Reflection Group proposes changes that “future justice for all will require”

Two weeks before the United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro (Rio2012), 18 leading civil society activists and scholars from around the globe proposed concrete measures to effectively overcome the obstacles that prevent the world population to achieve a real sustainable development that enhances social equality and protects the environment. 

In its report, the Civil Society Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives “describes the root causes of the multiple crises” that suffers the planet, “reconfirms the framework of universal principles and rights, reconsiders development goals and indicators, and draws conclusions for the post-2015 development agenda.”

The text, launched this week, “seeks to stimulate debates about alternative development paths, participatory and inclusive governance structures, and the transformation in politics and societies that future justice for all will require,” reads the statement launched this week by the Group, comprised of members of Social Watch, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, terre des hommes, Third World Network, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, DAWN and the Global Policy Forum.

“Governments failed to bring their policies into line with the agreed principles of sustainability and human rights. Instead, policies are still too often sectorally fragmented and misguided, with an overreliance on economic growth and self-regulation of the ‘markets’. New concepts like ‘green growth’ are, at best, attempts to treat the symptoms of the problems without tackling their root causes,” warns the Group.

“All too often, national and international policies have not aimed at reducing inequalities,” summarizes the statement that will be launched officially at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, 16 June. “The dedication to stimulating economic growth has provided the incentive to exploit nature, rely on the use of fossil fuels and deplete biodiversity, undermining the provision of essential services. Women, especially the poor, continue to suffer from social and economic discrimination and in many places are deprived of their bodily, reproductive and sexual rights. Biodiversity and the bounty of nature, while cherished, are not respected, protected or valued. Communities and populations that seek to live in harmony with nature find their rights ignored and their livelihoods and cultures jeopardized.”

“We have exceeded the ecological limits and ignore the planetary boundaries. With the climate change threat we are already living on borrowed time. However, we refuse to cut back on emissions and allocate the scarce resources to those who have not yet benefitted from their exploitation,” warned the Reflection Group, created almost two years ago by an alliance of civil society groups, networks and foundations to provide specific policy recommendations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio2012), among other tasks.

The activists and experts proposed “fundamental changes at three levels”: “changes in the mindset, the guiding concepts and indicators of development and progress”; “changes in fiscal and regulatory policies at national, regional and international levels in order to effectively overcome social inequalities and the degradation of nature and to strengthen sustainable economies”, and “changes in institutions and governance mechanisms at national, regional and international levels.”

“To date, a holistic approach of sustainability has not been adopted for action. It is necessary to redefine, for public policy and public life, the concepts of development and well-being, along with their content, their metrics and their strategies,” adds the Group, which members are Alejandro Chanona, Barbara Adams, Beryl d'Almeida, Chee Yoke Ling, Danuta Sacher, Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Filomeno Santa Ana III, George Chira, Josefa 'Gigi' Francisco, Henning Melber, Hubert Schillinger, Jorge Ishizawa, Dasho Karma Ura, Roberto Bissio, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Yao Graham, Jens Martens, and Wolfgang Obenland.

These social society representatives and scholars remarked that “every concept of development, well-being and progress in societies is based on a set of fundamental principles and values” that “are rooted deeply in our cultures, our ideologies and our belief systems.”

In that sense, they proposed a “set of eight principles as the foundation for a new sustainability rights framework”, that “are interconnected and must not be applied in isolation” and “should build the cornerstones of a universal sustainability rights framework”. They are the “solidarity principle”, the “’Do no harm’ principle”, the “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”, the “’polluter pays’ principle”, the “precautionary principle”, the “subsidiarity principle”, the “principle of free, prior and informed consent”, and the “principle of peaceful dispute settlement”.

The statement also refers to “fundamental values, which are also essential to international relations,” some of them included in the Millennium Declaration, such as “freedom, equality, diversity and respect for nature”. But most of the governments “have mostly failed to translate them into enforceable, guaranteed obligations and specific policies.”

The document postulates “a framework for global sustainability goals”, with a preliminary list that is the “result of a joint brainstorming exercise of Reflection Group members”. It is made up by six “core goals”: “dignity and human rights for all”, “promoting equality and justice”, “respect for nature and the planetary boundaries”, “building peace through disarmament”, “fostering fair and resilient financial systems”, and “strengthening democratic and participatory governance”.

“Twenty years ago, the concept of ‘sustainable development’ was adopted at the highest level in Rio de Janeiro to simultaneously aim at preserving the planet for future generations and promoting a sound development to meet the needs of the present ones,” explained the Social Watch network international coordinator, Roberto Bissio. “Twenty years after, the volume of international trade has multiplied by five and the per capita world income has doubled to around ten thousand dollars a year. And yet sustainable development is far from being achieved. Increased resources has not accelerated poverty reduction and instead social inequality is on the rise in most countries, North and South, while the unsustainable production and consumption patterns have already overstepped several ‘planetary boundaries’.”

The full report is published in the Development Dialogue series of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation (Development Dialogue No. 59/ June 2012) in cooperation with Social Watch, Third World Network, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Global Policy Forum and terre des hommes.

More information
Civil Society Reflection Group: “We are already living on borrowed time”:
Reflection Group:

Full Report:
Executive Summary: