RIGHTS AT RISK AT THE UNITED NATIONS
Posted on 15 March 2012
We – the civil society organizations and social movements who have responded to the call of the United Nations General Assembly to participate in the Rio+20 process – feel that is our duty to call the attention of relevant authorities and citizens of the world to a situation that severely threatens the rights of all people and undermines the relevance of the United Nations.
Remarkably, we are witnessing an attempt by certain countries to weaken, or “bracket” or outright eliminate nearly all references to human rights obligations and equity principles in the text, “The Future We Want”, for the outcome of Rio+20.
This includes references to the right to food and proper nutrition, the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, the right to development and others. The right to a clean and healthy environment, which is essential to the realization of fundamental human rights, remains weak in the text. Even principles previously agreed upon in Rio in 1992 are being bracketed – the Polluter Pays Principle, Precautionary Principle, Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR).
Many member states are opposing prescriptive language that commits governments to actually do what they claim to support in principle and act as duty bearers of human rights, including the provision of finance, technology and other means of implementation to support sustainable development effort in developing countries. On the other hand, there is a strong push for private sector investments and initiatives to fill in the gap left by the public sector. This risks privatizing and commoditizing common goods – such as water – which in turn endangers access and affordability, which are fundamental to such rights.
Although economic tools are essential to implement the decisions aiming for sustainability, social justice and peace, a private economy rationale should not prevail over the fulfillment of human needs and the respect of planetary boundaries. Therefore a strong institutional framework and regulation is needed. Weakly regulated markets have already proven to be a threat not only to people and nature, but to economies and nation states themselves. Markets must work for people, people should not work for markets.
From the ashes of World War II humanity gathered to build institutions aiming to build peace and prosperity for all, avoiding further suffering and destruction. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out this collective will, and the United Nations organization was created to make it a reality. Alarmingly, this very institution is now being used as a platform to attack the very rights it should safeguard, leaving people without defense and putting the very relevance of the UN at stake.
We urge the UNCSD Secretary General and Member States to bring the Rio+20 negotiations back on track to deliver the people’s legitimate agenda and the realization of rights, democracy and sustainability, as well as respect for transparency, accountability and non-regression on progress made.
We call on the UN Secretary General to stand up for the legacy of the United Nations by ensuring that Rio+20 builds on the multi-generational effort to strengthen rights as the