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Sustainable Development Dialogue Days Bulletin
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Volume 201 Number 4 - Thursday, 21 June 2012
16-19 JUNE 2012

The Sustainable Development Dialogue Days took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the context of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20) from 16-19 June, 2012.

The forum for civil society was organized by the Government of Brazil, with the support of the United Nations, and brought together approximately 1,300 representatives of civil society, including the private sector, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community and other major groups, to engage in open and action-oriented debate on themes related to sustainable development..

With the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Dialogues initiative was launched through a digital platform to provide the public a democratic space for discussion.  Sessions took place on ten recommendations that had emanated from a public online vote, and provided a platform for refining these and proposing additional recommendations. The objective of each session was to produce three final recommendations to be delivered to the Heads of State and Government: one derived from the top recommendation from the online vote; one from the in-session vote from the audience; and one reflecting the panelists’ preferred recommendation.


During the four-day event, participants convened in sessions in the morning, afternoon and evening. The format for the sessions was a panel presentation and discussion, followed by a question and answer session. Participants then voted for their preferred recommendation. On Saturday participants addressed: Unemployment, Decent Work and Migration; Sustainable Development as an Answer to the Economic and Financial Crises; and Sustainable Development for Fighting Poverty. On Sunday, the dialogues focused on: the Economics of Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Patterns of Production and Consumption; Forests; and Food and Nutrition Security. On Monday, participants addressed: Sustainable Energy for All; Water; and Sustainable Cities and Innovation. The dialogues concluded on Tuesday after considering Oceans in the morning session.


Welcoming participants, Moderator Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, opened the session, highlighting the leadership role of the Dialogue Days in linking civil society with Heads of State and Government so as to heighten its impact on the 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 and for the distribution of wealth, Daniel Iliescu, President, National Union of Students, Brazil, expressed support for the recommendation to put education at the core of the 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, 1972 Stockholm Conference and 1992 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, Peking 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; advancing women’s empowerment as a way to make progress on the sustainable development agenda; and creating a strategy for employment to leverage the green economy for investment, training and retraining.

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 from buying arms to training youth and ratifying and implementing the Youth Charter.

James Galbraith, University of Texas, US, suggested strengthening the fundamental rights of workers, emphasizing that the empowerment of women was not 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 aims of job creation to provide minimum living standards and encourage every person to be productive and contribute to society.

Deborah Wince-Smith, President, Council on Competitiveness, US, argued for harnessing talent, technology and investment in global business and 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 and worker’s rights were combined with new language on “worker training and strengthening people’s right to participate in sustainable development.” 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 a decent work agenda within the sustainable development goals (SDGs) under negotiation by noting 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.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: putting education in the core of sustainable development agenda to address the employment challenge, as voted by the online public; a combined recommendation composed of workers’ rights and empowerment, women’s empowerment to achieve sustainable development, and a job strategy leveraging the green economy, as voted by the audience; and compelling national governments to respect the human rights of migrant workers in temporary worker programmes within the context  of a paradigm shift, as selected by the panel.


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 intergovernmental 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, Ibero-American 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 the green economy should be linked explicitly to the economic crisis in order to attract political attention, and highlighted 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, Oxfam, UK, supported the recommendation promoting tax reforms that protect the environment and benefit the poor. She called for taxing rather than subsidizing 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 MDGs have helped to inspire wider actions. He suggested moving from MDGs to 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 of 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 the challenges of sustainable development, and that this was reflected in his business initiatives and support for policies for sustainable development.

Moderator Nassif framed the 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, and sustainable development goals that could deliver something 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 with 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 underscored the importance of trust and transparency. Iglesias suggested changing one recommendation from educating future “leaders” to educating future “citizens.” Barbosa agreed, commenting 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 and emphasized the importance of bottom-up alliances. Akyuz supported a recommendation to promote tax reforms that encourage environmental protection and benefit the poor.

On encouraging business to adopt sustainability standards, 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 by 2020 US$100 billion could be raised annually 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 intensity by 45% by 2020.

Sachs proposed an additional recommendation that the world adopt 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. He said these consisted 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, one participant queried how to capture excess financial liquidity to achieve SDGs.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: promoting tax reforms that encourage environmental protection and benefit the poor, as voted by the online public; creating a tax on international financial transactions, as voted by the audience; and Sachs’ proposal for shared SDGs to be embraced by all, 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. He stated that sustainable development should be pro-poor and integrate good governance by being transparent and accountable and by promoting participation and empowerment of the poor.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki, David Suzuki Foundation, Canada, explained that she has long worked to help transform society and fight for intergenerational justice. She questioned the consequences 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 every individual’s dignity and honor. She concluded that “we have the 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 were 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” and suggested merging universal health coverage with social equity in the design and delivery of public health services and systems.

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 for respect for traditional knowledge.

Yang Tuan, Chinese Academy for Social Sciences, criticized 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 stressed the importance of equal emphasis on green livelihoods and people’s welfare in a green economy.

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 providing the fundamental power to fight against poverty and enhance social development, noting that inclusive and innovative policies 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 from 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 a means to fight poverty. One participant reflected on the need for grassroots and intergenerational 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.

Noting the difficulties in transforming the current model of growth into sustainable development, de Sousa Santos said GDP had reached its limit 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, noting that 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, as voted by the online public; ensuring universal health coverage, as voted by the audience; and a new recommendation on advancing social equity and traditional knowledge, as selected by the panel.


Joseph Leahy, Financial Times, moderated the session. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, stressed the importance of phasing out harmful subsidies and changing how prosperity is measured using GDP. She emphasized that it is vital to adopt carbon standards and promote sustainable public procurement as catalysts for change, to redirect unsustainable production and consumption patterns.

Elisabeth Laville, Director, UTOPIES, France, said internalizing the environmental costs of consumption is key to sustainable development. Noting that a green economy is based on redirecting consumption in the context of rising unsustainable global resource consumption, she called on governments to construct a vision to change consumption patterns, through education and economic integration stimulus programmes.

Enase Okonedo, Lagos Business School, Nigeria, made the case for including indicators such as health and carbon emissions in the measurement of national income, as well as differentiating between developed and developing countries in terms of actualizing growth projections. She said GDP should include sustainable development and education indicators to bring about a shift in consumption patterns. 

Helio Mattar, President, Akatu Institute, Brazil, questioned the common long-term vision for sustainable development based on increasing resource use and driven by a growing global middle class. Noting that two planets would be required to sustain current consumption patterns, he said it is crucial to shift the consumer mindset to an understanding of well-being based on lifestyle values, education and correct price incentives.

Noting the prevailing lack of political will, Ignacy Sachs, Center for Research on Contemporary Brazil (CRDC), France, called for Rio+20 to put humanity on the track of social consciousness and environmental prudence, underpinned by economic viability. He said encouraging international cooperation based on scientific and technical knowledge is key.

Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, CEO, Planetary Skin Institute, Peru, argued that science and technology can facilitate increased resource productivity and reduce associated environmental risks. Noting the availability of current information and knowledge to act, locally and globally, he prioritized developing capacity and tools to enable holistic development.

Emphasizing that lowering carbon emissions is integral to developing sustainable production and consumption patterns, Kelly Rigg, Director, Varda Group, US, said climate change has received scant reference in the Rio+20 negotiating document. On current carbon emissions pathways that lock in unsustainable consumption patterns, she supported Brundtland’s call for immediate catalytic changes and introduced timelines and targets to the panel recommendations to garner political will for action.

Noting the importance of including environmental damage in GDP measurements, Mathis Wackernagel, Co-Founder, Executive-Director, Global Footprint Network, Switzerland, underscored the necessity of substantial reductions in CO2 emissions, increased resource efficiencies and environmental risk accounting.

Underlining the need to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, Thomas Heller, Executive-Director, Climate Policy Initiative, US, stressed the need to factor in the use of natural capital in measurements of economic growth. He supported recommendations on increasing productivity and efficiency, valuing ecosystem services and adopting carbon standards.

Ambassador Rubens Ricupero, former Secretary-General, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Brazil, said the economic crisis should be used as a catalyst to address environmental challenges, noting the incompatibility of Brazil’s current perverse incentives to purchase cars and the goal of sustainable development.

In response to a question on how to implement long-term planning without stifling growth, especially in view of the current economic crisis, Heller observed that it is a matter of using public policy to manage growth, stimulating productivity gains and incorporating ecosystem services. Mattar challenged the common perception that reducing consumption entails sacrifices to human well-being.

Okonedo underscored the importance of a holistic approach to measuring growth, which includes livelihood improvements rather than simply looking at growth in economic terms. Expressing support for Okonedo’s comments, Brundtland said key measures of environmental protection should be combined with solutions to social issues in order to improve the welfare of local communities and stressed the need to achieve empowerment of women in sustainable development. On the green economy, Rigg called for science- and fact-based assessment, highlighting the absence of information on the scale of subsidies.

