Thursday, February 23, 2012

‘Green Economy’ voices at the 13th Global Major groups and Stakeholders Forum in Nairobi

By Kimbowa Richard

The Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF) is a platform of Major Groups and Stakeholders organized by UNEP that meets annually for two days just before the UNEP Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF). It serves as a platform for exchange of views and expertise for Major Groups and Stakeholders (MGS’) on the themes that are discussed by Governments at the GC / GMEF

The 13th session of the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF-13) served as a platform for exchanges between representatives of Major Groups and governments on their respective positions for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) as this year’s theme. The Forum was took place from 18-19 February 2012, at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, ahead of the 12th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GCSS-12/GMEF).

Green economy: Still grappling with definitions and positions?

I participated in this Forum with an interest in updating myself on the state of negotiations of Rio + 20 especially in relation to one of the Conference themes: green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty reduction, and to understand better about the linkage between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post MDG agenda.

Right from the start it appeared that despite the closeness of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (due at the end of June, 2012), speakers were grappling to define, defend and elaborate own views and positions with regard to a ‘green economy’. Achim Steiner - the UNEP boss took time to explain (and defend) UNEP’s 700 page ‘Green Economy’ report (GER) content, noting that it is a source book for engagement rather than a blueprint. He added that the Rio+20 should correct the impression that green economy is a replacement to sustainable development. ‘Rio+20 is a moment to identify areas of reviving political support to achieve sustainable development not a forum to do many things’, he cautioned.

UNEP Deputy Director Amina Mohammed acknowledged that though the original notion of ‘green economy’ came from civil society, it has had input from a wide range of actors. “UNEP looks for ways of streamlining and refining of green economy to make it applicable’, she emphasized.

Anabella Rosenberg (International Trade Union) highlighted the multiple crises: jobs, financial, workers, livelihoods, environment, energy and others, and wondered whether it was not a sign that Governments had given in on global governance for sustainable development. She proposed that Rio + 20 should be an opportunity to build global governance by providing alternatives, choices in search of equity and social justice.

‘Green economy’: fissures to fill up

I then participated in one of the 3 working groups on green economy that was well attended. Participants seemed to have substantive enthusiasm and interest to ‘put things right’ on green economy, gauging from the process that was well facilitated by Oliver Greenfield (Green Economy Coalition) and Steven Stone (UNEP).

Based on what is in the Zero draft document (January 2012) on ‘a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, there was a general feeling that the concept had problems. Hence suggestions were put forward to have these fixed.

On the problems, the workshop noted that:
•Green economy seems to ‘greenwash’ activities that are not green
•Lacked clear articulation of transformative technologies
•Definition of what it is vague with implications that are not well understood
•It places excessive emphasis on the market
•Equity discussions missing and no explicit focus on the poor that should benefit
from it
•Human rights issues missing
•Not clear on how it addresses poverty and the cost of its transformation, how long
it will take, the opportunity cost, resources needed among others.
•Indigenous knowledge, culture not captured
•Underpinnings (values) driving it not well articulated
•Needs to test green technologies before they are rolled out
•Emphasis on intensification of agriculture while many poor people depend in small
scale agriculture is contradictory
•Greening of the financial / investment sector and its regulation missing

Regarding possible solutions, the workshop suggested the following:
•Need for a strategic clarity on poverty eradication
•Clarity on how a green economy contributes to a sound development model
•Clear universal definition, pathway to help every country to understand how then
can move towards a green economy
•Need to incorporate ecosystems, and animal welfare
•Capacity building, education, incentives for countries
•Need to technology assessment to be done
•Principles upon which green economy is to be set need to be clear
•It should build on existing plans at national level and be consultative
•Be clear on green jobs in the global south

Sustainable Development Goals: Moving beyond lip service?

Sustainable development goals (SDGs) are one of the ideas swirling around in discussions ahead of Rio + 20. For example, the Government of Colombia has set out a proposal for SDGs that would cover various sectors – atmosphere, climate resilience, land degradation, sustainable agriculture, biotech, waste and so forth. SDGs are therefore seen as an opportunity for a world where people and nature can thrive.

However, the discussion on SDGs seems divided and in its infancy especially in global South. For example, while Beyond 2015 Campaign of civil society organizations of the global North and South, point out that it is imperative that SDGs reflect an integrated and balanced treatment of the three dimensions of sustainable development, and reaffirm the importance of embedding the principles of Agenda 21 throughout. Others see SDGs as ways of ‘moving beyond lip service’ to concretely address existent environmental challenges to move closer to sustainable development.

During the opening plenary, Brazil’s Minister-Counsellor (Deputy Permanent Representative to Brazil to UNEP) noted that Sustainable Development Goals must be enriched by MDGs and should involve practical actions from all countries. He added that one sure way is to strengthen civil society involvement in UN processes as part of the much needed coherence and integration.

Overall, my view is that the evolution of the SDGs must be process-led but not hurriedly put in place as they will never be respected and implemented.

Green economy exhibition missing!

While the board room process seemed to move on smoothly, Major groups and UNEP did not take bring in the much needed exhibition to showcase what practical actions on the green economy concept, for example why were CSOs not encouraged to display ‘green economy’ actions guided by the 7 Critical Issues at Rio+20 (jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans, disasters)?

Furthermore, I was not satisfied by the lack of Major Groups’ enthusiasm to devote time (working group /plenary?) for assessment of progress in implementing Agenda 21. This is despite the objective of the Conference to

‘ renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.’