links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter


Posted on on July 2nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

This is our own first attempt at writing about what went on at the Rio de Janeiro 2012 meeting – the so called RIO+20 event.

I chose to start by displaying  selected events that happened in 1992  – a year which included a review in Rio de Janeiro of  the changes in humans’ behavior required so we achieve management of Planet Earth – after  bringing its human inhabitants to an understanding of sets of actions to be implemented, this if we want  to stop endangering our very existence as voyagers on this planet.

1992 was a specially good year – the break-up of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, surely to different degrees, but all of this gave the feeling that good things can happen if we only try to make them happen. On the other hand, Europe started out on an experiment of unification that emerged from a century of internal warfare, two World Wars, and the Marshall Plan of revitalizing  its Nation States.

UNCED seized on the 1987 Brundtland Commission’s Sustainable Development concept, and Maurice Strong, present everywhere, since the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment,  was able to maneuver the topic of Sustainability – the concept that bridges between our deeds now, and the needs of future generations, to the point that developing countries were able to see in their acceptance of the concept a way of obtaining funding for ongoing activities. But to be frank about it – they never measured up to the responsibility to future generations, as the developed and old industrialized States did not do in their own development either.

In the US, 1992 was the year of the emergence of strong Democratic leadership in Congress – specially in the Senate – to the point that Rio saw two separate US delegations – The official delegation, and the Senate delegation with Al Gore and Timothy Wirth holding the reins.

Europe also had two favorable delegations. The one anchored in the freshly signed Maastricht agreement for those countries that will be the first batch of EU member States, and the other group made up of Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Both of these groups were ready to link to the Al Gore US group, and the visions of conference leader Maurice Strong and Minister Klaus Toepfer, working for Germany, in order to shape up at Rio 1992 a UN position on the run.

Those days the BRICS were not yet strongly positioned on the map, and the G77 where ready to accept the idea that money might come their way.  In the following list I marked the Rio chain of events with color green.

A separate chain of events was happening in Europe – and that chain I marked in gold. That chain led from Maastricht to the creation of the EU, to the enlargement of the EU, and eventually to major miscalculations in the maturing process in terms of finances of EU States that were united only in name.  This, while the US and the EU exported their jobs, and their polluting industries,  to developing countries,  with the best of these countries becoming the BRICS on whom everything depends now.

While the global track has led twenty years later to this RIO+20 event that was allowed freely to show the bankruptcy of the UN process, the people at the helm of the EU are still trying to bamboozle themselves into believing that their problem can be healed without resorting to main restructuring the flawed original structure – so they did not call for a Maastricht+20 meeting – only for Internal Summits.  This means the EU is far from reform, while as we shall see, my belief is that the Brazilian hosts – with supreme talent of diplomacy – where able to redirect the future of the Rio process to new avenues at the just concluded RIO+20 bazaar.

I purport to try to show that without the EU looking into the mirror in order to restructure itself in a Maastricht+20 event, it will not be able to work with the UN reformers that are ready to talk Sustainability as a bridge between well-being in our society and full consideration of rights of future generations. This involves getting us to consider using less natural capital and finding a new yardstick for measuring growth that replaces the outdated GDP meter.

The industrialized Nations, the Emerging Nations, and the genuine laggards, will all have to cooperate to create and sustain this new paradigm – and realizing that you cannot be helpful by finger pointing at Greece as a substitute for a MAASTRICHT+20.

The last comment in this introductory section is our attention to what we call “TEAM B” – the States of Bhutan and Brazil – the States that led to positive results at the TOHU VAVOHU of the UN Preparatory meetings – in New York and at Rio.

The Prime Minister of Bhutan and his aids introduced notions of substance – “Well-Being and Happiness,” while the  whole Administration of Brazil, President, Foreign Minister, the Diplomatic front man and his large staff, taught  us the potential of “Olympic Diplomacy” – the kind of Kissingerian diplomacy that can provide something to brag about to every participant in negotiations – so when an agreement is reached there was not even a single loser – everyone claimed he had something to win in the final document.

The Brazilians titled their document “OUR COMMON VISION” and the Europeans at their just concluded Summit at Heads of State level (June 28/29, 2012, are still at the stage, as the “Wiener Zeitung”  of  30 June/1 July ” put it – “A ‘YES, MAYBE’ for a Europe-Vision.”

To be fair, I think it important to say right here – the Brazilian “COMMON VISION” when accepted by the UN, was unchanged but was renamed “The Future We Want” in line of previous releases from the UN. This was not in backing of the Vision, but rather in attempt to forget the Vision – and stress from the document the points close to official UN positions – as if the vision just never happened. We do not expect that the UN  bodies will get away with this, as it is rather hard to subdue visions.  In due time, some Member State will ask the UNSG to act according to the Brazil sponsored Vision, so we do not worry about mailings that we receive and that deviate from the agreed upon vision.

My choice of 1992 events follows:

January 1 – Europe breaks down trade barriers

January 1 – Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt becomes United Nations Secretary-General.

January 15 – The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia begins to break up. Slovenia and Croatia gain independence and international recognition in some Western countries.

February 6th – The Saami people of the Nordic countries have an official day celebrating their existence.

January 26 – Boris Yeltsin announces that Russia will stop targeting cities of the United States and her allies with Nuclear Weapons.
In return George H. W. Bush announces that the United States and her allies will stop targeting Russia and the remaining communist states with Nuclear Weapons.

February 7 – The  Maastricht Treaty is signed, founding the European Union.

February 26 – The Supreme Court of Ireland rules that a 14-year-old rape victim may travel to England to have an abortion.

March 9 – The People’s Republic of China ratifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

March  17 – Russian manned space craft TM-14, launches into orbit

March 18 – White South Africans vote in favour of political reforms which will end the apartheid regime and create a power-sharing multi-racial government.

June 3 – World’s Summit opens (Rio De Janeiro Brazil) – THE UN CONFERENCE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT – UNCED.

June 8 – The first World Ocean Day is celebrated, coinciding with the Earth Summit held in Rio de JaneiroBrazil.

June 8 – Thomas Klestil succeeds Waldheim as president of Austria.

July 13 – Yitzhak Rabin becomes prime minister of Israel

July 20 – Václav Havel resigns as president of Czechoslovakia.

July 31 – The ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia becomes the 179th member of the United Nations.

September 16 – Black Wednesday: The pound sterling and the Italian lira are forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

October 12 – In the Dominican RepublicPope John Paul II celebrates the “500th anniversary of the meeting of 2 cultures,”
or was this rather the belated recognition of the subjugation of the Western Hemisphere to Christianity?

October 25 – Lithuania holds a referendum on its first constitution after declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

October 31 – Pope John Paul II issues an apology, and lifts the edict of the Inquisition against Galileo Galilei.

November 3 – United States presidential election, 1992Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd President of the United States.

November 11 – The Church of England votes to allow women to become priests.

November 25 – The Czechoslovakia Federal Assembly votes to split the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, starting on January 1, 1993

December 22 – Archives of Terror discovered by Dr. Martín Almada detailing the fates of thousands of Latin Americans who had been secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. This was known as Operation Condor. The Involvement of the CIA is obvious.

December 29 – Brazil‘s president Fernando Collor de Mello is found guilty on charges that he stole more than $32 million from the government, preventing him from holding any elected office for 8 years.


The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 2-14, 1992. It was held twenty years after the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) took place in Stockholm, Sweden.

Government officials from 178 countries and between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals from governments, non-governmental organizations, and the media participated in this event to discuss solutions for global problems such as poverty, war, and the growing gap between industrialized and developing countries. The central focus was the question of how to relieve the global environmental system through the introduction to the paradigm of sustainable development. This concept emphasizes that economic and social progress depend critically on the preservation of the natural resource base with effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Held to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Stockholm Conference, the Rio Earth Summit became everything that an earlier ‘Stockholm plus ten’ conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1982, could not. Indeed, it became more than even its proponents had hoped for.

Instead of being the ‘second’ United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Rio was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development; putting those two terms together, which had been so much at odds at Stockholm, might itself have been Rio’s most important achievement. In particular, it broadened the scope of global environmental diplomacy by adopting the notion of sustainable development, which had been advocated 5 years earlier in by the World Commission on Environment and Development as one of its key policy frameworks.

The world at Rio was, of course, very different from the world at Stockholm. In the intervening two decades, the Cold War (the defining political framework at UNCHE) had disappeared, the level of public interest in the environment was greatly increased, environmental issues such as stratospheric ozone depletion and global climate change were now squarely on the global policy map, and energy had become a major concern for economic security in  aftermath of the oil price shocks of 1973–74 and 1980–81.

The results of the UNCED included the Rio Declaration enunciating 27 principles of environment and development, Agenda 21, and a Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests, which were all adopted by consensus (without vote) by the conference.

The institutional innovation resulting from the conference included an agreement on the operating rules for the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the establishment of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) on the basis of an Agenda 21 recommendation. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity were products of independent, but concurrent, negotiating processes that were opened for signatures at UNCED.

The problem we are facing twenty years later is that despite the high aspirations, the clear potential, and the basic correctness of the UNCED results, in practical terms, only little is there to show in terms of implementation, after these 20 years, of what was suggested in those UNCED results.

So, when the UN decided to have a meeting 20 years later in order to find out what should be done with those unattained goals of the famed, and now forgotten, Agenda 21, it found out very fast that a majority of UN Member States were not ready to talk of Sustainable Development period. Agenda 21 was hardly being mentioned by the discussants, the scene was back about money – many speakers from the South were observing that the North  did not provide the funds for development of the South that it promised.

At the Informal-Informal meetings of the Prepcom in New York, part of the RIO+20 Preparatory route, I sat in disbelief watching the Algerian Ambassador, spokesman for the G77, putting brackets on the word “Sustainable” when written next to Development – as in Sustainable Development – the official name of the RIO+20 Conference – UNCSD or the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Did the gentleman know where he was going and what he was doing?

Clearly I must answer with a YES. He was there to get money from the North in order to “DEVELOP” the South – so it looks like the North. Sustainability had no place in his outlook. According to him, twenty years after UNCED, he still thinks in terms of the new Nations being entitled to repeat all the mistakes done previously by the old industrialized Nations of Europe and North America.

I posted from New York articles about this, and kept remarking that the G77 are falling apart. In effect – countries like Bangladesh, and many of the Small Island Independent States  already spoke up for themselves realizing that they are already suffering from the effects of Climate Change, and that the political grandstanding does not do them any good.

Mexico, the host for the 2012 G20 meeting, as well as Colombia, took positions to avoid this sort of useless confrontation, and countries of the South that do not belong to OPEC, had also  clear vision that supporting the Saudi Arabian claim for financial compensation for its loss of a market for the petroleum commodity has no place in their own National Interest in a world relying more on Renewable Energy.   Some countries, led by a man from Fiji, Vice President of the UN General Assembly, were ready to introduce to the UNGA the request to investigate the possibility to take the interest of future generations – yes, the yet unborn – to the International Court of Justice, as we are leaving the Future Generations with a spoiled environment depleted of Natural Resources.

The Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Yoezer Thinley , with a large entourage of Ministers and Officials, came to New York, and as mandated by the UNGA, held a special meeting on April 2nd, 2012 on Well Being and Happiness as targets of intent when talking about Sustainability and Sustainable Development. The Bhutanese were active in New York for a full week and economists were helping them by showing that there is a basic – fundamental misconception, when measuring growth by the GDP yard-stick.


Here for our sanity, come in the notions of Well-Being and Happiness. The GDP yard stick does not measure these objectives. So what was the G77 leadership standing for?  Is this not a fair question? Would it not make more sense to come up with a joint effort that looks not only at the present imbalance between industrialization levels of  Nations, but also on the rights of Future Generations? This introduces a notion of ethics that was not introduced to the UN previously.  All this at a time that there is a clear lack of understanding between various groups of Nations in the UN.

New alliances are possible – such as between the countries, mainly in the poor South,  that are already suffering from effects of climate change, and more visionary countries of the North, that have a civil society ready to switch gears in the economy and move to new industries that are less polluting, resources saving and create jobs – a win-win-win situation for all! But the structure of the UN is itself fossilized, and the RIO+20 Prepcom was frozen.  No outcome document could be hammered out. That is how it looked when the Informal-Informal meetings were moved to Rio, the Prepcom resumed, and the Brazilian platform accepted by acclamation as the conference outcome.

We will not rehash the unsuccessful part of the event – but follow from here the Brazilian prepared options and the outcome document to show that it in effect changes the direction of the Sustainability Bridge from the 1992 construct to a new option that turns OUR COMMON VISION to the UN language operative THE FUTURE WE WANT.


The Brazilians, hosts of 1992 and 2012, decided that their own good name is at stake, and descended on New York in full force.

Led by Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota, a Former Brazil Ambassador to the United States (2007-2009), and chief operational Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, the Undersecretary for Environment, Energy, Science and Technology of the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil – Figueredo Machado, was surrounded by a total of 30 other Ambassadors and Ministers – made sure to speak to everybody who volunteered an opinion, and note the minimums of acceptance in a secret draft they kept revising

Foreign Minister, Ambassador Patriota, is  graduate in philosophy from the University of Geneva and later international relations at he Rio Branco Institute – Brazil’s Diplomatic Academy;  he was also Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs of the Ministry of External Relations, and Secretary General of the Ministry and Cabinet Chief of Foreign Minister  Celso Amorim,  now Minister of Defence (whom I also spotted at the RioCentro conference Center), his predecessor from whom he took over in 2011.

Ambassador Figueiredo Machado has a Law degree from the State University of Rio de Janeiro, and subsequently graduated in 1980 from Instituto Rio Branco. Mister Figueiredo Machado has taught Constitutional Law at Rio Branco.  His postgraduate thesis for the Advanced Studies Course at the Rio Branco Institute was published in 2000 under the title The Brazilian Continental Shelf and the Law of the Sea. Considerations for a political action.

As a diplomat, Mister Figueiredo Machado has held overseas positions in the Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York where we met him, in the Embassies in Santiago, Washington and Ottawa, as well as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Mission to UNESCO, in Paris. Figueiredo Machado has also held numerous positions in the Ministry, handling multilateral issues, such as disarmament, oceans, Antarctica, space, health, and the environment.

Ambassador Figueiredo Machado served as Director of the Department of the Environment and Special Affairs from 2005 to 2010. Promoted to the rank of Ambassador in 2009, he got his present position in 2011 to oversee all Brazilian Government negotiations on environmental, technology, energy, science, ocean and space issues. Ambassador Figueiredo Machado served as well, since 2005, as Brazils lead negotiator in the climate change regime process.


Brazil, to play it safe, prepared a two parts defense-line around the Rio+20 negotiations. I enjoyed in New York the resistance of Ambassador Figueiredo Machado to accept the idea that the meeting should actually be called RIO-20 because of the need, at the end, to come up with a new paradigm to replace the Agenda 21 that nobody was actually talking about.  Ambassador Machado seemed self confident  – in the face of negotiations that seemed clearly bound in a direction of  – “NO CONCLUDING DOCUMENT”.  He once told me that this will not be the case and “don’t talk yet of a failed meeting.”

The Brazilian diplomats, as said above, keeping their fingers on the pulse of the debate – and being present everywhere – had by the end of the New York meeting – that clearly had only a huge compendium of text and bracketed versions within other brackets with up to a dozen versions to a topic. At this stage I will not analyse the situation – it is all on the record and clearly that material did not amount to a statement that governments could have agreed upon as a final document. BUT a draft document on the ready was already in Amb. Figuereido Machado’s briefcase.

The Brazilians, who were totally committed “not to see a Doha in Rio” – a failed meeting in their home, and the cadaver of their darling of 1992, laid down at their feet – not trusting completely the above first line of defense – set up very early a second defense line, which they called the RioDialogues, and which we described already in our posting –…  (see another link bellow)

That was an innovation at the UN.  Seeing that it was hard to work with governments, the Brazilians decided, within what the General Assembly allowed them to do, to offer as  well an alternative to the government process by creating a Civil Society process based on the UN Member States system, but using an internet voting method, and an illusion of real democracy.

Our posting of June 7th saw these possibilities, but then the Brazilians were  afraid that the UN will not allow enough freedom of action to  their innovative scheme, and wedge in so that the UN mechanism directs the details of the Brazilian effort.