Participants called for: sustainable public procurement; tax reductions for implementing environmentally friendly projects and green tax schemes; accounting which incorporates resource efficiencies; and biophysical accounting and social auditing in measurements of the economics of sustainable development. Heller highlighted demand as the main economic driver affecting pricing, which also impacts innovation and investment. He called for governments and business to rethink their internal investment function to unlock the potential for sustainable development. Following Heller’s response, Mattar identified the need for a dematerialized lifestyle and consumer awareness of the impacts of consumption at the micro-level.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: phasing out harmful subsidies and developing green tax schemes, as voted by the online public; including environmental damage in the gross national product (GNP) and complementing it with measures of social development, as voted by the audience; and promoting sustainable public procurement worldwide as a catalyst for sustainable patterns, as selected by the panel.


James Chao, CCTV, China, moderated the session. Bertha Becker, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, recommended: “strengthening urban centers in forests” to provide social services, education, health, and logistics for organizing product chains; considering the diversity of pathways to sustainable development; and broadening knowledge of forests to include science and technology.

Expressing support for a recommendation on locally controlled forestry, Estebancio Castro Diaz, Executive Secretary, International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Tropical Forests, pointed out that the recommendations did not adequately acknowledge the role of indigenous peoples. He called on politicians to take into account indigenous and local communities in forest policy development. 

Christian Del Valle, Founder, Althelia Climate Fund, UK, highlighted the need to better value nature, recalling the recommendations from the session on Economics of Sustainable Development that acknowledged the environmental damage and economic “invisibility of nature.” 

André Giacini de Freitas, Executive Director, Forest Stewardship Council, underscored the importance of recognizing the intrinsic value of forests, which requires clear commitments by governments to eliminate deforestation. 

Anders Hildeman, Global Forestry Manager, IKEA, Sweden, shared corporate experiences in aligning business with social responsibility and protection of forests. He said these actions demonstrated that business is part of the solution through fostering sustainability, providing benefits and empowering people in the supply chain.

Yolanda Kakabadse, President, WWF, stressed that forests are a public good and provide services that benefit all. She called for: defining a visionary and clear framework for zero deforestation by 2020; adding value to forest products in order to benefit local communities; and developing mechanisms to achieve these goals.

Guilherme Leal, Founder, CEO, Natura Cosmeticos, Brazil, suggested that “to take care of ourselves, we must care for the whole,” which requires integrating science, technology and entrepreneurship to share prosperity and transitioning to a culture of social responsibility.

On respecting the value of forests, Lu Zhi, Director, Center for Nature and Society, Peking University, China, shared her experiences on protecting pandas and their habitats in the 1990s when China was experiencing increased deforestation. She also highlighted the experience of a Tibetan Buddhist community who protected their forest as a sacred site in spite of the income that it could have generated from logging. She said that it was not until thousands of lives were lost during flooding in China in 1998 that appreciation of the role of forests in flood control and water source conservation grew.

Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director-General, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), highlighted a recommendation calling for a goal to restore 150,000 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020 as a practical step, which would sequester one gigatonne of carbon per year. She highlighted the UN Forum on Forests’ 2011 launch of the “Bonn Challenge” within the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, noting that about 1.6 billion people depend directly on forests for their livelihoods.

Klaus Töpfer, Founder, Executive Director, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Germany, highlighted the importance of the Congo Basin and the work of Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Muta Maathai, who gave forestry a face and showcased local communities planting trees. He stressed the need to shift from exporting timber to adding value to forests and bringing jobs to local communities. He referred to the process started in Rio twenty years ago through the Non-legally Binding Principles for all Types of Forests (the Forest Principles) and proposed cultural diversity as the fourth pillar of sustainable development.

In the ensuing discussion, Kakabadse reaffirmed the feasibility of a zero deforestation goal by 2020 and stressed that a sole declaration emanating from the Dialogue Days is not enough but, rather, governments must make decisions during Rio+20. Kakabadse and Töpfer supported a comment on establishing an international tribunal to adjudicate on forest issues, noting that a tribunal is not only necessary for forests but also for any crime against nature. They called for agreement on a legal framework during Rio+20.

Hildeman emphasized that sustainable forest management should be based on dialogues with forest dwellers and incorporate the social dimension. Castro Diaz urged the full participation of indigenous people in sustainable development dialogues at the national level. Becker suggested adding social inclusion to the zero deforestation goal, underscoring the high costs of forest management and certification for indigenous peoples. Referring to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Töpfer suggested integrating access to indigenous knowledge and genetic resources and benefit-sharing into the recommendations.

