to a new governance system that is inclusive and participatory and that takes into account the needs and demands of both current and future generations.

Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration mentions that "Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens".

20 years after the Rio Earth Summit we all know that while part of that journey has been made, the safari towards full citizen participation, full access to information and access to justice in environmental matters remains a sign post rather than a journey's end.

And while in Europe, the Aarhus Convention has bridged many of these gaps there is patchy progress especially in developing countries. New generations of global conventions are promoting the involvement of citizens in particular at national and local levels in sharing information and in decision making. Also a majority of conventions adopted after Rio, in particular chemicals related conventions, consider participation of citizens and of relevant stakeholders as an important element and condition of their successful implementation.

Delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

It is now less than 100 days until Rio+20.

The debate and discourse surrounding one of its overarching themes - a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication has matured considerably in recent months.

The challenge facing Rio+20 is to define the pathways and the policies that can scale-up and accelerate the transformations manifest and incubating across countries and continents in respect to this theme.

But clarity on the second theme - an institutional framework for sustainable development - and how to take this forward remains perhaps more opaque despite progress and analysis on some of the elements - International Environment Governance reform for example.

UNEP has and remains a strong supporter of Principle 10.

One example of UNEP's work in this respect is the "Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation for Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters".

We are committed to continue the work including through direct assistance to countries and major groups.

In a world where governments are no longer the only actors, the richness of ideas and actions undertaken by civil society and business, can and must play a significant role in realizing a sustainable century.

But this can only prove meaningful if those actors are equipped with sound and solid information in order to shape and sharpen the transformative decision-making process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One element of institutional reform could be building not only a wider role for civil society and other stakeholders, but an element of longevity in planning and decision-making that can offset some of the short-termism of many current political systems, economic strategies and plans and social actions.

Some political systems have already built long termism into their development paths.

Asked in the beginning of 1970s about the French Revolution of 1789 and its achievements, Mr. Zhou Enlai, the then Chinese Premier, is reported as saying "It is too early to tell".

The idea of an Ombudsperson for Future Generations - an idea already implemented in Hungary - has gained a measure of attention as one way of overcoming short termism at both the global level and perhaps mirrored at the national level too.

The establishment of such institution is proposed in the current version of the Zero draft document for Rio+20.

UNEP supports the establishment of such institutions and I would like to suggest that it should not only deal with future problems but should also be a place where to raise issues of existing in-equities in the world.

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Rio+20 offers a moment in time to take stock of what has been achieved over the past two decades, and what remains unfulfilled.

  • An opportunity too to agree on the big cooperative levers and pulleys able to take sustainable development from theory and patchy progress to decisive and defining implementation.
  • And an opportunity to recognize that our collective actions agreements need to reflect a world markedly different economically, geopolitically, socially and environmentally from the late 20th century.
  • A Summit that now needs urgent and clear leadership on both of its major themes so that the bottom up approach represented in part by the Green Economy has a top to which it can aim.

People across the globe are looking to their elected representatives and to the international bodies like the UN for answers - answers to youth unemployment, to environmental decline and pathways to sustainable progress.

I look forward to today's debate as part of the foundation upon which those answers will be forged, framed and delivered in June 2012 as part of establishing a fresh compass that can allow seven billion people, growing to over nine billion by 2050, a chance to fulfill their potential while protecting our planet.

I thank you for your kind attention

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