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Rio+20 summit must include ethical principles, say experts

March 21, 2012

GENEVA

The current draft text for the forthcoming U.N. Rio+20 summit on sustainable development is weak and needs to strengthened to include ethical principles that highlight stronger commitments on equity, accountability, and universal human rights norms, experts said.

“The conference should lift up human rights mechanisms as major instruments to hold governments and the private sector accountable,” Guillermo Kerber, program executive with the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs at the World Council of Churches (WCC), told a forum in Geneva on March 16.

The conference is to be held in Rio de Janeiro from June 20 to 22, twenty years after the historic Earth Summit of 1992 that put environmental concerns on the global agenda. Rio+20 will focus on the green economy and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

The thrust of the Geneva forum, attended by civil society groups, U.N. officials and diplomats, was to discuss ways to send a strong signal to negotiators ahead of a new round of talks that started in New York on March 19, to ensure human rights are adequately reflected in the current draft.

The WCC and the Lutheran World Federation made a joint submission for the compilation document for the Rio+20 conference from an ecumenical ethical perspective, Kerber said. The so called “green economy,” he said, should also include justice as a core component.

Similarly, a paper by the Center for International and Environmental Law, (CIEL), warned there is a “real risk” that Rio+20 green economy themes could eclipse the other dimensions of sustainable development.

This outcome can be avoided, CIEL argued, by strengthening Rio+20’s recognition of the linkage between human rights and the environment and sustainable development.

In a related development, in an open letter to world governments, a group of 22 U.N. independent human rights experts on March 19 called on states to incorporate universally agreed international human rights norms and standards with strong accountability mechanisms into the Rio+20 conference’s goals.

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