Responding to a question on measuring the full value of forests, Lu commented that both forest value and the value added to and embedded in local communities should be appreciated. Noting the complexity of valuing forests, Del Valle recommended adding forest reporting into international accounting.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: restoring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020, as voted by the online public; promoting science, technology, innovation and traditional knowledge in order to address the main challenge of how to make forests productive without destroying them, as voted by the audience; and on achieving zero net deforestation by 2020, respecting the rights and knowledge of peoples living in and from forests and responding to their sustainable development needs, as selected by the panel.


This session was moderated by Paulo Prada, Reuters, US. Stressing that hunger remains a concern for Africa, Luísa Dias Diogo, former Prime Minister of Mozambique and member of the UN Global Sustainability Panel, suggested including women and small agricultural holders in a recommendation on developing policies to encourage sustainable production of food supply.

Hortencia Hidalgo, Indigenous Women’s Network of Latin America and the Caribbean for Biodiversity, supported the inclusion of women, small holders and small-scale fishers as critical contributors to sustainable food production.

Martin Khor, Executive Director, South Centre, addressed root causes of food insecurity which have resulted in many developing countries shifting from being net exporters to being net importers of food. He suggested: allowing poor countries to increase tariffs to counter agricultural export subsidies of rich countries; re-examining the rules of the World Trade Organization on agricultural export subsidies; and addressing speculation in commodity markets.

Renato Maluf, Center for Food Security, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, suggested additions to the recommendations on: promoting public policy and social participation; strengthening global governance on food by multilateral bodies such as the UN Committee on World Food Security; and incorporating international recommendations on food production models and sustainable consumption patterns. 

Marco Marzano de Marinis, Executive Director, World Farmers Organization, highlighted under-financing of agriculture and called for public finance and official development assistance to focus on agriculture and rural development, including enabling women, young farmers, and the most vulnerable groups to run family businesses and access land, education, and technologies.

Esther Penunia, Secretary-General, Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development, presented the perspective of small scale farmers, stressing the urgent need for land ownership, technologies for sustainable agro-ecological farming, sustainable consumption, and agricultural policies. She called for training and decent living for farmers, particularly young farmers. 

Carlo Petrini, Founder, Slow Food Movement, Italy, said that food, a basic necessity for humanity, has become a commodity and is delinked from generating basic benefits for those directly working in food production. He highlighted the need to: combat food waste; respect local populations, indigenous people and young people engaged in agriculture; and fight “neo-colonialism.”

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Chair, the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, stressed that food and nutrition security are human rights that should be protected, emphasizing the widespread and systematic failure to protect human rights. Noting that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is cited in the Rio+20 text, she underlined the need to address food security from a rights-centered perspective to empower women, small holders and young farmers.

Josette Sheeran, Vice-President, World Economic Forum, US, noted that decisions from leaders on food security will impact global peace and stability. Noting that one in seven people suffers from hunger, she underscored the need to eliminate misery and poverty-rooted malnutrition, referring to the success of former President Lula in combating hunger and malnutrition in Brazil.

Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, India, reemphasized that agriculture produces commodities rather than food, saying that unless farmers are debt-free, hunger will not be abated. She warned against false solutions such as corporate commodification and declared the need to recognize human rights principles, stating that women, not corporations, can solve the problem of hunger.

During the discussion, Shiva explained that in order to empower women, the first steps are to prevent their exclusion from the processes and policies that establish the global food chain and to remove structures that disengage women from agriculture. Penunia reflected on the role of society to put pressure on governments to gather the political will to implement policies that protect rights to land, water, seeds and forests. Former Prime Minister Diogo cited political leadership, financial means and partnerships as bridges to empowerment, while Khor pointed to changing the trading system in food production.

On promoting food security, Sheeran acknowledged examples from Brazil that add value to production and involve small farmers in larger food chains, helping women to break cycles of poverty. Maluf identified mistakes in the global market, such as the distance between production and consumption.

Robinson supported a comment from the audience regarding the power of youth to leverage technology and social media to redress injustice. Petrini reflected on the vast intelligence of farmers and peasants, calling for a stronger link with young people and technology.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: promoting food systems that are sustainable and contribute to improvement of health, as voted by the online public; developing policies to encourage sustainable production of food supplies directed to both producers and consumers, as voted by the audience; and eliminating misery and poverty-related malnutrition, empowering women farmers, small-holder farmers, young farmers and indigenous people, ensuring their access to land, water and seed as well as their full involvement in public policy decision-making regarding food production and food and nutrition security, as selected by the panel.


James Astill, The Economist, UK, moderated the session. Kornelis Blok, Founder, Ecofys Group, the Netherlands, advocated focusing on energy efficiency, highlighting his company’s, “Bridging the Gap” initiative, which is aimed at making progress on the three energy pillars of sustainability, efficiency and access.

Brian Dames, CEO, Eskom, South Africa, urged consideration of energy access as well as energy efficiency. He said that finding solutions to improve energy access requires integrated policies and dedicated funding structures, in partnership with the private sector.

Noting that the planet is on a path towards consuming 180 million barrels of oil per year by 2050, Vasco Dias, President, Shell, Brazil, said it is essential to shift to alternative energy sources, such as sugarcane ethanol, in which Brazil could play a key role.

Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Director, Brussels Office of the University of Cambridge, UK, said technologies are in place to move away from fossil fuels and transition to alternative energy sources. She called for action on policy longevity with clear targets and timetables to move to low-carbon technologies.

Christine Lins, Executive Secretary, Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), Austria, envisaged an inclusive, economically prosperous, socially just and environmentally safe future, including sustainable energy and a doubling of the share of renewables by 2030.

Underscoring the need for energy efficiency and for increasing the use of renewables, particularly based on agriculture in developing countries, Thomas Nagy, Executive Vice President, Novozymes, Denmark, supported establishing targets, with a clear framework and roadmap.

Observing that energy access is missing from the MDGs, Sheila Oparaocha, Executive Secretary, International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA), supported promoting energy access, which she said is linked to women’s opportunities for education and paid employment.

Luiz Pinguelli Rosa, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and Executive Secretary, Brazilian Forum on Climate Change, reported on integrated renewable energy and energy access in Brazil, noting that renewables make up 43% of Brazil’s energy mix.

Observing that fossil fuel subsidies amount to US$400-600 billion per year, José Antonio Vargas Lleras, Vice-Chair for Latin America and Caribbean, World Energy Council, said making progress on the MDGs requires removing subsidies and improving energy access.

Wu Changhua, Director, The Climate Group, China, urged the international community to enhance sharing on experiences at the national and local levels for scaling up to the global effort and to create an enabling environment through effective policies and incentives.

During the discussion, participants urged the panel to consider additional support for: energy access, specifically renewable energy; decentralized energy; technology transfer; clear timelines; movement from subsidies to investments; education; utilization of biomass; and better governance. Participants advocated reducing demand for energy as a pathway to conservation, along with increasing efficiencies through scaling up existing solutions, such as low-cost solar heating in Brazil.

Wu suggested redirecting fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energies; developing local infrastructure to deliver clean energy, and identifying and investing in technologies based on local needs. Blok said the transition to sustainable energy requires additional financial support. Supporting Blok’s comment, Dixson Dècleve stressed monitoring of effectiveness, energy efficiency, and low-carbon technologies as key to this transition. Rosa called for utilizing renewable energies in electricity generation, highlighting the role of investment for increasing alternative energies in the overall share of energy consumption. Dixson-Dècleve added that local action and international agreement are needed, in which governments put together roadmaps to move from high-carbon to low-carbon technologies, stressing that the financial sector is investing in high-carbon rather than low-carbon alternative energies.

Many panelists agreed with focusing on access, Dixson-Dècleve clarified that energy access should focus on access to renewable energy, while addressing consumption patterns in order to provide energy for all. Nagy encouraged sharing existing technologies to shift the world energy base towards renewable energies, including cooking fuel and biofuel, to enable local communities to access energy. Dames said access to energy and electricity is a fundamental necessity for human development, highlighting that sustainable energies should be affordable, particularly in developing countries. Dias underlined the need for ensuring the competitiveness of renewable energy sources and for consumer education.

Addressing a question on why it is taking government so long to take action, Oparaocha suggested that competing priorities have slowed progress, saying that in order to meet sustainable development goals approaches must be pro-poor and pro-woman. Participants called for adding timelines to the final recommendations, improving organization of the energy market, and setting concrete targets on renewable energies in order to shift from the business-as-usual scenario. One participant called for eliminating nuclear energy worldwide by 2020.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: taking concrete steps to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, as voted by the online public; establishing ambitious targets for moving towards renewable energy, as voted by the audience; and scaling up investments and political will to ensure universal, equitable and affordable access to sustainable energy services to all by the next decade through clear strategies and actions, as selected by the panel.


Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera, moderated the session. Myrna Cunningham Kain, Director, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, called for action to address discriminatory policies which exclude indigenous people from water systems and to address lack of access to and contamination of water.

Dyborn Chibonga, National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFRAM), said water was not equitably available due to prevailing unsustainable production and consumption patterns. He called for integrated policy reforms relating to water, energy and land use management.

