for Sustainable Development
Summit on Sustainable Development is due to take place in late August
2002 in Johannesburg. This summit, to be held ten years after the Rio
Earth Summit, aims to take stock of developments and initiate action-focused
In the run-up to Johannesburg, a broad alliance of German non-governmental
organizations has joined forces to launch the campaign 'Global equity
on environmental terms'. Our common goal is to ensure that the policy
realm and the society of our country assume more responsibility for
environmentally and socially sustainable development.
There has been enough lip service, and there have been enough non-binding
declarations of intent. The Johannesburg conference must do more to
make things happen. There is a need for massive political pressure and
broad social mobilization for the insights and findings of Rio to become
reality at last.
conference already determined that:
countries' model of prosperity is not sustainable.
North has accepted the principal responsibility for the global environmental
crisis and has pledged new financial resources and technology transfer
for the developing countries to promote their eco-social development.
to develop on a level playing field was affirmed as a principle. The
developing countries, for their part, have recognized that maintaining
the natural resource base which sustains our lives is a national responsibility.
later, we find that:
The industrialized world is going to Johannesburg with a huge credibility
deficit. Though technologically feasible, only marginal use is being
made of the enormous efficiency potentials in resource consumption,
from water to energy. Climate change is accelerating, the loss of biological
diversity is continuing unabated, vital resources such as potable water
are becoming scarce and social and ecological inequity is mounting with
the result that the gap between the poor and the rich is widening rather
Nor are the governments of developing and transition countries blameless
for the highly inadequate implementation of the Rio decisions. The great
majority of the industrial and political elites of the North, South
and East alike have not really accepted the message about the ecological
limits to resources and environmental carrying capacity.
This critical state of affairs prompts us to raise our voice in support
of comprehensive reforms and social policy initiatives.
Even today, the scarcity of vital resources such as potable water and
soils, the social and cultural dislocation caused by misguided economic
policies and the destructive exploitation of the natural environment
are key causes of conflict and forced migration in many countries. Since
the attacks in New York and Washington, the structural causes of terrorism
such as social injustice and cultural levelling have moved more to the
forefront of attention. Peace is more than the absence of war and terror.
Overcoming social injustice, respecting human rights, ensuring equitable
and sustainable use of natural life-support systems and bringing about
fundamental changes in transnational trade and financial policies are
key contributions to striking a global balance between North and South.
We have an
expectation that the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg
signals of a change of course in the political and economic realms,
to exploit the full potential for efficient resource conservation and
to remove environmentally nonsensical subsidies;
initiatives to structure the globalization process on socially equitable
and environmentally acceptable terms;
social policy initiatives for sustainable lifestyles and more democratic
participation in political decision-making processes at the local, regional
and national as well as international levels.
We have an
expectation that the German government will engage in specific political
initiatives to promote in Germany, the European Union and at global
level the requisite social and political processes of change in the
10 following areas of action.
We call upon
the citizens of our country and upon German industry to take the contribution
they can potentially make towards meeting global social and ecological
obligations as a precept for action.
Addressing poverty and delivering equity
The number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide will soon reach
one billion. Poverty is an expression of social inequity. Over the past
years, in the wake of globalization, the gap between the poor and the
rich has continued to widen worldwide, but also within Germany. For
there to be globally sustainable development, it is essential to overcome
poverty, particularly in the countries of the South. This implies a
consistent change of course in international economic, trade and financial
The primary input of development cooperation must be to make a targeted
contribution to structural poverty reduction in the villages and urban
slums of developing countries. In doing so, it must support self-help
initiatives and social movements whose efforts seek to create social
equity and are oriented to sustainability principles and to implementing
Moreover, the rich countries have an obligation to provide additional
financial resources for development cooperation. We therefore demand
that the commitment of industrialized nations to provide 0.7% of their
gross national product for development assistance, which was reaffirmed
in Rio, is honoured in a binding fashion by the year 2010. The proportion
of financial resources allocated to direct poverty reduction needs to
be increased significantly. All available means need to be brought to
bear in order to achieve the internationally agreed development objectives,
which include halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty,
achieving universal primary education and further implementing national
strategies for sustainable development.
