links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter


Posted on on April 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

After having participated at a meeting with Mr. Ronan Farrow, Director of Global Youth Issues, Special Adviser to the US Secretary of State, I just made some changes to the original article of April 22, 2012, and will eventually post separately on the US position on youth.

At the UN in New York, on Friday April 20, 2012, looking at “THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF LAW TO THE RIO+20 AGENDA” there were two panels:

I – on the theme – “National best practices in sustainable development law for the green economy.”

II – on the theme – The contributions of international treaties and tribunals to sustainable development governance.”

The event was co-organized by the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).

The CISDL-IDLO Legal Research Group:

The Event was chaired by Ms. Irene Khan, Director-General of IDLO, and the two opening speakers were:

Ambassador Antonio Bernardini, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN – Italy being the country that supports IDLO and helped fund this event.

and Ms.Elizabeth Thompson, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Coordinator of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – the so called RIO+20 June 2012 event being prepared right now in meetings at the UN headquarters in New York.

Both panels had excellent and distinguished teams of speakers with track records well ahead of their present offices.


Panel I was chaired by the UN Ambassador for Mexico – Mr. Luis Alfonso Alba, and the moderator was Ms. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Head of Economic Growth & Trade, IDLO.

the panelists, many of them with prior involvement with Amnesty International and Human Rights, were –

Mr. Magdy Martinez-Soliman from the Bureau for Development Policy (BDP) at UNDP. spoke on “Legal Dimensions of Low-Emission Climate Resilient Development Strategies.”

Prof. Jorge Cabrera of the University of Costa Rica, specialist on Biodiversity Laws, with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), spoke on “Innovative Legal Rules for the Green Economy.”

Mr. Me. Sebastien Jodoin, from McGill University in Canada, now a Trudeau Scholar at Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Lead Counsel for the Climate Change Programme at CISDL, spoke on “Human Rights and Social Dimensions of the Green Economy: The Way Forward.”

Prof. Hector Velasco-Perroni, of the Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico, President of  the “Colegio de Abogados por el Ambiente,” Legal Counselor of the Ministry of Environment  in Mexico, and with IDLO, spoke on “Development Laws for REDD+ Projects.”

We heard that The Sustainable Future We Want is about Human Development and Democracy via a green Economy – Green Growth must go together with inclusive development. It is the poorest of us that are most bound to natural resources and thus most hurt by natural disasters (Great idea to hold up against those that think of natural resources only as a means to make money in the short term and have no interest in the implications of their deeds for the longer term.)

KEY FOR GOVERNANCE IS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF LAW THAT SAFEGUARDS THE VULNERABLE. The idea is thus to go Green and be fair at the same time – and RIO+20 has the opportunity to bring in the Role of Law – That is Accountability.

Green Jobs can mean decent jobs for the population and we heard of case studies in Zambia, Vietnam, Mexico, Cuba, New Zealand, Costa Rica.


Panel II was chaired by The UN Ambassador  for Sri Lanka – Mr. Palitha T. B. Kohona, and the moderator was Ms. Marie-Claire Cordonier Seeger, Head of Economic Growth & Trade, IDLO.

the panelists were –

Prof. Duncan French, Professor of Law, Head of the University of Lincoln Law School, the UK. He is Rapporteur of the International Law Association (ILA) on International Law on Sustainable Development and fEllow of CISDL  He spoke on “Environment and Development in the ICJ, PCA, ITLOS.”

Prof. Sumudu Atapattu. Associate Director of the Global Legal Studies Center at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She authored “Emerging Principles of International Law” that was published by Transnational Publishers in 2006. She spoke on “Principles of Sustainable Development in Human Rights Courts and Tribunals.”

Prof. Markus Gehring. Chair in Sustainable Development Law at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and Tutor in Sustainable Development Law at the University of Cambridge. He is lead Counsel for Trade, Investment and Financial Law at CISDL. He is with the Frankfurt Bar and served as Counsel to the International Court of Justice. He spoke on “Sustainable Development Principles in Economic Law Tribunals.”

Ambassador Kohona belongs to the ARCC group – Ambassadors for Responsibility on Climate Change.

We heard that GREEN DEVELOPMENT IS THE SAME AS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – just a new sexy  name.  We heard about AGENDA 21, the RIO PRINCIPLES, and the RIO CONVENTIONS. A main stress was on the RIO Principles that most of them have become in the past 20 years – UN PRINCIPLES – or should.  The Original 27 Rio Principles at the 2002 New Delhi meeting, that followed the Johannsburg Summit, morphed into the 7 New Delhi Principles.
We got an interesting depiction of the 2002 New Delhi Declaration. We were told that – “The need to reconcile economic development with protection of the environment is aptly expressed in the concept of Sustainable Development.”

As a policy recommendation we were given among others – “avoid disagreements over legal status of Sustainable Development and focus on the effects.” We were given the set of 3 “P’s” of Case Law that had more the 3 “Ps” – Due Process, Substantive Principles, Prevention, Precaution, Judicial Procedure – use of natural resources …

We were told that the InterAmerican legal system has a court ruling to give part of the benefits to the indigenous people.

We found that there is a continuous struggle between Development & the Environment.


But, as interesting as these presentations were – I found that they did really not reach out far enough to touch the real problem that is failing the Sustainable Development paradigm, as it was intended at birth, of that wording.

The problem in our opinion stems from the vision that SD is a bridge to the future as it is based on the context of SUSTAINABILITY and the beneficiaries of the vision of that original Brundtland Commission effort – were the FUTURE GENERATIONS. The meeting was clearly oblivious to the needs of those unborn future humans. Clearly, nothing was said either of  non-human nature – but I will not try to reach out to this topic. Suffice to say that I learned most from this meeting by asking a question that relates to the Human Future Generations, and as we shall see got in reply clarifications that were eye-opening.

My question was the last question posed to the First Panel.

I wanted to know what the reaction of the Panel was to the effort of the drafting committee, that prepares the outcome document for RIO+20 – were in the first drafts there was the suggestion to appoint a UN High Commissioner for Future Generations like the one on Human Rights – and members of the panel  spoke highly of that function earlier.

The question was picked up by Mr. Jodoin, currently with Yale, who said that Future Generations have no standing in Law, and that the effort at the drafting effort showed that the idea had no “traction” among the member States.

The question was then repeated by somebody else and directed to the Second Panel, and eventually got also into the closing statement.


THE CLOSING was done by Dr. Maya Prabhu, an attorney and forensic psychiatrist with the Law and Psychiatry Division at Yale University School of Medicine. She is also with CISDL.


Back to Future Generations:

If every corporation is granted a persona standing in Court of Law, why not create such a PERSONA for FUTURE GENERATIONS so the term SUSTAINABILITY can get in fact the meaning every one thinks that it has?

Unless this is done I see now clearly serious fault with the concept itself, and by extension even with the concept of a GREEN ECONOMY, as without a legal persona for the Future Generations it is as if the rug was pulled from under SD itself.


Granted that the US position on youth is governed by the recognition that unemployed and uneducated youth are the explosive class that can turn to violence, so it is the interest of the United States to help governments meet the challenge by inducing them to do something positive for their young – specially for the females – our position is that FUTURE GENERATIONS is the generic that goes well beyond the immediate – and we hope to see the US take this line as well.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article