Jeff Seabright, Coca-Cola Co., highlighted the importance of addressing the multiple interlinkages in the water, energy and food nexus, which are impacted by poor governance, growing demand and climate change.

Ania Grobicki, Executive-Secretary, Global Water Partnership, Sweden, urged governments to implement commitments already made to formulate integrated water management plans.

Supporting water as a right, Albert Butare, former Minister of State for Energy and Water, Rwanda, and CEO, Africa Energy Services Group, focused on how to include water access and management in strategies that facilitate optimal resources use.

Muhammed Yunus, Nobel Laureate, Founder, Grameen Bank, said small local businesses could be encouraged to develop technologies to treat contaminated water, as a way of implementing the right to safe drinking water.

David Boys, Public Services International, Canada, emphasized that current profit-driven production and consumption patterns are unsustainable and outlined how through the campaign “No Decent Jobs on a Dead Planet” the trade union membership is mobilizing a rights-based approach to water.

Calling for the right to water and sanitation to go hand-in-hand, Santha Sheela Nair, former Secretary, Department of Fresh Water, Ministry of Rural Development, India, said water should be sustainably allocated based on local needs, through strengthened public institutions and private partnerships.

Benedito Braga, President, International Water Resources Association (IWRA), noted that the recommendations lacked elements of appropriate science and technology that would increase the efficient use of water. He called for resilient water infrastructure and governance, proposing that the UN General Assembly consider the issue of water.

Highlighting water and health security as key to survival, Loïc Fauchon, President, World Water Council (WWC), called on governments to inscribe the right to water and sanitation in domestic legislation, particularly the right of children to water in developing countries. He suggested government take responsibility for: the dignity of men and women; provision of water for economic development; and environmental security.

Responding to a question on reconciling economic growth with the protection and equal distribution of water, Seabright said transparent and effective governance on water  is required at both national and local levels. Yunus observed that in addition to government responsibilities, individual citizens should also take actions to adopt and implement the right to water. Boys identified a social control mechanism at city and state level in Brazil as an example of enhancing stakeholder participation. Kain called for strengthening self-governance structures at the local level, including the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples, and suggested integrating the cultural dimension. She stressed the need to respect traditional knowledge, including technologies for management of resources, and highlighted a focus on gender. In acknowledging the interdependence of human rights, she called for the inclusion of the principle of free prior and informed consent to promote agreement on access to resources such as water.

Observing that neither health nor sanitation programmes address women’s access to water and sanitation, Nair called for increased public spending on water management efficiency rather than commodification of water.

In the ensuing discussion, participants commented on societal gains from water conservation. Grobicki said the only way to satisfy water needs is to increase the level of water recycling. He also suggested that pricing should reflect the cost of water solutions and addressed pathways to promoting informed choices and decisions based on multi-stakeholder institutions.

One participant called for strengthening funding mechanisms to ensure universal access to water. Boys called for taxing financial transactions and closing tax havens. Another participant proposed reducing agricultural subsidies in developed countries and channeling these funds to support implementation of the right to water and sanitation. Braga said cost-and-benefit sharing should center on implementing the right to water.

Participants urged the panelists to amend the recommendations to define access to water and sanitation as a human right. Nair shared an example from India demonstrating the power of linking public action to government action to prevent corporate mining of water.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: securing water supply by protecting biodiversity, ecosystems and water sources, as voted by the online public; implementing the right to water, as voted by the audience; and adopting more ambitious global policies that assert the importance of integrated water, sanitation, energy and land use planning, development, conservation and management at all scales, taking into account specific gender and cultural needs and with the full and effective participation of civil society, as selected by the panel.


André Trigueiro, Globo TV Network, Brazil, moderated the session. Nawal Al-Hosany, Director for Sustainability, Masdar City, United Arab Emirates, invited delegates to visit Masdar City to experience how cities could be designed to transform living spaces to foster sustainable lifestyles and stimulate the integration of energy and water systems. She noted that the city will rely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a zero carbon and waste matrix.

Alejandro Aravena, CEO, Elemental, Chile, said cities were magnets as they attracted people based on the promise of wealth and “social time bombs” as they fostered inequality and conflict. He suggested that city design be synthesized around concrete proposals.

Shigeru Ban, Shigeru Ban Architects, Japan, recounted his experiences while attempting to improve the lives of the evacuees after the 2011 tsunami and advocated creating temporary structures in response to shifting priorities.

Barry Bergdoll, Chief Curator, Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), US, said sustainable cities should be designed to offer a better quality of life within the larger context of sustainable development.