The German government has announced its intention to make a specific
German contribution to halving the proportion of people living in extreme
poverty worldwide, in the shape of its 2015 Programme of Action. We
call upon the German government to follow up this announcement with
Protecting the world's climate by redirecting energy and transport policies
Greenhouse gas emissions need to be curbed drastically in order to prevent
climate change and the associated severe consequences. Since industrialized
countries produce significantly higher per-capita emissions, they must
make the first moves. The Kyoto Protocol must be ratified as soon as
possible and needs to enter into force in time for Johannesburg.
To prevent dangerous climate change, concrete climate protection measures
need to be set in train swiftly in the industrialized countries, so
that a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved by
the year 2020, and even 80% by 2050. To achieve this, it is essential
not only to put in place consistent climate protection policies, but
also to exploit actively the diverse options for action available to
Primary energy consumption and the use of fossil fuels, notably coal,
need to be reduced swiftly. To this end, it is essential in Germany
to abandon current plans for developing further lignite mining areas
and to terminate the subsidization of hard coal mining without delay.
The process of ecological tax reform needs to be continued and regulations
adopted for its expansion to the European level. Its numerous exemptions
must be removed.
The proportion of renewable energy sources in primary energy consumption
must be raised to a national and worldwide share of well over 10% within
the next 10 years. It is similarly essential to reverse the trend in
the unabated growth of emissions from the transport sector. This necessitates
refraining from any further expansion of automobile and aviation infrastructure,
expanding instead public local and long-distance transport services
so that these can become a competitive alternative.
Steering globalization onto a socially and environmentally acceptable
Globalization is a highly contradictory process, creating immense wealth
and an abundance of goods, while at the same time generating impoverishment
and sharp inequality. The associated upheavals affect the international
financial system, world trade and production systems in equal measure.
They also impact upon culture, ways of life and the value-orientations
of people on all continents. Guided by efficiency and profit maximization,
markets and states seek to externalize environmental and social costs.
Even the most important areas of public welfare provision - education,
health, old age provision and drinking water supply - are subjected
to the logic of efficiency if they are considered profitable.
Johannesburg must initiate concrete initiatives steering globalization
onto a socially and environmentally acceptable path. This requires deep-seated
reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as the international
financial system and its organizations, the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) and World Bank.
A sustainable world trade system must prioritize environmental protection
and resource conservation, poverty alleviation and socially and environmentally
sustainable production standards ahead of trade liberalization. Environmental
and human rights agreements must have primacy over WTO law.
The international financial system needs to be restructured such that
currency and debt crises no longer have the potential to throw entire
national economies off-balance and jeopardize their natural resources.
Substantial debt remission and the introduction of an international,
fair and transparent arbitration procedure are key preconditions for
sustainable development, as is a departure from structural adjustment
programmes that rely almost exclusively upon export orientation, privatization
and deregulation. To rein in the momentum of financial markets, there
is a need to introduce appropriate measures such as a currency transaction
It is high time for the debate on international taxes and charges upon
resource-consuming and polluting systems of production and transport
(aviation and ocean shipping, fisheries etc.) to be placed firmly on
the international agenda. A greater proportion of international taxes
and charges should be deployed to finance environmentally and socially
The key environmental principles - the precautionary principle and polluter-pays
principle - need to be established in German foreign trade and payments
policy too. This applies particularly to the award criteria for public
sector-backed export credit guarantees and investment guarantees; these
continue to be awarded without applying clear and binding environmental
and social standards and corresponding review procedures.
Not only must environmental and social limits be set on economic globalization,
but the process also needs to be integrated within a democratically
controllable system of political rules for sustainable development.
Germany, in its capacity as a prominent industrial and exporting nation,
has a particular responsibility here. The international credibility
of the German government depends crucially upon its national and international
initiatives to structure the globalization process.
