(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 26 June 2012 - On 22 June, world leaders attending the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development – known as Rio+20 - issued the long-awaited “The Future We Want” document that has been negotiated for over two years. The document has been heavily criticised by civil society as being unambitious and lacking in tangible commitments to ensure sustainable development and protect the environment.
ARTICLE 19 is disappointed that world leaders did not make firm commitments in many areas, particularly in access to information and public participation, by failing to agree to go forward on a global convention on access to environment information.
However, the document does include a number of useful provisions relating to access to information, transparency and public participation which can be used to improve access and participation at the international and national levels.
The following is a summary of important provisions in the Outcome Document:
- Articles 8, 9, and 10 reemphasise the importance of human rights and transparency in sustainable development.
- Article 43 specifically reaffirms the Principle 10 rights of access to information, public participation and access to justice and nations agree to better involvement of civil society. Article 44 calls for strengthening of access to information using ICTs.
- Article 47 calls for increased corporate transparency relating to sustainability and encourages the UN, national governments and companies to come up with new models and take actions. Already, some nations are moving forward on these.
- Article 76 (h) on reforming the UN institutional framework on sustainable development states that countries resolve to strengthen the institutional framework by enhancing participation and promoting transparency.
- Article 85 (h) on reforming the UN Commission on Sustainable Development states that the new high level body as one of its functions could “Promote transparency and implementation through further enhancing the consultative role and participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders at the international level”. Article 86 on creating the body states that the process will be “open, transparent and inclusive”.
- Article 88(h) on enhancing the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) states that the upgraded body should “Ensure the active participation of all relevant stakeholders drawing on best practices and models from relevant multilateral institutions and exploring new mechanisms to promote transparency and the effective engagement of civil society” which could lead to the development of new international instruments in the future, as well as improved transparency inside the UN.
- Article 99 encourages action “at the regional, national, subnational and local levels” on Principle 10. Already, 10 Latin American countries have called for the creation of a regional convention on Principle 10, such as already exists in Europe.
- The importance of access to information or transparency is also highlighted in sections on sectoral areas including health, fishing, mining and aid transparency.
- Article 266 highlights corruption and urges states to adopt or ratify the UNCAC and implement it.
- Article 274 on geospatial data mentions the Eye on Earth initiative and recognises the “need to support developing countries in their efforts to collect environmental data”.
- Article 283 on the Compendium of Commitments asks the UN Secretary General to ensure that commitments that governments, companies and other stakeholders make on sustainable development are permanently tracked for future advocacy. Already, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a US-based environmental group has set up a site.
- The Secretary General announced on 22 June that he would appoint a Special Representative for Future Generations following a failure of the leaders to agree to create the post. We believe that this post will be useful position to also facilitate transparency and public participation.
ARTICLE 19 has been deeply involved in the process relating to the Outcome Document for the past two years, participating in UN and other meetings leading up to the summit, developing a paper with The Access Initiative, submitting comments to the UN and UK Parliament, and co-organising a series of meetings around UN gatherings to focus on the subject.
Following the summit, ARTICLE 19 intends to take advantage of the agreements in the document to further advocate for better implementation of access to information and public participation by all countries, the development of a regional convention in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in the institutional reform process.