May 07, 2012

28th April, 2012,
Conference Room No.2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi
Beyond Copenhagen, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jathha, CECOEDECON, IDS, Jaipur, PAIRVI, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, SADED, SANSAD

Brief Report

The National Consultation was organized with a view to bring in multiple stakeholders, persons and institutions to build an understanding on the sustainable development agenda and chart out a distinct road map to Rio+20 :
o        What does the state intend to do?
o        What do Civil Society Organisations want?
o        Are all CSOs on the same page?
o        What is the role of the media in this process?
o        What are INGOs doing? What is their stake?
o        How sensitized are policy makers and the media?
o        What outcomes can be expected at Rio+20 and what are their ramifications for the developing world?

Mr Ajay Jha, Secretary, PAIRVI, opened the session with the basic premise for organizing the consultation that sought to look at the priorities for multiple stakeholders at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. Highlighting the significance of this landmark conference, also known as Rio+20, Mr Jha spoke of how there is little or no dialogue, debate and discussion at the national level even as the time for the conference draws near. He stated how this was an opportune moment, the appropriate time to relook at policies within the sustainable development paradigm. The process at Rio+20 seems leveraged in favour of the global North and it is imperative that concerns and priorities of the developing world do not get diluted in these larger hegemonic interests. It was in 1992 that the Earth Summit took place, now, 20 years on it is necessary that we revisit global strategies for ensuring sustainable development.

The key note speech was delivered by Dr Jyoti Parikh, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, President, IRADe & highly respected authority on issues relating to energy and environment to present the key note address. Dr Parikh gave a brief overview of how the paradigm of sustainable development took shape ranging from Stockholm 1975 to the Earth Summit in 1992 to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg right up to the upcoming Rio+20. Speaking of Millennium Development Goals and how they brought about a quantitative perspective on poverty alleviation goals, the multiple dimensions associated were brought to light. Two streams of thought are associated with the Sustainable Development agenda – Green (environment related) thought and Equity (poverty related) thought. Critical questions on how MDG aspects still aren’t priorities in our policies and the disparities in linking green initiatives and equity were highlighted. The need to have a larger engagement between the G77 and developing nations, small island countries & the need for a collaborative civil society voice was emphasized. Key words like Inclusive growth need to be understood in the light of assimilating both green concerns as well as address poverty. The debate is now more complex and nuanced.  We need to look for alternatives, solutions and more exercises in understanding concept such as green economy need to be taken up, interpreted and questioned.
The talk by Dr. Parikh was followed by animated discussion and questions relating to the scenario post 2008 economic meltdown, the rationale for green economy (whose agenda is it, anyway?), change in landscape since 1992, India’s intended stand at Rio+20, Indian state’s initiatives in the run-up to Rio, policy framework among other issues and concerns.

Mr Ali Anwar, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, also highlighted the necessity to prioritize environmental and sustainable development issues and assured to provide all possible help to discuss the issues within his party and the Parliament.

Session 2 saw specific presentations on key thematic areas. Ajay Jha took everyone through the basics of the proposed outcome document – The Zero Draft and how the negotiations were going ahead. He emphasized that the negotiations were completely bottlenecked on the North South lines, and where developing countries wanted centrality on green jobs and fundamental issues of restricting economic architecture, aid and trade rules, and increased representation of interests from South in global institutions and systems, developed countries are more in favour of focus on green economy, increased role of business and SDGs. He added that expectations from the Rio +20 was coming down world over and unless there is enough pressure from all quarters, we might have to be satisfied with frivolous and dangerous outcomes like Road Map on Green Economy and SDGs.

Soumya Datta, BJVJ spoke on the key topic of energy, particularly highlighting the UN Secretary General’s Initiative on Sustainable Energy for all. He spoke strongly about focus on “modern energy” undermines the issue of “equity” and unless equity is addressed at local, national and global level, sustainable energy for all will remain only a cherished ideal. He emphasized that modern energy debates largely hinge on energy efficiency, while the macroeconomic data shows that increase in efficiency has resulted in more consumption. At the same time, efficiency by itself does not address the equity issue. He put forth a highly nuanced understanding of how globally the issue is diluted by speaking only in terms of modern energy services and energy efficiency and problematical the role of the private sector in the energy market.

Himashu Thakar, SANDRP spoke extensively on Water. He said that while water remains a major global concern having wide ramifications, from the point of view of access, and management, it is more of a local issue and needs decentralized, democratic and local solutions. He emphasized that the crisis of energy, food and water cannot be addressed until we add environment, as the fourth critical pillar in order to move towards sustainable development. Skeptical on account of Green Economy not being a solution he spoke of how institutional frameworks need to move beyond the existing status quo.

Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre put forth a logically appealing presentation on cities and sustainable development. He emphasized that solutions are before us but we fail to see and adopt it. Citing the example of Delhi, he added that more land, energy, and water is available than required, however, lack of equitable distribution and democratic management deprive poor people of these critical rights. 

Anita Paul, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Initiatives illustrated through an example of a village based in the Gugas basin, Uttarakhand as regards the issues in mountainous regions. Through the use of appropriate technologies, a way forward can be sought.