Let’s see – Brazil picks ten topics and allows via the internet an inflow of free suggested recommendations to each one of these topics. Each topic is handled by a team of 100 appointed people managed by three scientists – one from Brazil, one from the North and one from the South. Internet backing allows in each topic an interplay with those recommendations, and eventually the 100 people pick out from the many recommendations ten that will be pushed forward to a two stage voting. After the second stage voting only three recommendations per topic survive.

This total of 3 recommendations times 10 topics, that is 30 recommendations, then move on to four High Level Panels –  and it was expected that the outcome from this discussion among the high level panelists can then lead to a second document that could be viewed as a “New UN Age” outcome – very appropriate if the  Brazilian first line of defense fails – so this second line of defense produces a document nevertheless.

The first stage via the internet, and the second stage during the RioDialogues days in Rio proper, are voting stages. These were the June 16-19, 2010 days that came in between the June 13-15, 2012 days left open to the government delegates to have another attempt at informal-informal culminating in a renewed short Prepcom meeting – that was the actual original route of RIO+20, before the RioDialogues start – and are then followed by the Conference proper scheduled just for three days June 20-22, 2012. Final meeting and concluding decisions-taking were planned for Friday June 22, 2012.

At the RioDialogues, the chosen ten recommendations from each one of those 10 topics were presented by their designed teams and voted upon by the people allowed into the room. This particular issue, the UN mechanism intended to stymie in UN fashion and make it difficult for free participation. That old system that allows only to insiders to get a pass under rules that say half men – half women – half North – Half South and if you are genuinely proponent of UN change you find that you do not belong to any half – you are just the outside whole. Oh Well! But here we saw a clear rebellion by Brazil, they took back the initiative and shoved aside the notion that the UN Secretariat is responsible for dishing out Secondary Passes to those interested to participate in those meetings – including the voting.  They simply declared “THERE IS ENOUGH SPACE IN THOSE ROOMS AND ANYONE WHO WANTS TO COME SHOULD BE LET IN” – BRAVO BRAZIL!

For instance, with my interest in the Energy panel, and my interest to participate in the Energy RioDialogue, I found that I would not get access if the NGO office of the Major Group office, had its way – then the Brazilians told me not to worry – that room will not be closed to anyone expressing an interest in the topic.  I eventually understood how the UN Secretariat framed the subject as the NGO spokesperson on the platform was not a climate related person, but a lady involved with business interests that would rather talk of cooking stoves then energy emissions in general.  The lady was also close to the organizers of the Major Groups structure that dominates the NGO office.  Nevertheless, I had no problem speaking up from the floor, and stressing that all energy with very few exceptions like geothermal, was energy that comes from the sun, and the recommendations do not go far enough to stress this point. Using Fossil Fuels is like living from the savings account and by definition non-sustainable.  Kerosene and LPG are not an acceptable way to dispense Energy for All. My comments were answered from the podium – so clearly the Brazilians were not losers in their effort to develop this second line of defense, though clearly the UN is yet far from opening up to the real issues at stake.

Eventually, as said, the recommendations from the Dialogues moved up to the four Round Table Panels, and much more will have to be reviewed in what went on in this Brazilian second line.

Ending this section with this “Much more” comment, I will just say that there was no need for this second document as the first Brazilian document “Our Common Vision” was eventually accepted by acclamation on June 22nd – leaving open the question how Brazil will now include the the outcome from the High Level Panel discussions as an appendix to the official outcome of the Conference.


In my last part I will thus try to pick up only the most important lines of thought from the UN official THE FUTURE WE WANT –  as per the RIO+20 Outcome Document based on Brazil’s OUR COMMON VISION:

Going directly to the main point – please follow us to paragraphs 84-86 which have the secondary heading:


and to make it even easier I marked red the most important operative lines. Most of the remaining lines are plain UN “boiler plate important to this or other Rio negotiators and show the all inclusiveness of the Brazilian diplomats.

84. We decide to establish a universal intergovernmental high level political forum, building on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and subsequently replacing the Commission. The high level political forum shall follow up on the implementation of sustainable developmentand should avoid overlap with existing structures, bodies and entities in a cost-effective manner.

