Monday, November 14, 2011

IBON International proposes minimum conditions for 'green economy' to work in developing countries

Adapted from IBON international’s Policy brief: Green economy - gain or pain for the earth’s poor?

There is a lot of attention being directed towards the Green Economy, raising fears that it may become the new framework for sustainable development in place of the long-recognized three pillars. This IBON Policy Brief takes a critical look at the concept of a Green Economy and shows how it is likely to fall short of advancing economic, ecological and social sustainability.

If the UN Green Economy Report ‘s green scenarios are the best it has to offer, developing countries will have to find radically different paths to sustainable development. As the debate heats up and specific points are critiqued further in the lead-up to Rio+20, social movements need to reemphasize in various forums and platforms at all levels the following at the minimum:

1. To reassert and further elaborate the principles of sustainable development as first enunciated in Rio 1992. These include, among others:

• the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, which addresses the asymmetries between developed and developing countries;

• the pre-eminence of social equity in attaining the correct balance among the three pillars of sustainable development; and

• UN and other international instruments that have been established or elaborated, incorporating Rio principles (including the UNFCCC and CBD treaties and protocols) with other principles that uphold human rights and social justice, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Declaration on the Right to Development, and Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), among others.

2. Based on these principles, to revisit Agenda 21 and restate the global goals of sustainable development in ways that recognize diverse national conditions and interests, with a strong emphasis on the needs and aspirations of developing countries where the majority of the world’s populations live, always guided by a rights-based approach as already enshrined and elaborated in UN and other international instruments, and with due respect to national sovereignty, country ownership, and full participation by civil society.

For governments to support sustainable alternative knowledge and practices that are in the hands of the people—biodiverse ecological agriculture, community-based renewable energy systems, community-driven stewardship of ecosystems—and the values of living well in harmony with people and nature as opposed to unbridled consumerism. These make the building blocks of genuine people-centered sustainable development that enhances people’s wellbeing, equity and justice for all. But they need to be supported and promoted by an enabling environment.

3. Sustainability is inextricably linked to employment and access to productive resources. Crucial to this is the democratization of ownership, control, and decision-making over productive resources and assets in society. We should move towards more democratic modes such as cooperative, community-based, commons or public forms of ownership to ensure that economic activity provides sustainable livelihoods for all and meets the developmental goals of the community and society. This means implementing thoroughgoing agrarian, aquatic and forestry reforms for the benefit of smallholders, women and indigenous peoples in particular, and to strengthen community based stewardship of natural resources and ecosystems.

4. To promote sufficiency-based economies, i.e., those that cater primarily towards meeting local needs and demands, developing local capacities, based on available resources, appropriate technologies and resource sharing. Countries should have the right to determine their patterns of food production and consumption, and farmers should be able to prioritize food production for domestic consumption. Local and national food systems should provide food that are healthy, of good quality and are culturally appropriate.

Food production and consumption should be localized as much as possible while food reserves should be established at the local, national and even regional level to raise the resilience of food systems.

There must be an end to perverse subsidies and support for the fossil fuel industry, for agrofuel plantations, for large scale mining, big dams, industrial farming and fishing and other activities that destroy lives and livelihoods of present and future generations.

Instead, there must be a rapid transition away from fossil fuels as energy sources and towards a mix of new, renewable energy sources, with special attention to that particularly amenable to decentralized and local use such as wind, solar, and micro-hydro power.

Manufacturing should promote closed-loop production where goods are produced with minimum use of energy and materials, longer lifespans and with maximum reuse and recycling of parts and components. There must be greater support for mass public transportation, even as walking, biking and other human-powered means should also be promoted as modes of transport for short distances.

5. A sustainability transition will involve adjustment costs. The highest costs should fall on global corporations, polluting industries and elites who will need to adjust to an economic redistribution. But the poor will also be affected, such as workers that work in fossil fuel industries when the shift to renewables takes place. Workers will need reskilling for green jobs and guarantees that hard-earned labor standards and union rights not be eroded in the transition. More importantly, workers need to have greater power in decision-making within the workplace and in society at large.

But social protection programs more generally—encompassing social insurance, social assistance and labor market regulations—should be enhanced and strengthened especially in developing countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts and food price volatility. Governments should support social protection programs as part of broader strategies for comprehensive social development; combined with universal provision of social services; rights-based; universal in coverage; and financed primarily through progressive financing mechanisms supported by non-debt creating international cooperation.

A social protection approach grounded in the recognition of basic human rights should provide adequate claimable entitlements for the entire population with affirmative action in favor of rural populations, women, national minorities, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups while ensuring fair distribution of burdens between generations.

Also, Southern countries that depend on energy and manufactured exports to the North will feel the pain when a transition to lower consumption begins in the North. A coordinated redistributive transition within and between countries is necessary to cushion the impacts to the poor.

6. On the basis of public, cooperative and community-based forms of ownership, participatory and inclusive modes of decision-making and planning can ensure that economic activity contributes to meeting the goals of the community such as employment, health, education, and so on. The principle of subsidiarity—devolving decision-making to as local a level as appropriate—should be
promoted. This should reignite local political reengagement.

Policies should respect cultural diversity, and modern science should be combined with traditional knowledge in bottom-up approaches of research and development to develop technologies that are appropriate and democratic.

7. International trade, investment, finance and development cooperation should be reoriented around rules that value, respect, protect and fulfill people’s rights; economic, social, gender ecological and climate justice; self-determination and self-sufficiency. Commitments from the North in the form of adequate financing (according to common but differentiated responsibility), appropriate technology cooperation, and needs-based capacity building are of utmost importance
to support developing countries make a just transition to sustainable development pathways.

Read the full IBON International's Briefing Paper on - Green economy: gain or pain for the earth’s poor? from here

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