Discussions with regard to focusing on target groups within – Women, Youth, Marginalised groups were taken up and how the commons are placed and should be placed was also debated.

Prof. Surjit Singh, IDS Jaipur emphasized in the Chair’s remarks that last two decades have seen reduced multilateralism and increased influence and control of business over natural resources, means and processes of production at national and global levels. Until and unless there is a huge overhaul of world institutions and systems including the BWIs, UN, the WTO, the power structures will not change and same development paradigm which benefits big business and developed countries at the cost of nature and environment, and rights of people in poor countries will be pursued, he added.

Session 3 had INGOs, institutions and large funding agencies share their views on the process.. Raman Mehta of DFID spoke of new principles of engagement not being apparent and how larger developing countries need to take responsibility. Sunita Sharma & Alisa Zomer from AJWS spoke of strengthening of P10 as key principle in the sustainable development Summit outcome. Vanita Suneja, Oxfam India put forth a clear presentation on Oxfam’s engagement with Rio+20 particularly in relation to Sustainable food and farming, furthering of debates on climate change as well as look at a new global framework. Christian Aid’s Subrata De mentioned the importance of needing to raise issues of equity in a constrained world. He also spoke of the nature of green economy and allied issues, need for pro-poor policies and importance of disaster risk reduction to be taken up. Malancha, TERI spoke of issues with the concept of green economy and extensively highlighted issues within the energy sector. She added that civil society though have limited avenues of influencing the outcomes, however, whatever little opportunity available should be employed to the best possible result. Manish Jain, ACF highlighted in his chair’s remarks that food and nutrition are the biggest emergencies that world faces today, which will worsen in the coming decades. The multilateral and global processes have an opportunity and also a duty to address this crisis, the sustainable development summit also must respond to this call.

The fourth session had strong media and political voices advocating the need of collaborated efforts on part of civil society, media and legislature in being more issue-focused and sensitized to the pressing concerns and needs as was being discussed in the Consultation. Both media and policy makers emphasized that civil society has a distinct role in education of media as well as policy makers on these issues. Om Thanvi from Jansatta, highlighted the limitation of media to take up these debates prominently. Sunny Sebastian, from the Hindu, while acknowledging that it is becoming increasingly challenging to bring issues of social relevance in the media, said there is yet sufficient scope attract media on these issues. Atul Anjaan, National President of AIKS and Secretary of CPI said that despite all its limitations, parliamentary democracy is the best for of governance. There is huge pressure on the time of Parliament and also on individual members, but there are ways to generate debate among policymakers on issues of national and global relevance, and assured all help in reaching out to political parties and Parliament on Rio+20 issues.

The concluding session chalked out a broad strategy framework to enhance discussion, and engage with relevant stakeholders on the issues discussed. Suggestions from Sharad Joshi, Secretary CECOEDECON, highlighted that while the world is witnessing series of crises, the civil society needs to intensify its efforts at local, national, regional and global levels in it engagement with the processes as well as providing viable solutions. He added that the discussion must reach out to people who are victims of the so called development and its paradigm. He suggested that a document highlighting the important issues will be helpful in broadening the debate, as state consultations, and enhancing regional collaboration. He underlines that CSO coordination is poor and work has to take place among multiple stakeholders with media and the Parliamentarians. Soumya Dutta suggested coming out with Rio+20 vision document for India, along with an analysis document. He added that charting out common areas between UNFCCC processes (as many CSO groups are engaged with UNFCCC) and other processes like Rio+20 needs to be looked into. Participants also suggested meaningful intervention at CBD Cop, which is taking place in India in October 2012. Many agreed that the agenda for engagement has to come from wider consultations, which can be initiated on the basis of the draft to be circulated by the organizers.

Co Chairs for session IV and session V, Anil Singh, SANSAD and Prof. Sanjai Bhatt, DSSW highlighted the need for generating a pressure from the below on the choices that the states make. They said that the govt works in silos, there is complete lack of coordination among the ministries/departments, which result in policies being developed in isolation and without being located in the larger development context. Harmonization between policies on environment, trade, financial and industrial policies, agriculture, climate change etc. needs complete reorganization of how we approach these issues. They also underlined that global processes also suffer from these shortcomings, which makes integration of three pillars of economic, social and environmental, impossible. Based on the discussions, the co-chairs also suggested the avenues and ways for engagement with the process suggested as below:

1.       Consultations in states to broaden the debate and deepen the understanding of sustainable development, as well as to bring out the agenda/charter from the people.
2.       An analysis document on major issues in Rio+20, viz. energy, water, food, cities, livelihoods etc. to be compiled from contributions from participants.
3.       Few organizations to take responsibility for coordination at South Asia level.
4.       Few organizations to look into fund raising possibility.
5.       Engagement with political parties, and the MPs to be looked into, Parliamentary Committee headed by Rajiv Pratap Rudy to be accessed.
6.       Organizations going to Rio can help spread the message and concerns.
7.       Need to organize activities at Delhi, simultaneously with HLF at Rio+20.

The vote of thanks was delivered by Dr. Alok Vyas from CECOEDECON.


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