An interview with Felix Dodds, Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum

Felix Dodds is part of a number of advisory boards for Rio+20, including the global scientists conference in 2012 ‘Planet Under Pressure’, the German Government sponsored conference ‘Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus’ in the Green Economy and the Government of Abu Dhabi sponsored conference ‘Eye on Earth Summit’ framework committee and stakeholder advisory committee.

What are your hopes and aspirations for Rio+20?

I have many hopes and aspirations for Rio+20 and some of those include:

  1. The establishment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have been brought to the table by the governments of Colombia and Guatemala.  Areas for the SDGs might include oceans, energy, biodiversity, food security and nutrition, water, urbanisation, sustainable consumption and production. These goals should have universal application and build on Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPol). Integrating the SDGs with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to produce a single post-2015 framework would be a vital outcome from Rio.
  2. Put money on the table to fund a move towards an economy based on sustainable development. Governments can do this by delivering on the 0.7% commitment through the support of a financial transaction tax (FTT). The initiative might help governments refinance themselves, though it must be clear that that the money should support the move to economies supporting sustainable development.
  3. Support the establishment of a Convention on Corporate Sustainability to address the issues of mandatory reporting on stock exchanges. The Convention should be about more than simply addressing reporting; it should also deal with responsibility, principles of transparency and accountability of corporations. The Convention already has the support of governments, stakeholders and many key global companies as well as Global Compact.
  4. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has had an amazing forty years helping to create our current environmental legislative framework, as well as acting as the global advocate for environment. Rio+20 outcomes should include upgrading UNEP into a World Environment Organization which brings together all the environmental conventions into a coherent structure.
  5. After nearly twenty years it is clear that the UN Commission on Sustainable Development does not work. Rio+20 outcomes should create a Council of the UN General Assembly on Sustainable Development dealing with new and emerging issues. This bold and important suggestion would put sustainable development at the centre of the UN where past conferences in Rio and Johannesburg originally suggested it should be.

What is Stakeholder Forum’s role and how is your organisation engaging with civil society in the lead up to the conference?

Stakeholder Forum (SHF) has undertaken a contract with the UNCSD2012 Secretariat and has implemented a variety of initiatives to build stakeholder knowledge and engagement with Rio+20 processes. In this role Stakeholder Forum has continued its commitment to help the next generation of stakeholders by organising stakeholder engagement and events at the UN DPI/NGO Conference as well as at all regional meetings of Rio+20. SHF has also worked with prominent authors in the field of sustainable development to publish over 20 think pieces on issues that will be discussed at Rio+20.

SHF works with multi-stakeholders and undertook a dialogue on the Convention for Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability. After receiving considerable support from Industry, a project was launched, with Instituto Vitae Civilis, in September looking at the possibility of Rio+20 agreeing to a process for a Convention.

Among other activities, SHF has conducted and supported workshops with governments on the issues of oceans, green economy, the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development, and sustainable communities and responsive citizens.

Finally, SHF publishes bi-monthly e-newsletters, Outreach magazine and established an Earth Summit 2012 website which has served as a vital tool in communicating discussions and events with multi-stakeholders. SHF was also commissioned by UNDESA to conduct a twenty year review of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration to assess the implementation and impacts of the two outcome agreements.

What do you see as the major challenges in establishing a concrete, ambitious outcome agreement?

The major problems are the lack political will, the lack of engagement of ministries of economy and development in Rio+20, and the lack of funding on the table to deliver the changes needed.

What has changed in the past 20 years and how do you think Rio+20 will be different?

We face huge challenges over the coming twenty years due to the lack of funding for and implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Future generations will look at 1992 to 2012 as the irresponsible generation – the lost twenty years – when we could have put the foundations down for moving towards a more sustainable world. Instead we have increased unsustainable consumption patterns and exported that idea to developing countries. This has resulted in increasingly negative and destructive impacts on the world’s environment and poor. We knew the problems, we knew most of the answers but yet we did not scale them up to deliver what was needed.

Rio+20 must ensure we take a different economic path. And while the term green economy has become controversial in some circles, it does at last put the economy on the table for discussion. I believe we should see it more as a just transition from where we are now to a one that puts sustainability and people, equity and fairness at its core.

The parallels of the ecological problems with the financial crisis are clear. The banks and financial institutions privatized the gains and socialized the losses. We are doing the same with the planet’s natural capital. Our present lifestyles are drawing down the ecological capital at irreplaceable rates from other parts of the world and from future generations.

Rio+20 shows what we have failed to deliver and so I believe this is our best chance to set in motion a number of key outcomes such as SD Goals, Green Economy Roadmap, and a Sustainable Development Council. So unlike Rio where it was the culmination of processes, Rio+20 will be the launch of processes which should be ready by the MDG summit in 2015.

Article originally published by Civicus

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