Information and (random) thoughts on environmental governance
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Are Governments Ready for Rio 2012?

Guest post by Carole Excell

Photo credit: flickr/David Berkowitz

Though the next Earth Summit, Rio+20, will take place next June, few governments have started to seriously assess their progress towards achieving the internationally agreed upon sustainable development goals outlined in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, according to a recent survey from the Access Initiative.

Time is running short. In order to have a successful Rio+20, governments must submit meaningful and ambitious goals to the Zero Draft of the Outcome Document by November 1, which will outline the agenda and discussion points for Rio+20.

At the 1992 Earth Summit, governments gathered to rethink economic development, protection of the environment, and empowerment of people. Two of the most notable outcomes were the Rio Declaration, which outlined the principles needed to support sustainable development, and Agenda 21, the action plan for reaching these sustainable development goals (see box).

The 1992 Earth Summit was a great success in that it established a new perspective on the relationship between humans and the environment, however its legacy has been waning. Monetary policies have not balanced environment and development concerns, capacity building is a sidelined pillar of sustainable development, and governments have not progressed consistently in implementing refined ecosystem management practices.

The inability of the international community to implement the environmental and development objectives laid out 20 years ago in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 requires governments to critically reflect on why these internationally-agreed upon objectives were not or could not be fulfilled.

  • The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development is comprised of 27 principles that lay out objectives to achieving environmental well-being and reduction of poverty and waste.
  • Agenda 21 is the “blueprint” for global partnership to address specified challenges facing the international community: how to link society, economy, and nature (2) protection of natural resources, and inclusion of the public in decision-making.
  • Principle 10 states that environmental decisions are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level.

The 5 Questions Campaign

In late spring 2011 The Access Initiative (TAI), a network of civil society organizations promoting the implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, submitted five questions to governments focusing on how states were progressing in their preparations for Rio+20 and implementing this principle nationally. The “5 Questions Campaign” asked 24 governments questions related to Rio+20; governments were given 60 days to respond. Fifteen of the 24 governments responded with information directly related to the questions; most provided indefinite progress reports and were non-committal in their preparation efforts. (A detailed write-up of each of the countries’ responses can be found on the TAI website. Eight Latin American, three African, three European, and one Asian country responded.) In summary governments:

  • Made broad statements supporting citizen participation, information access, and justice but did not provide examples of how Principle 10 had been implemented, practiced, or protected, making no reference to improving commitments for Rio+20.
  • Advocated the importance of a “green economy” and “sustainable development,” but warned against a conference dedicated to the issue of the green economy which would derail the theme of improving the institutional framework for sustainable development.
  • Acknowledged that they had not yet begun forming committees or councils to reach out to the public about Rio+20; some cited resource constraints, while one government department responsible for the environment acknowledged they were unaware of Rio+20.

The 5 Question campaign illustrates that governments’ preparations for Rio+20 are insufficient; if Rio+20 is going to implement legitimate action plans on goals for sustainable development, governments need to quickly begin:

  • Reflecting on internal progress on Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration.
  • Articulating to stakeholders how to become engaged with Rio+20 preparation process and how the government itself is preparing for next year’s summit.
  • Outlining their national, regional, and international goals relating to both Rio+20 themes with a specific focus on strengthening the institutional framework for sustainable development.

TAI maintains that there will be a missed opportunity at Rio+20 if governments do not carefully address improvements needed to national environmental governance. TAI’s ultimate goal is getting governments on record stating specific, measurable objectives, such as implementation of access laws or opening up more space for public participation. TAI wants governments to articulate how they will capitalize on Rio+20 to achieve their national-level goals– and to hold these governments accountable for action (or lack thereof) taken.

TAI partners will work with governments who have acknowledged civil society’s important role to discuss improving implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. TAI also seeks to use Rio+20 as an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of civil society participation to governments who have yet to formerly recognize the role of civil society. National-level preparation and goal-setting is essential for serious international action and a successful Rio+20.

The Five Questions

  1. What is the most important outcome that the government would like to see from Rio 2012?
  2. Is the government currently undertaking a process to review its progress to date in achieving commitments outlined in Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation?
  3. What are the government’s current plans to include stakeholder input into the discussions on the two themes for the conference, a green economy and sustainable development governance?
  4. Would the government support a call for the development of regional conventions to implement Principle 10 (P10), guaranteeing citizen rights of access to environmental information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental decision-making?
  5. Has the government designated officials responsible for organizing and preparing for Rio 2012?

Read more about the implementations TAI is pushing for at Rio+20.

This piece was written with Emma Smith, an intern with The Access Initiative.

July 13, 2011   No Comments

Multilateral Governance in Large-scale Marine Systems

Purple anemone (Heteractis magnifica) and resi...

Image via Wikipedia

The Reefs at Risk Revisited, a report by the World Resources Institute released late last month, warns of a “global coral crisis” with 75% of coral reefs currently in danger from overfishing, pollution and climate change. If these threats persist, it is estimated that more than 90% of reefs will be at risk by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050.

At the centre of this “global coral crisis” is the Coral Triangle, a region regarded as the epicentre of marine life diversity – with 76% of all known coral species and 53% of the world’s coral reefs, where more than 100 million people depend directly on marine and coastal resources for income, livelihood and food security.

In 2009, the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands adopted the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI) as an attempt to reverse the decline in the marine environment and pursue a more sustainable use of marine resources in the region. The governance of large-scale marine systems, such as the Coral Triangle can be remarkably complex and fragmented. At the regional level, it is critical to consider the governance “seascape” in which large-scale action is designed and implemented.

Dr Julia Ekstrom presented this morning at the Resilience 2011 Conference, Arizona State University, the paper “Navigating Multilateral Governance in the Coral Triangle”, which examines the extant governance for the CTI region and how multilateral arrangements relate to the priorities of the CTI (seascapes, ecosystem approach, marine protected areas, climate change adaptation and threatened species). In the paper, it was undertaken a multidimensional exploration of 190 documents (conventions, treaties, agreements, action plans, memoranda of understanding etc.) by using text analysis and network diagrams.

Several multilateral arrangements apply to the priorities of the CTI; for example, fisheries is a topic covered in 69% of the arrangements. The Coral Triangle appears to suffer from “Treaty Congestion” that can generate tensions between environmental regimes, characteristic of ineffective responses to environmental degradation. The paper suggests that the CTI should seek to coordinate its actions with those of related efforts to maximise implementation and reduce overlaps and conflicts.

 

Related information

 

March 16, 2011   No Comments

A Sourcebook on Property Rights and Collective Action for Sustainable Development

The CGIAR Program on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRi) has published its first Sourcebook on Property Rights and Collective Action for Sustainable Development.
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The sourcebook is based directly on the experiences and lessons of CAPRi research from around the world. Its content is based on sound underlying research, but the presentation is simple, straightforward, and accessible. The objective of the book is to build capacity of research and development organizations to recognize the importance and relevance of CAPRi concepts and to apply the lessons and methods from CAPRi research to their work with communities, policymakers, and other stakeholders. It is our hope that it will serve not only as a relevant and practical guide for development practitioners, trainers, and policymakers, but will also be used in universities and other institutions of higher learning.

The book is freely available for download on http://www.capri.cgiar.org/sourcebook.asp

January 6, 2011   No Comments