Providing food security through a global reconversion of agriculture
Although enough food is produced worldwide for more than six billion
people, about 800 million suffer hunger. According to the figures of
the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the majority of these
are small farmers and rural workers. At the same time, agriculture faces,
and itself frequently contributes to, diverse environmental problems
ranging from soil erosion to the contamination and exhaustion of potable
water resources. The outbreaks of BSE and foot-and-mouth disease in
Europe have underscored once more that the industrialization of agriculture
cannot solve the global problems of food security and environmental
protection. What is rather called for is a reconversion of agriculture,
towards systems adapted to regional ecological cycles and the needs
of smaller producers. However, corresponding policies can only succeed
if consumers use their purchasing behaviour to influence market realities
to a far greater extent than they have done in the past.
In the industrialized countries, the main need is to restructure radically
the system of subsidies. Production incentives, guaranteed prices and
export subsidies, which destroy the environment at home and agricultural
markets abroad, must be abolished and the resources channelled into
programmes that promote sustainable regional development and provide
targeted rewards for the environmental protection, nature conservation
and landscape management services provided by agriculture; one recipient
of such resources will be organic farming.
Hand in hand with this, it is essential that the EU abandons its agricultural
protectionism, thus further opening its markets for products from developing
countries. At the same time, there is a need for diverse measures to
support developing countries on the path towards agricultural systems
that are sustainable and do not place export interests above the food
security of the local population. These measures include comprehensive
land reform securing access for women, above all, to productive resources.
Small-scale producers, especially of staple foods, need to be supported
particularly by national-level agricultural policies, promoted by development
assistance activities. This includes protecting markets against subsidized
imports. Such policies must be permissible without restriction under
the WTO regime.
Recognition needs to be given to the services provided by farmers in
breeding and preserving valuable crop plant varieties. The patenting
of seeds, living organisms and traditional knowledge consequently needs
to be prohibited.
Promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity
The biological diversity of the world is declining daily. Since Rio,
its conservation and sustainable use and the equitable sharing of the
benefits arising from its use are key themes of the international debate
on sustainable resource use. The Convention on Biological Diversity
has not yet succeeded in reversing the negative trajectory. The continuing
degradation of natural forests, overexploitation of almost all marine
fish stocks and unabated biopiracy are examples of the effects of misguided
policies and patterns of consumption.
We therefore call for the consistent political implementation and further
expansion of existing legal instruments and agreements. The Biosafety
Protocol, which regulates the handling of genetically modified organisms,
must be ratified and implemented swiftly. Internationally binding legal
instruments that prevent biopiracy and give people in developing countries
an equitable share in the use of their biological resources must be
further developed and implemented. Finally, far greater efforts need
to be made, notably by the industrialized countries, to finance the
conservation of global biological diversity.
Development cooperation activities, too, must in future promote more
strongly the sustained conservation of natural resources as well as
structural local poverty reduction.
In view of the demand for timber, especially in the industrialized countries,
international forest policy is a particularly striking example of the
opposite of sustainability; for years, it has been at a complete standstill.
A forest protocol with which the causes of advancing forest degradation
can be combated should therefore be agreed within the context of the
Convention on Biological Diversity.
In Germany, a two-pronged strategy needs to be pursued within the context
of a long overdue national biodiversity strategy: Measures for broad-scale
ecosystem conservation must be implemented (e.g. through consistent
implementation of the EU Habitats Directive, and promotion of ecologically
sound forest use, such as envisaged within the international certification
scheme operated by the Forest Stewardship Council) and active measures
need to be taken to prevent the destructive global-level impacts on
the natural environment generated by the national economy and national-level
Protecting soils and combating desertification
Besides air and water, soils are the fundamental environmental systems:
They provide the life-support basis for humanity and for plants and
animals; it is only through them that biodiversity, genetic resources
and raw materials can be created at all; they serve food production,
and are water reservoirs, pollutant filters and regulators of global
biogeochemical cycles. It is essential to raise awareness among the
general public and among politicians of the importance and protection
Worldwide, 15% of the ice-free land surface is affected by soil degradation.
About 1.2 billion people, or every sixth inhabitant of the Earth, are
endangered just by desertification and drought. In developing countries,
soils are often a basis for generating a large proportion of national
income. The greater part of the population of these countries (up to
80%) is made up of small farmers, whose income and food security depend
essentially upon soil productivity. Rapidly advancing land degradation
(desertification) impairs the social and economic development of almost
one billion people worldwide.
It is essential to minimize the factors causing soil degradation, such
as erosion, compaction and surface sealing, or nutrient loss, salinization,
contamination and acidification and the underlying causes. While the
factors causing soil degradation in the North are wealth-induced, in
the developing countries they are poverty-induced. Greater political
consideration needs to be given to the linkages between soil degradation
and other global environmental problems such as climate change, biodiversity
loss through industrial agriculture and expansion of land use as well
as the sealing (paving) of land; an international soils policy needs
to be crafted.
To preserve natural soil functions for food production and for global
food security, it is necessary to engage in multifunctional, site-appropriate
land use and the environmentally sound design of the framework conditions
for agricultural markets. It is also essential to support a more balanced
distribution of land ownership and to intensify the transfer of technologies
and knowledge relating to integrated systems.
Intensifying urbanization worldwide must be counteracted by promoting
integrated sustainable settlements development in order to reduce land
consumption. In the North, effective measures in this connection include
'unpaving' cities, cleaning up contaminated sites and internalizing
soil protection within real estate prices. In the developing countries,
German development policy should promote urban potentials for the sustainable
use of natural resources such as wood and water, and should militate
for equitable trade relations between rural and urban areas.
In Germany, too, we are still far removed from a sustainable use of
soils. Although a Federal Soil Protection Act entered into force in
March 1999 and further statutory ordinances and planning processes shall
contribute to protecting soils, the paving-over of land is continuing
unabated in Germany: Some 130 ha are consumed daily for transport routes
and settlement areas. Consequently, it is necessary to reduce the additional
land take for settlement and transport purposes to zero by the year
2010. Instances of new land use must be compensated for in full by 'unpaving'
Making good the right to water and utilizing water resources sustainably
Access to water is a precondition to a healthy life and to economic
development, and is crucial to food security. However, in many regions
water is becoming increasingly scarce. The causes of this include mounting
demand, pollution and wastage, above all by industry and industrial
agriculture. This particularly affects poorer countries and population
groups. In many instances large dams have done more harm than good to
sustainable water management and have often been associated with severe
human rights violations.
If efforts to conserve and sustainably use water resources should fail,
there is a risk of heightening social, regional and inter-state tensions
and North-South conflict. Struggles over water could become one of the
most volatile areas of political conflict in the 21st century.
The equal right of access to water needs to be enshrined as a human
right, and honouring this right must remain the task and responsibility
of states. National and international programmes to contain the water
crisis must be expanded and strengthened. More financial resources need
to be made available for global water policy.
The World Commission on Dams (WCD) has elaborated recommendations for
a comprehensive water management approach with wide-ranging participation
of civil society and affected groups. These recommendations now need
to be recognized and implemented by governments and international development
In Germany, too, resources are subject to high utilization pressure,
caused particularly by agriculture. Further improvements in water resources
quality are advancing only slowly. In the field of groundwater protection,
no reversal of the trend is in sight. It is essential to engage in political
reforms in order to ensure active precautionary policies and improved
environmental protection; above all, incentives to use water sustainably
need to be strengthened. A privatization of water supply would stand
in the way of this goal. The basic structure of the system of localized
water supply as the responsibility of municipalities, which is well
proven in Germany, must not be changed or even abolished.
Structuring consumption patterns and lifestyles sustainably
Sustainable development and global equity also require a redirection
of our lifestyles in the industrialized countries. Even today, four
planets would be required if all people were to share the lifestyles
of the industrialized nations. For our well-being, we do not need very
many goods, but rather goods that are durable and do not impair the
environment. We do not have to personally own everything that we need.
Consuming more and more and commercializing ever more areas of our life
will not enhance our joy in living. Sustainability means reversing this
trend. To achieve more sustainable lifestyles, the policy realm must
create supportive framework conditions; however, we must also change
our behaviour as consumers.
There are many opportunities to adapt everyday behaviour so as to save
resources and energy. Examples include shopping for fair-trade produce;
buying regionally produced or organically labelled foods; or, to protect
the climate, reducing traffic by using public transport, exploiting
energy savings potentials in buildings, or procuring electricity from
renewable energy sources - the list is lengthy.
Environment and development policy education and awareness-raising efforts
help to enable the general public to rethink everyday behaviour in terms
of sustainability. State support is essential in order for NGOs to work
Environmental education and 'global learning' about North-South inequities
must be integrated within the curricula of schools and adult education
institutions, as well as in teacher training, in order to create an
understanding of the inter-linkages with sustainable development.
Sustainability needs gender equity
Sustainable development is inconceivable without the participation of
women. This requires removing inequities and strengthening the role
of women. As yet, neither environmental policy nor development policy
has seriously implemented this message of Agenda 21. There is a trend
towards feminizing both social responsibility - from the education of
children through to care for the elderly and for people suffering AIDS
- and environmental responsibility - from waste separation in industrialized
countries through to tree-planting activities in developing countries
- by shifting it to private households or local communities and there,
in turn, mainly to women. Though fundamental to the establishment of
sustainability, the unpaid welfare provision and poorly paid service
functions which largely remain women's work are not valued by society
as a factor in overall productivity. Now as ever, there is a 'glass
ceiling' for women in the individual sectors: At the day-to-day, grassroots
level they are active, but the more technological, scientific or political
the level of action becomes, the more it is dominated by men. Gender
equity - in the sense of an equitable distribution of access to and
ownership of resources and equitable allocation of burdens and obligations
in environmental protection and livelihood maintenance, as well as opportunities
to actively structure environment and development policy - remains to
be realized. The German government needs to engage actively in gender
mainstreaming, i.e. the integration of a gender perspective within all
political departments. In accordance with the precautionary principle,
sustainability policy should be oriented more strongly to everyday public
welfare provision and collective rights to natural common resources.
For the management of survival in poverty, just as in the realm of environmental
protection, burdens need to be shared between men and women. At the
same time, gender democracy needs to be instituted, in the sense of
sharing political decision-making powers from the Local Agenda level
through to the level of UN negotiations.
Strengthening Local Agenda 21 processes and participation at all levels
In the follow-up to the Rio Conference, numerous Local Agenda 21 processes
were launched in Germany. These have developed participatory initiatives
for sustainable municipal policy at the local level. At the same time,
however, public participation rights have been rolled back in recent
years, e.g. through legislation to expedite planning procedures. The
success of sustainable development depends crucially upon the breadth
of social support. This is why participation needs to be expanded significantly
at all levels of policy. Free access to information is a precondition
The right of access to information and social participation in environmental
policy have been stipulated in binding form under international law
for the first time in the Europe-wide Aarhus Convention, which entered
into force in 2001. We call upon the German government to ratify the
Aarhus Convention swiftly. In Johannesburg, a process should be initiated
to establish the provisions of this convention at the global level,
Elements of direct democracy need to be strengthened or introduced.
Procedures for true public participation must be understood as a communicative
process and not as a formal act. This involves new forms of participation
which make it possible to strike a balance between diverging interests,
give better representation to interests that previously had insufficient
involvement, develop creativity and competence, involve special target
groups and make participation as representative as possible.
In future, the national strategy for sustainable development must be
elaborated with the widest possible social participation. This requires
greater awareness-raising efforts and an expanded range of opportunities
to join in.
The more than two thousand Local Agenda 21 processes in Germany need
to be supported and stabilized. The outcomes of these processes - guiding
visions, targets, indicators and measures for the sustainable development
of municipalities, as well as the sensitization of stakeholders for
environment and development issues - represent key contributions to
Contact: German NGO Forum on Environment & Development ·
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