85. The high level forum could:

(a) provide political leadership, guidance, and recommendations for sustainable development;
(b) enhance integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development in a holistic and cross-sectoral manner at all levels;
(c) provide a dynamic platform for regular dialogue, and stocktaking and agendasetting to advance sustainable development;
(d) have a focused, dynamic and action-oriented agenda, ensuring the appropriate consideration of new and emerging sustainable development challenges;
(e) follow up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments contained in Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, Barbados Programme of Action, Mauritius Strategy for Implementation and the outcome of this Conference and, as appropriate, relevant outcomes of other UN summits and conferences, including the outcome of the Fourth United NationsConference on the Least Developed Countries, as well as their respective means of  implementation;
(f) encourage high-level system-wide participation of UN Agencies, funds andprogrammes and invite to participate, as appropriate, other relevant multilateral financial and trade institutions, treaty bodies, within their respective mandates andin accordance with UN rules and provisions;
(g) improve cooperation and coordination within the UN system on sustainable development programmes and policies;
(h) promote transparency and implementation through further enhancing the consultative role and participation of Major Groups and other relevant stakeholders at the international level in order to better make use of their expertise, while retaining the intergovernmental nature of discussions;
(i) promote the sharing of best practices and experiences relating to theimplementation of sustainable development, and on a voluntary basis, facilitate sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges, and lessons learnt;
(j) promote system-wide coherence and coordination of sustainable development policies;
(k) strengthen the science-policy interface through review of documentation bringing together dispersed information and assessments, including in the form of a global sustainable development report, building on existing assessments;
(l) enhance evidence-based decision-making at all levels and contribute to strengthen ongoing efforts of capacity building for data collection and analysis in developing countries.
86. We decide to launch an intergovernmental and open, transparent and inclusive negotiation process under the General Assembly to define the high level forum’s format and organizational aspects with the aim of convening the first high level forum at the beginning of the 68th session of the General Assembly. We will also consider the need for promoting intergenerational solidarity for the achievement of sustainable development, taking into account the needs of future generations, including by inviting the Secretary General to present a report on this issue.
* * * * *
What above means is that the UN Secretary General is mandated to establish under UN General Assembly rules, that call for full UN Membership:

(1) a universal inter governmental high level political forum to replace the existing non-functioning Commission on Sustainable Development.

(2) though leaving the term Sustainable Development in place, the above looks at Developing Sustainability instead – this by mandating the UN Secretary General to look at taking into account the needs of future generations – “including by inviting the Secretary General to present a report on this issue.”

We say therefore that the concept of Sustainable Development introduced to the UN lingo by the 1992 meeting by Mr. Maurice Strong, a Canadian with strong ties to the US, but who lives now in Beijing, is effectively being replaced by “Developing Sustainability” as he pronounced it on June 21, 2012, at the official ceremony of celebration of the passing of 20 years between RIO UNCED and RIO+20.

The Brazilian Diplomats have accepted the need to consider Sustainability as the bridge to future generations when developing economies for the short sighted benefit of the current generation. This is in effect a negation of the common resources-grabbing
reality by the 1% of the population in North and South, while the remaining 99% of the population remains in effect in relative poverty – as described by the evolving Global Occupy movements.

Introducing the needs of FUTURE GENERATIONS does for the first time give the UN the needed sense of ethics required in full understanding of the term SUSTAINABILITY, that is intruding into the ongoing negotiations via a request to establish at the UN a “Small Office” of a HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS that we understand could  be modeled after the United States example of the US General Accounting Office.  The GAO  can be called by any Member of US Congress – House or Senate – to make public an evaluation of true facts regarding an issue that is in dispute. In the UN case, such a small office could answer questions of impact on future generations by any ongoing activity or negotiations at the UN.

This idea has already working examples.

Commissioners for future generations were tried by Parliaments of Israel and Hungary.

The Israeli Knesset Commissioner,  a retired Judge, had the right to review impacts of all legislation. The experiment eventually was ended as political forces found this cumbersome. In the Hungarian Parliament case the experiment that could have an impact in all EU States, continues and was the base for the introduction of the subject to the negotiations of the run-up to RIO+20. Professor Sándor Fülöp is since 2008 the Hungarian Parliament’s Commissioner on Future Generations. We applaud the Brazilians for seizing up on this very important point.

In effect we find this and the efforts by Bhutan to focus us on Well-Being and Happiness, the two most important driving forces that surfaced at the UN informal-informal negotiations.  They sum up the Ethics, and it is now up to representatives of the World Religions to seize the opportunity to enter UN negotiations. The rights of the yet to be born generations and the happiness of the present generations are not just Buddhist concepts – these are fundamentals to be found in any religious scriptures as evidenced by the religious leaders that the Prime Minister of Bhutan assembled at his most effective day at the UN in New York – April 2, 2012.

Getting back to  the Brazilian drafted text, in the opening paragraph, it also says that Sustainable Development Goals, protecting and managing natural resources and ecosystems for present and future generations, are to be formulated by the UN in order to follow in 2015 from the Millennium Development Goals.

Paragraphs 56-74 deal with rules and regulations of a Green Economy as needed for Sustainability and Justice for the people.

Paragraphs 87-90 deal with strengthening the Environmental pillar of the three legged concept of Sustainable Development, by making UNEP all inclusive with Universal Membership in its Governing Council.

We find that this section would benefit immensely had there been a UN Commissioner for Future Generations as UNEP has not enough of a handle on sovereign States to force them to take full responsibility over the environment in their own territory, but it could become possible to hold them responsible for damages to extraterritorial regions – specially those that are not covered by National Sovereignty claims, and belong thus to everyone as represented by the yet to be born in Future Generations.  In our opinion this facet of International Law has yet to be written with the establishing of a legal persona for the unborn – surely more important then the Corporate legal persona.

Paragraphs 224-226  deal with Sustainable Consumption and Production. These reiterate past commitments, including the elimination of subsidies to fossil fuels, but are clearly short of recommendations for true evaluation of the effects of ongoing production and consumption patterns. We believe that a handle on this could eventually be formed when the impact on future generations is considered.

Last Section – VI. Means of Implementation – including Finance, Technology, Capacity Building, Trade, and Registry of Commitments, is the obvious target of those that say the meeting came out empty handed. This, because if you were expecting a continuous flow of money from the North to the South, you simply did not look out your cell-window lately.

The money is no more with the States of the North – it is rather to be found in the Southern New Emerging economies, so there is no real promises of money to be found except in the registry of free commitments – mainly by private enterprise and all sorts of partnerships.   This last part is a success story, but not what some pundits were fighting for.  We do not think that this should be viewed separately from the call for change.

To summarize – RIO+20 as handled by Brazil – is a door to a new future that is going to rewrite the 1992 decisions that were not followed anyway.     As said – it will be rather DEVELOPING SUSTAINABILITY then SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, and in this respect the platform is only being developed and the eventual funding will be coming in major part from South-South cooperation. We will have to be patient and see the changes taking effect.

Learning from the above, we hope for a MAASTRICHT+20 to replace the EU Summits that talk of a “Montillande” wrestling Merkel as replacement to “Merkozy” – we think this sort of talk does not fit the reality, and is no way to crawl out from under the avalanche that was caused by the lack of real growth following that good year of 1992. So let me repeat – if Europe cannot do it alone – it ought to invite the UN “B-Team” – Bhutan and Brazil – and ask them to rewrite the rules.


Following is the link to our posting of the RioDialogues and on Judge Shlomo Shoham of the Commission for Future Generations in the Knesset .

Posted on on June 7th, 2012


Posted on on April 27th, 2010


To look further at the Hungarian example of  Professor Sándor Fülöp,  presently the only ongoing Parliament appointed Commissioner for Future Generations, please go to  and see also the involvement on this subject of the Hamburg based World Future Council.   [Mr Sándor Fülöp was elected to become Hungary’s first Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in 2008. He holds a degree in law from the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences (1982) and a degree in psychology (1987). Between 1984 and 1991 he has worked as a public prosecutor at the Metropolitan and the National Chief Prosecutor’s Office. Following a short period of private legal practice,  Mr Fülöp was also until his election as Commissioner, the director of Hungary’s principal non-profit environmental law firm: the Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA).  During that time he has  held a number of international positions.  He participated in the drafting of the 1998 UN ECE Convention on Access to Information, Access to Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention). Between 2002 and 2008 he was a member of the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention.  Mr Fülöp has been a university lecturer on environmental law since 1997.]

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article