Social Watch: Global peace threatened

More than 300 civil society organizations submitted their proposals for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio2012). In its paper, Social Watch remembered that the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries (...) aggravating poverty and imbalances”, and warned that “this is still true today”.

As part of the preparations for Rio2012, to be held from 4 to 6 June 2012, states and other stakeholders provided before 1 November their contributions to be included in a compilation that will be the basis for the “zero draft” of the outcome document. That draft will be introduced next January.

In their proposals, Social Watch, Eurostep and the Third World Network (TWN) agreed about the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities of the countries as a cornerstone for the implementation of the sustainable development agenda, which they urged to reaffirm in Rio2012.

“Growing inequalities within and between countries is the obvious reason for that divergence of trends between the economy and social indicators,” warned Social Watch in its paper, based on the recently published Basic Capabilities Index 2011 (BCI). “The social indicators can only get worse as the impact of the global financial crisis started in Wall Street in 2008 start to be registered by internationally comparable statistics, a process that always lacks two to three years behind the processing of the economic indicators,” it added.

“Any formulation of ‘sustainable development goals’ that does not include adequate climate change targets or does not address the human rights aspects and the sustainability aspects simultaneously and in a balanced way, risks derailing the comprehensive sustainable development agenda without any compensatory gains,” remarked Social Watch, which annual report, to be launched in December in New York with contributions of more than 65 national coalitions, was also conceived as an input to the UN conference in Rio.

In the paper submitted to the UN, Social Watch regretted the failure of the international community to agree sustainable development indicators. “Global public goods cannot be provided by any single state acting alone, and they include the preservation of the life supporting functions of the atmosphere and the oceans (threatened by global climate change) or the reliability and stability of a global financial system, indispensable for trade and development but threatened by unhindered speculation, currency volatility and debt crises,” explains the report. “The failure to provide those public goods impacts the livelihoods of billions of people around the world and threatens the one public good that inspired the creation of the United Nations: global peace.”

In spite of the lack of progress in the fight against poverty, there are facts that “demonstrate that a better quality of life is achievable without requiring consumption and production patterns that destroy the environment,” such as the success of some countries “that have lowered their infant mortality to levels similar to those of the US with one tenth of the per capita CO2 emissions of North America.”

The document mentions the findings of the most recent BCI measurement to remark that “although the economic boom of the first decade of the century failed to boost social indicators, it did accelerate environmental destruction.”
“Between 1990 and 2000, the BCI improved five points (from 79 to 84), while the world per capita emissions of carbon dioxide actually decreased from 4.3 tons to 4.1. But in the first decade of the 21st century, world CO2 emissions moved up to 4.6 tons per capita and social indicators only moved up three points,” explained the report.

“Sustainability indicators […] refer to the depletion of a certain non renewable stock or asset. When those are part of the global commons international agreements are required to ensure sustainability,” it added. “Contrary to human well-being, which can be formulated in terms of goals, sustainability needs to be addressed in terms of limits. Limits can be an absolute ban on certain activities, such as the ban on whaling or on the emission of ozone depleting gases, or they can establish quotas to ensure non depletion, which can be assigned to economic actors through different market and non-market mechanisms respecting the equity and solidarity principles.”

More information
Basic Capabilities Index 2011:

Social Watch:
Inputs for Rio2012: