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Sustainable Development Dialogue Days Bulletin
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Volume 201 Number 1 - Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Sustainable Development Dialogue Days opened in the Riocentro on Saturday. Participants convened in three sessions in the morning, afternoon and evening on: Unemployment, Decent Work and Migration; Sustainable Development as an Answer to the Economic and Financial Crises; and Sustainable Development for Fighting Poverty. The format for the sessions was a panel presentation and discussion, followed by a question and answer session. The sessions focused on ten recommendations emanating from a public online vote, and provided a platform for refining and proposing additional recommendations, with the objective of the sessions to produce three final recommendations to be delivered to the Heads of State and government: one derived from the online vote; one from the in-session vote from the audience; and one reflecting panellists preferred recommendation. 


Welcoming participants, Moderator Jonathan Watts, The Guardian opened the session, highlighting the leadership role of the Dialogue Days in bridging civil society’s impact onthe outcome of Rio+20. Elizabeth Thompson, Rio+20 Co-Executive Coordinator, emphasized the common responsibility of all nations to protect and invest in human and social capital.

Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Brazil, highlighted the representative, democratic and diverse nature of the Dialogues, pointing to the unprecedented level of civil society engagement. Calling for the right to income andfor the distribution of wealth, Daniel Iliescu, President, National Union of Students, Brazil, expressed support for the recommendation to put education in the core of sustainable development agenda, to address the employment challenge.

Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), stressed the role of business in creating inclusive employment and decent jobs, based on local skills and innovation. He underscored the importance of business-to-business transfer of technologies, a fair global trade system, and the consideration of adaptation strategies in climate change-induced migration discussions.

Carmen Helena Ferreira Foro, Women Rural Workers, National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (CONTAG) Brazil, called for a paradigm shift to go beyond economic growth and empower women and rural workers, recognizing the right to decent work. She urged governments to devise national employment systems to mobilize safe jobs, taking into consideration social and environmental protection.

Maurice Strong, Secretary General, Stockholm Conference and Rio Conference, highlighted the “false premise” that all people will be able to earn a living by working, which he said is not feasible within a knowledge economy. He expressed hope for a revolutionary economy where citizens are shareholders with equal ownership and access to resources.

Lu Hulin, Beijing University, China, commented on differences and similarities regarding the challenge of unemployment for both developed and developing countries, emphasizing the need for social protection of labor, which he said is eroded by the free flow of international capital.

Sharan Burrow, Secretary General, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), called for launching initiatives, supported by the business community, to address under-employment, unemployment, inequality and social exclusion. She suggested merging recommendations on: social protection and decent work for all by 2030, including access to health (recommendation four); advancing women’s empowerment as a way to make progress on the sustainable development agenda (recommendation five); and creating a strategy for employment leveraging the green economy for investment, training and retraining (recommendation five).  

Nana-Fosu Randall, President, Voices of African Mothers (VAM), referred to unemployed youth in Africa as “time bombs”, appealing to African leaders to redirect resources used to buy arms to train the youth and ratify and implement the Youth Charter.

James Galbraith, Texas University, US, suggested strengthening the fundamental rights of workers, emphasizing that the empowerment of women should not be separate from this. He concluded that education should support participation in governance to address diverse problems flexibly.

Ivana Savich, CSD Youth Caucus, identified employment as part of the global youth strategy, clarifying the aim of job creation to provide minimum living standards and encourage every person to be productive and contribute to society.

Deborah Wince-Smith, President, the Council on Competitiveness, US, urged for harnessing talent, technology and investment in global business, encouraging new partnerships between private and public sectors. She suggested putting people at the center of sustainable development and finding inclusive ways to work together.

Participants agreed to amend several recommendations to reflect input from the panel discussions. Recommendations on incorporating education (recommendation one) and worker’s rights (recommendation three) were combined with new language on “worker training and strengthening people’s right to participate.” There was discussion on making reference to the need for a paradigm shift, recognizing the need for greater distribution of wealth and equal ownership of resources. During the discussion, Eduardo Suplicy, Senator, Brazil suggested making reference to the right of people to participate in wealth creation through the right to a basic salary. Wince-Smith responded to a question on how to gain traction for the decent work agenda within sustainable development goals (SDGs) by sharing that progress on the sustainable development agenda and the millennium development goals (MDGs) rested on research partnerships and vital business leadership, to further innovation and research capacity.

Moderator Watt noted that putting education in the core of sustainable development agenda to address the employment challenge (recommendation one) emerged as the top recommendation from the online poll and would be automatically forwarded to the high level segment. Participants then voted to include a combined recommendation composed of workers’ rights and empowerment (recommendation four), women’s empowerment to achieve sustainable development (recommendation five) and a job strategy leveraging the green economy (recommendation six), as voted by the audience. The panel selected human rights of migrant workers (recommendation eight) incorporating the concept of a paradigm shift


Luis Nassif, TV Brasil/Agência Dinheiro Vivo, moderated the session. Commenting on the most popular recommendation emanating from the online vote on promoting tax reforms to encourage environmental protection and benefit the poor, Yilmaz Akyuz, Chief Economist, South Centre, highlighted the impacts of the current financial crisis on jobs, financial stability and equality, and recommended an inter-governmental task force to facilitate changes in the international financial system to support sustainable development.

Fabio Barbosa, Executive President, Abril S.A., Brazil, stressed the importance of education in building awareness and knowledge among consumers and businesses to integrate the economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainable development.

Marcela Benitez, RESPONDE Association, Argentina, said tax reform could incentivize corporations to contribute to sustainable development and create awareness on the relationship between environment and poverty.

 Enrique Iglesias, Secretary-General, Iberoamerican General Secretariat, highlighted the importance of maintaining international financial commitments during the current financial crisis.

Caio Koch-Weser, Vice-Chairman, Deutsche Bank Group, said the concept of green economy should be linked explicitly to the economic crisis, to attract political attention, highlighting that commitments on sustainable development should be strengthened with ownership from civil society, business and government.

Herman Mulder, Chairman, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), underlined the need for enhanced transparency and public disclosure to improve assessment on progress towards sustainable development.

Kate Raworth, Texas University, US, supported the recommendation promoting tax reforms that protect the environment and benefit the poor. She called for taxing rather than subsizing fossil fuels, as well as taxing resources instead of labor. 

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, US, highlighted the lack of implementation of multilateral environmental agreements adopted in 1992 noting that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have helped to inspire wider actions. He suggested moving from MDGs to sustainable development goals (SDGs) and observed that taxes and incentives could help achieve more progress on sustainable development.

Laurence Tubiana, Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), France, agreed on the importance for a new vision and suggested placing equity at the heart of this vision to enhance trust building for collaborative actions at global level.

Wang Shi, China Vanke Co. Ltd. said his experiences in the Amazon rainforest and Mount Everest were critical in deepening his understanding of sustainable development challenges, which had been reflected in his business initiatives and support policies for sustainable development.

Moderator Nassif framed the panel discussions by asking the panelists to consider how proposals could be implemented and behavior changed. Sachs suggested developing a common set of commitments, timelines and milestones with localized solutions, SDG goals that could deliver beyond governments signing treaties. He proposed focusing on: movement towards low-carbon energy systems; sustainable agriculture and food security systems; enhancing the resilience of cities to environmental changes; and sustainable industries. Agreeing to this, Raworth, identified a fifth area: attacking poverty with universal social protection.

The panel focused on refining the recommendations, Mulder cautioned against creating input-oriented solutions and underscoring the importance of trust and transparency. Iglesias suggested changing the third recommendation from educating future leaders to educating future citizens. Barbosa agreed and commented that “if his generation did not leave a better world for their children, they did leave better children for the world.” Koch-Weser, supported by Tubiana, cited examples of change coming from leadership in the private sector, emphasizing the importance of bottom-up alliances. Akyuz, supported the first recommendation, to promote tax reforms that encourage environmental protection and benefit the poor.

On encouraging business to adopt sustainability standards (recommendation five), Mulder noted the need for corporate responsibility and for the business community to play an active role by increasing transparency and public disclosure. Kock-Weser referred to the Report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, suggesting that US$ 100 billion could be raised annually by 2020 for climate finance and that limited public financing could be used more imaginatively.

Highlighting a policy shift by the Chinese government in accordance with the UN vision for a green, low-carbon economy, Wang noted China’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2020.

Sachs proposed an additional recommendation on: the world adopting shared SDGs that will be embraced by business, civil society and the public sector, through promoting education at all levels and local and global problem solving to map pathways to achieve sustainability, consisting of five core elements: meeting basic needs; a sustainable energy system; a sustainable global and local food system; sustainable urbanization; and sustainable industry. Supporting Sachs’ proposal, Raworth suggested rewriting economics textbooks to integrate the environment in order to achieve SDGs. In response to a comment that SDGs need to be accompanied by common but differentiated responsibilities, Sachs stressed that the “world was on a reckless course of carbon emissions” that requires a convergence by all countries towards low-carbon growth, through for example, a common but differentiated carbon tax. Koch-Weser noted the importance of corporate reporting, public disclosure of businesses and raising awareness of consumers by reflecting the ecological footprint of products in their prices.

On creating a tax on international financial transfers (recommendation four) a participant, asked how the current excess of financial liquidity could be captured to achieve SDGs.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: promoting tax reforms that encourage environmental protection and benefit the poor (recommendation one), as voted by the online public; creating a tax on international financial transactions (recommendation four), as voted by the audience; and on a new recommendation on SDGs proposed by Sachs, as selected by the panel.


Fred de Sam Lazaro, PBS, US, moderated the session. Manish Bapna, interim President, World Resources Institute (WRI), highlighted the importance of dignity in reducing poverty, clarifying that sustainable development should be pro-poor and integrate good governance by being transparent, accountable and promoting participation and empowerment of the poor.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki, David Suzuki Foundation, Canada, explained that she continues to help transform society and fight for intergenerational justice. She considered the impact of measuring poverty in terms of money in societies that do not rely on fiscal exchange.

Marcos Terena, President, Intertribal Committee, Brazil, warned against measures that could generate poverty, urging that messages from Rio+20 acknowledge the dignity and honor of a person, concluding “we have commitment, responsibility and ability to think together to find what is best for our children and grandchildren.”

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, University of Coimbra, Portugal, observed that the top recommendations could have been better if society was not obsessed with indefinite growth and unsustainable consumption patterns. He posited that poverty reduction could mask the underlying issue of concentration of wealth and corruption. On technology transfer, he referred to the “ecology of knowledge”, suggesting merging universal health coverage (recommendation three) with social equity in the design and delivery of public health services and systems (recommendation four).

Lourdes Huanca Atencio, President, National Federation of Women Rural Workers, Artisans, Indigenous and Wage Workers of Peru (Femucarinap), stressed the importance of food security and conservation of natural resources in poverty reduction. She called for education to produce compassionate human beings rather than machines and respecting traditional knowledge.

Yang Tuan, Center for the Study of Social Policies, Chinese Academy for Social Sciences, China Yang Tuan, Chinese Academy for Social Sciences, cautioned against the lack of focus on humanity, particularly human health, in the current poverty eradication model. Introducing a rural cooperative development model of sustainability in China, she stated the importance of a green economy placing equal emphasis on green livelihood and welfare of people.

Victor Trucco, Argentine Association of No-Till Producers (AAPRESID), Argentina, asserted that sustainable technologies need to be for everyone, calling for the development of small to medium-size cities to reduce migration to large cities.

Judith Sutz, University of the Republic, Uruguay, highlighted knowledge as the fundamental power to fight against poverty and enhance social development, noting that inclusive and innovation polices are key to moving forward on democracy and democratic knowledge.

Marcia Lopes, Former Minister for Development and Fight against Hunger, Brazil, underlined the participation of society, including local communities and the private sector, in striving for universal access to education, culture and work.

Pavan Sukhdev, Green Economy Initiative, UNEP, said small farmers play a critical role in food production, particularly those living off subsistence farming, and that small farms and farmers tend to sell at the bottom of the market due to lack of investment. He called for policies and subsidies for small farms as means to fight poverty. One participant reflected on the need for grassroots and inter-generational efforts, saying political decisions must be made during Rio+20.

Responding to a comment on a global common minimum curriculum on sustainable development, Terena said global education on sustainable development must respect diversity of people, culture and the dignity of the poor; and suggested promoting dialogue and transparency to build a global citizenship based on mutual respect. A participant called for eliminating war and conflicts which increase poverty and suggested multinational corporations take greater responsibility for poverty elimination. Responding to comments on the behavior of corporations, Sukhdev agreed on the lack of responsibility of today’s corporations, where the focus was entirely on profit and externalizing costs, calling for the audience to add externalities and unaccountable and irresponsible advertising to the recommendations. 

Noting the difficulties in transforming the current model of growth into sustainable development, de Sousa Santos said GDP had achieved its limits as a measure of development. Huanca said Mother Earth could not be considered a commodity as the planet was the foundation of life.

Suplicy recalled Strong’s proposal to the Panel on Unemployment, Decent Work and Migration on the right for each citizen to participate in the wealth of a nation by including the right to a basic income, as enshrined in law in Brazil. Lopes said the creation of a global social fund would facilitate progress on SDGs. Sutz said there was a need to achieve minimum social rights and fight against poverty by addressing social equity and basic human rights. Trucco noted agreement among the panel on the need to address poverty. 

Bapma said that ambition in the Rio+20 negotiations was lower than twenty years ago due to lack of political leadership and the mainstream environmental movement had failed to stress social equity as an underpinning value of sustainability. Cullis-Suzuki noted that the level of ambition was constrained by a crisis of governance.

Following a vote, the top three recommendations emerged on: promoting global education to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable development (recommendation one), as voted by the online public; ensuring universal health coverage (recommendation three), as voted by the audience; and a new recommendation on advancing social equity and traditional knowledge, as selected by the panel.

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The Sustainable Development Dialogue Days Bulletin is a publtication of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) <>, publishers of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © <>. This issue was written and edited by Asheline Appleton, Qian Cheng and Tasha Goldberg. The Digital Editor is Francis Dejon. The Editor is Deborah Davenport, Ph.D., <>. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <>. Funding for coverage of this event has been provided by the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations and UN Development Programme (UNDP). IISD can be contacted at 161 Portage Avenue East, 6th Floor, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 0Y4, Canada; tel: +1-204-958-7700; fax: +1-204-958-7710. The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in other publications with appropriate academic citation. Electronic versions of the Bulletin are sent to e-mail distribution lists (in HTML and PDF format) and can be found on the Linrkages WWW-server at <>. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, New York 10022, USA. The IISD Team at the Sustainable Development Dialogues can be contacted by e-mail at <>.

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