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MOBILIZING CIVIL SOCIETY TO LEAD THE TRANSTION TO GLOBAL SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH A REVITALIZED EARTH COUNCIL
The disappointing results of Rio + 20 were predictable but cannot be viewed as acceptable. It came at a time when political priorities are focused on immediate issues of economic and financial crises and the accompanying political turbulence throughout the world. This has produced significant decline in the priority being accorded to long term issues, notably the environment and climate change. Preparations for the conference were severely impaired by budgetary constraints, deeply entrenched political differences and the lack of significant progress in climate change negotiations.
Overall conditions have not nearly been as conducive to progress in renewal of the momentum generated by the 1992 Earth Summit or in implementation of the agreements reached there and in subsequent fora. But scientific evidence underscores the urgency of immediate and decisive action to make the transition to a pathway which will ensure sustainability and security for the human community. The disappointing results of the official negotiations at Rio + 20 demonstrate that governments and the U.N. would not be able to lead this transition without the active engagement of and support of civil society. To play this essential, indeed indispensable, role civil society must be organized and mobilized on a global scale.
The initiative outlined in this memorandum describes the basis for utilizing a revitalized Earth Council to facilitate the extensive e processes of consultation, coordination and cooperation that this will require. The decline in political will have far more damaging consequences for the human future than the more immediate issues that give rise to it. Indeed, it has never been more important to heed the evidence of science that time is running out on our ability to manage successfully our impacts on the earth’s environmental, biodiversity, resource and life-support systems on which the human future as we know it depends.
We must rise above the lesser concerns that pre-empt our attention and respond to the reality that the very future of human life on earth depends on what we do, or fail to do in this generation. What we have come to accept as normal, is not normal, as increased human numbers, the growing intensity of human impacts and the demographic dilemma faced by so many nations are threatening to return the earth to the conditions that have existed for most of its existence that do not support human life as we know it.
It is in this larger context that we must review the urgent need to make the “change of course” called for by business leaders in 1992. This will require a degree of cooperation beyond anything we have yet experience at a time when competition and conflict over scarce resources is escalating. The decisions and policies which determine our impacts on sustainability are primarily motivated by economic and financial considerations. The actions we must now take must be firmly rooted in our moral and ethical principles as set out in the Earth Charter.
The gap between rich and poor continues to deepen in both industrialized and developing countries providing strong obstacles to real change. Indeed, history tells us that despite the helpful effects of aid and charity, there is little prospect that the rich will voluntarily share their wealth with the poor and disadvantaged. Only an enlightened view of their own self-interest in the security and sustainability of life is likely to induce the more developed countries to accept the principal responsibilities they bear for the fundamental change of course that we must make.
The growing inequities in sharing the benefits of economic growth continue to generate a widening rich-poor divide in virtually all countries. This undermines the prospects of enabling the poor and disadvantaged to share fully and equitably in the benefits of sustainable development which could well lead to social unrest, evidence of which is already emerging.
The Earth Council is already established notably in Switzerland and available to take a key role in this process of mobilizing civil society. Close and cooperative relationships will be established with leading organizations in the field, notably UNEP, IUCN and the U.N.’s global compact. The participation at Rio+20 of leaders of some of the world’s major corporations demonstrated the strong support and involvement that can be expected of business and industry. Individual chapters will be free to enter into partnerships with other compatible organizations which enhance their capacities and support as Earth Council - Geneva has done so effectively.
The internet and social media enables it to reach every region and sector of the world community. This would extend participation and membership to people everywhere. It would be in a position to provide facilities such as the following:
1. Receiving, registering and evaluating submissions from those who have been harmed by the actions of others and providing a civil judicial process to seek compensation for such damages;
2. Connecting those with common interests and plans to facilitate their cooperation;
3. Holding public hearings on controversial issues utilizing the internet and social media to ensure the broadest possible participation;
4. Mobilizing widespread public support for policies and actions by governments, to address important sustainable development issues;
5. Providing a forum to facilitate cooperation and consultation amongst non-governmental organizations and the business community to generate greater public awareness of and support for actions required to deal with such issues;
6. Linking local and regional issues to the larger global community to facilitate exchange of information and experience, cooperation and support in respect of them.
7. Providing the public with an opportunity to demonstrate their support for the Earth Council and its purposes by enabling them to become members;
8. Identifying new and emerging issues which require a greater degree of understanding awareness and action and mobilizing support for such actions. As a global network the Earth Council will need a centre to provide for its effective management and cooperation. Brazil has in many respects become the most environmentally advanced country in the world with its very effective hosting of the Earth Summit of 1992 and the recent Rio + 20, the engagement of all levels of government, its extensive and influential civil society and the business community.
Brazil is well positioned to be the logical centre of this network. It has world-class experts ready and able to take the leadership of the Council. The internet and social media provide a means not previously available to reach out to all sectors of society and engage them in the work of the Earth Council. Plans for the establishment of the Earth Council are now being developed in close cooperation with Brazilian organizations and leaders. . An extensive process of consultation is also being undertaken with other interested parties, including the already established Earth Council Geneva.