David Cadman, President, Local Governments of Sustainability (ICLEI), Canada, said peace and capital investment are pre-conditions for sustainable cities. He also urged cities to be designed to withstand flooding, given that two-thirds of humanity live on coastlines and could be faced with the consequences of sea level rise.

Oded Grajew, President, Ethos Institute, Brazil, suggested adding objectives to measure implementation of the recommendations, to ensure that policymakers are accountable to the public. He said urban growth will suffer from lack of accountability and transparency.

To create sustainable cities, Jaime Lerner, President, Jaime Lerner Institute, former Mayor of Curitiba and former Governor of Paraná, suggested separating waste, living closer to work and leaving cars behind.

Enrique Ortiz, former President, Habitat International Coalition, stressed that cities were being transformed by structural inequality which sends the poor to the city peripheries. He said sustainable and productive cities need to be inclusive and democratic.

Khalifa Sall, Mayor of Dakar, Senegal, and Vice-President of Untied Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) for Africa, said sustainable cities in Africa require leadership to use natural and human resources in an equitable manner.

Sharing 40 years of experience working with people excluded from cities, Janice Perlman, President, Mega Cities Project, US, asked how cities could give dignity to the three billion people who would be living on the fringes of cities by 2050.

Cadman and Perlman highlighted the need for urgent action, re-adjustment of policy priorities, and use of existing funding and technologies. Lerner and Ortiz stressed the need for people-centered urban strategies that can be measured against sustainability principles, focusing on empowering people. Noting the power of examples, Aravena called for each Head of State at Rio+20 to identify a city in their country to carry out sustainable city initiatives, each with its own standards, measures and accountability.

Ortiz praised the social function and value of urban properties for inclusive development. Responding to a question on how to reflect the complexities of cities, Aravena underscored the importance of organizing and synthesizing information generated from the public to design concrete solutions.

Participants and panelists discussed the empowerment of communities and explored new education models. Cadman noted that the best education is from examples of sustainable cities, and Grajew said education relies on choosing what is important and matching words with action.

Grajew addressed a question on the management of solid residues, specifically from construction, by calling for new rules and public policies that benefit people rather than specific sectors. Cadman shared examples of different kinds of waste management in Vancouver that have been useful, including urban composting and deposit incentives on bottles. On the usefulness of databanks, Aravena stated that although data may be available, knowledge is not. Pearlman warned against turning proposals for sustainable cities into practices that do not reach the public, thereby becoming the “enemy of innovation.”

Aravena and Pearlman spoke about the power of people and how democratic participation is key to overcoming challenges in cities. On identifying priorities for sustainable development, Grajew pointed to fighting inequality and called for the media to provide as much space to education on sustainable development as is provided to sports.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: promoting the use of waste as a renewable energy source in urban environments, as voted by the online public; planning in advance for sustainability and quality of life in cities, as voted by the audience; and a new recommendation that each head of state should identify a sustainable city to develop a network for knowledge sharing and innovation, with governments channeling resources to develop people-centered sustainable cities with timed and measurable goals and in such a way that empowers local communities and promotes equality and accountability, as selected by the panel.


Philippe Cousteau, CNN, US, moderated the session. Arthur Bogason, President, Icelandic National Association of Small Boat Owners, Iceland, emphasized the value of small-scale and coastal fisheries, including upholding traditional knowledge sharing and providing increased labor opportunities and decreasing fuel consumption, compared to big ships, without sacrificing profit.

Richard Delaney, Global Ocean Forum, advocated focusing on ocean governance at all levels, highlighting the need to: scale up successful ecosystem management across national borders; define the impact of climate change on oceans, taking into account the security implications; reduce marine pollution; and continue to research the human impacts on oceans.

Noting that qualify of life is directly linked to the quality of oceans, Jean-Michel Cousteau, President, Ocean Futures Society, France, highlighted oceans as a life support system and the importance of information technology and education for marine protection.

Sylvia Earle, Founder, Mission Blue Foundation, US, urged moving beyond articulating words and plans into immediate actions to protect oceans based on existing knowledge and evidence. She called for creation of a global framework to save high seas marine biodiversity.

Emphasizing the importance of policies and governance on oceans, Segen Farid Estefen, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, noted the opportunity offered by oceans to generate and provide sustainable energy that could exceed the world demand for electricity.

Noting the lack of a global ocean governance framework, Robin Mahon, University of West Indies, Barbados, called for international cooperation and integrated ocean governance frameworks at the regional and global levels to support the development of small island states. He said concepts and technical tools should be operationalized on the regional level, with mandates for global action given at Rio+20 to engage civil society and business.

Margaret Nakato, Co-President, World Forum of Fish Workers, underlined the importance of improving livelihoods while protecting the oceans, noting the lack of social inclusion in many environmental programmes. She called for developing a Rio+20 plan of implementation to ensure that the interests of local stakeholders, particularly the most vulnerable groups, are fully considered. 

Ussif Rashid Sumaila, Director, Fisheries Economics Research Unit, UBC Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Canada, said nature is the foundation for the economy, with oceans playing a vital role in ecosystems and in sustaining valuable fisheries assets. He called for political will to take action to prevent over-fishing, illegal fishing and environmentally harmful and trade-distorting fisheries subsidies.

Noting that global CO2 emissions have increased dramatically over the past twenty years, Shaj Thayil, Vice President, Technical Services and Ship Management, APL, Singapore, said oceans absorb these emissions and this results in increased acidification and impacted habitats and fisheries. He called for a global waste management plan to prevent garbage from entering the ocean, and urged that the migration of invasive alien species transported in cargo ships be addressed. 

Representing the “Youth of Planet Ocean,” Asha de Vos, student, Western Australia University, said the “future we want” from Rio+20 is immediate, not tomorrow, and that all are part of the problem. She supported a recommendation on launching a global agreement to save ocean biodiversity.

In the discussion, Jean-Michel Cousteau acknowledged the strong message sent to Heads of State by including oceans on the agenda in the Dialogues and Nakato noted the power of bringing consultations closer to people. In response to a question from Olav Kjørven, Assistant Secretary General, UNDP, on how to achieve catalytic change in ocean protection, Sumaila said that progress is based on greater information dissemination and public involvement. De Vos agreed with participants on emphasizing education to protect oceans, saying it is a fundamental right worth fighting for. Earle called for use of communication networks to make voices heard; engagement in sustainable development; and protection of the earth’s natural systems. Delaney spoke of broadening the dialogue to include the values of every major group.

Earle said that humanity has been “drawing down” natural assets on which a functioning economy is based, thereby disrupting the delicate balance between environmental protection and economic growth. On how to move to a post-oil era, Estefen noted the need to balance ocean conservation while at the same time developing newly found deep sea oil reserves. In this respect, Jean-Michel Cousteau said Brazil could be a leader in inspiring a shift to a greater use of renewable energies.

Responding to a question posed by moderator Cousteau on how to integrate grassroots solutions, Bogason said that local fishers and scientists need to work together to put in place incentives for sustainable fisheries management, such as rewarding the use of environmentally-friendly fisheries gear. Jean-Michel Cousteau focused on protecting the ocean as a whole through proper management, in order to ensure sustainable fisheries.

Bogason pointed out the under-representation of commercial fishers. Earle added that although there were no fish, whales or unborn children present, this should not preclude action on their behalf. On developing recommendations, Sumaila called for concrete statements and the removal of subsidies that undermine sustainable fisheries.

On recommendations, Bogason added the need to care for vulnerable coastal areas and Thayil underscored the need for implementation to advance sustainable development, while Earle recommended protecting broader areas. Nakato spoke of empowering small-scale fishing communities to manage resources in a bottom-up process.

Following voting, the top three recommendations emerged on: avoiding ocean pollution by plastics through education and community collaboration, as voted by the online public; launching a global agreement to save high seas marine biodiversity, as voted by the audience; and taking immediate action to develop a global network of international marine protected areas, while fostering ecosystem-based fisheries management, with special consideration for small-scale fishing interests, as selected by the panelists.

In closing the Dialogues, Brice Lalonde, Executive Coordinator of Rio+20, Minister for the Environment, France, and Chair of the Round Table for Sustainable Development at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), congratulated civil society for reaching agreement on the recommendations to be forwarded to the Heads of State and Government and contributing to the historical engagement of people in UN conferences through the Dialogues, saying that it gives “power to the people and particularly women.” He summarized the emerging issues, including: advancing education; ending fisheries subsidies that undermine the environment and putting in place environmental taxes; setting measurable objective and timelines; and acknowledging the rights and needs of global citizens.

Representing President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil, Gilberto CARVALHO, Secretary-General for the Presidency, Brazil, expressed appreciation to those involved in the Dialogues, describing the sessions as a “great success in participatory democracy.” He outlined the pathway for the 30 recommendations that emerged from the Dialogues to be forwarded to Heads of State and Government. He expressed confidence that governments, along with civil society, would find a true pathway to sustainable development.

Moderator Cousteau closed the session at 1:23 pm with a quote from Martin Luther King, “We have no time for the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

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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, Sabrina Shaw, PhD.. 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.

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