Rio+20: “No global goals without accountability” – an open appeal from over 20 UN experts
OHCHR release, 19 March 2012

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: A group of 22 independent UN human rights experts, including Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya, urged states to include universally agreed international human rights norms and standards, together with strong accountability mechanisms, into the goals that will emerge from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20), to be held in June 2012.

The experts share three proposals for a more ambitious UNCSD. They suggest that the Rio+20 outcome document should integrate specific references to all human rights, complementing the two existing references to the right to food and the right to safe and clean drinking water. They support the proposal to establish a Sustainable Development Council to succeed the Commission for Sustainable Development and to monitor progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be agreed by 2015. They believe however that in the context of the proposed SDGs, States should define the indicators and measures to evaluate implementation of the commitments emanating from Rio+20 through an inclusive, transparent and participatory process. They particularly note that “Some groups, particularly the poorest in the global South and those whose livelihoods depend  on access to natural resources, including local communities, subsistence farmers and indigenous peoples, are most severely affected by current global crises (e.g., climate shocks, price volatility of food and energy, desertification, loss of biodiversity) and their consequences. Often, these individuals know which solutions will work best for them. Only by listening to them and by accepting accountability and implementation responsibilities will we be able to make significant progress towards more sustainable modes of production and consumption.” The experts thus suggest the establishment of an international accountability mechanism similar to the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, which subjects each country’s human rights record to a State-led peer review on the basis of information submitted by the country concerned, UN entities, civil society and other stakeholders. At the national level, governments should establish their own national accountability mechanisms, including independent monitoring and civil society participation, in order to evaluate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This double accountability mechanism would help to ensure that these goals are more enforceable than previous international ones, and to enable the full realization of human rights, including the right to development. According to them, the fulfillment of human rights is the litmus test for whether or not sustainable development is occurring. Read the UN news release … Read the OHCHR news release … Read the experts’ open letter …