We, Non-Government Organizations (NGO) gathered from around the world, are increasingly concerned by UNCED's lack of progress and regressive trends since its original mandate. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) has not even begun to address the fundamental issues that must be dealt with to alleviate the twin crises of environment and development worldwide. On the contrary, on many issues the Earth Summit is clearly moving backwards.
Fundamentally, UNCED has thus far failed to make a strong commitment to meeting the priority needs of women, indigenous peoples, youth, NGOs and social movements. Special attention must be directed at strengthening democratic rights and gender balance in institutions, policy and decision making process, and programs.
We believe that, for UNCED to become part of the solution rather than the problem, it must address the challenges listed below. Without them the planet's chances of survival will grow even slimmer.
This ten point plan should be built into the Earth Charter and Agenda 21 along with a commitment to place the environment, and all the life it supports, as its first priority.
CLIMATE CHANGE: As part of a Climate Change Convention, UNCED must agree to legally binding targets and timetables for substantial reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions, in particular CO2. Industrialized nations must be the first to act on this. The Bush administration's refusal to even consider CO2 emission cuts is setting the Earth Summit up for failure.
CONSUMPTION PATTERNS: UNCED must call for a cut in the North's consumption of resources and an immediate transformation of technology to create ecological sustainability in the North. This is essential if the needs of both present and future generations are to be fulfilled.
ECONOMIC REFORM: UNCED should initiate a process of global economic reform that will reverse the South-North outflow of resources, improve the South's terms of trade, and reduce its debt burden. Such reform is essential if the South is to gain the necessary economic space to implement a transition to ecologically sound and socially equitable development.
GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY: While UNCED must generate new and additionalresources to solve global environmental problems, it must also call for an end to World Bank control of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The World Bank's disastrous record of promoting environmental destruction, as well as Third World poverty, makes it the least suitable agency to manage funds generated by the Earth Summit.
TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS: UNCED must call for strong national and international regulation of transnational corporations rather than the unacceptable self-regulation currently proposed. The Earth Summit should also call for restoration and strengthening of the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations, rather than allowing the Business Council for Sustainable Development to go unopposed in the UNCED process.
HAZARDOUS WASTES: UNCED must call for a ban on the export of hazardous wastes and dirty industries worldwide, thus fortifying existing regional waste trade bans. It must also pressure he North to solve its own toxic and nuclear waste problems. Proposals to this effect have either been rejected at UNCED or watered down to insignificance by the OECD countries.
FORESTS: UNCED must address the real causes of forest destruction (tropical, temperate, boreal) globally, and promote equitable international principles. In addition, UNCED must recognize and support land and cultural rights of indigenous peoples and traditional forest dwellers. Plantingne trees, as UNCED proposes, cannot be a substitute for saving existing natural forests and the cultures that live in them.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND POWER: UNCED must call for an end to all nuclear weapons testing, and the rapid phase-out of all nuclear power plants. In the midst of nuclear disasters, weapons tests and near-accidents, these issues have been inexplicably excluded from the Earth Summit agenda.
BIOTECHNOLOGY: UNCED must take urgent and binding safety measures (including, at the very least, an intenational code of conduct on safety in biotechnology) to control the health and environmental risks of biotechnology research and application.
TRADE: UNCED must not endorse free trade as the key to achieving "sustainable development." It must reconcile trade practices with environmental protection. Social, political and environmental concerns must form the framework within which trade takes place, not vice versa.
These and other actions are fundamental if we aretto address the huge environment and development problems the world faces. Positive change requires a major turn around by the US government, as well as other industrialized nations, and an intensive effort by all parties involved.
As Non-Governmental Organizations we have been constantly pushing for UNCED to take these issues on; if all government delegates and the Secretariat were to act upon these essential points, our faith in the process woldbbe renewed.
However, it appears that the Earth Summit is failing to meet its challenge and instead moving in the opposite direction from the path it must forge to save the planet from destruction. Moreover, the gravity of the situation deepens as UNCED entrusts care for environment and development with the very institutions that are causing many of the problems in the first place. Regrettably, barring a dramatic change in course, UNCED is heading toward a failure of historic proportions that the Earth and its people cannot afford.
This plan was sponsored by:
- Greenpeace International
- The Forum of Brazilian NGOs (representing 1,200 groups) Friends of the Earth
- Third World Network