Staffan Nilsson, European Economic and Social Committee


The zero draft, which summarises key issues forming the basis of the Rio+20 final agreement is a good starting point for subsequent negotiations. But it still falls far short of the hopes and ambitions of organised civil society in Europe, for what could and should be achieved by the Rio process. We look to the European institutions - the Council, the Commission and the Parliament - to be equally resolute in pressing the case for a stronger and more purposeful programme to be created at Rio, and to give our European negotiators a powerful mandate to settle for nothing less.

 

EUdelegation250There was one sentence in the blog article by Stephen Hale in the Guardian recently which really resonated with me and our work on Rio+20 here at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC):  ‘global summits don't make big promises unless civil society demands it’. I agree that we need to unite to tackle common problems. The EESC is striving to formulate a strong joint message from civil society organisations across Europe, to European and world leaders, about the change we need Rio+20 to drive.


We are organising a conference on 7-8 February, the message of which is ‘Go sustainable, be responsible!’ and the goal of which is to voice and bring together European civil society's contributions in preparation for Rio+20. We are also gathering comments on the zero draft through a virtual conversation within the European civil society community, where stakeholders can comment on the document or simply submit answers to the one question I also keep asking myself: What would you advise our leaders to commit to on behalf of our children and grandchildren?


I'm happy to see that the zero draft recognises the limitations of GDP as a measure of well-being. Of course, proposals for alternative measuring tools involve widespread public dialogue. We held a hearing on ‘GDP on the road to Rio+20: Civil society's involvement in the development of complementary indicators’ on 26 January, which aimed to put forward ideas on ways to allow for effective civil society involvement in this very technical, but highly political debate.

 

We want to put across a strong message to European leaders and to the world about what Rio could, and should, achieve. We need a suitable programme for greening the global economy that is still not set out in the zero draft and which is essential for bringing about a real and sustainable recovery from the current economic problems. We will also need to draw special attention to adequate financial support for developing countries to face these transformation challenges. This needs to be further developed.

 

As to governance, the draft includes some interesting ideas about strengthening the UN machinery for advancing sustainable development and I am particularly happy to see the proposal for an Ombudsperson for Future Generations taken up in the draft.

However, the zero draft does not yet properly address the social and equity agenda. Neither has it much to say about strengthening the national machinery, or the crucial role of regional and local government, business, social partners and other sectors of civil society.

 

The EU has an essential part to play over the next six months in driving this forward. Much still needs to be done to put more flesh on the dry bones of this first draft and create an agreement and a new global programme of action that is commensurate with the sustainability challenge the world is facing.