The Rio+20 outcome document: `THE FUTURE WE WANT’ adopted by recently concluded Rio+20 Summit has received mixed reviews and reactions from different stakeholders. While a number of organizations and participants have termed it as an important step in the right direction, many others have criticised it as being too weak in content, unexpectedlysilent on reiterating past commitments such as on women’s and indigenous peoples’ rights and concerns, and short on meeting small farmers’ needs and so on and so forth.
Nepal being one of the most prominent mountain developing countries in the World has been working on mountain issues with national focus and global outreach through its Mountain Initiative (MI) programme. Nepal also, as the coordinator of the least developed countries (LDC) at the UN has been playing an active and leadership role in championing the cause of least developed countries. Both of these efforts were able to be linked in the form of Nepal’s position paper in both the preparatory phase and during the Rio+20 conference. Nepal’s government agencies working on the Rio+20 preparations with support from its development partners generated and shared information and knowledge and organized high level networking and knowledge sharing events nationally and globally that achieved a good response and collaboration from other mountain countries. As a result of globally coordinated efforts, the Mountain Chapter (Paras: 210-212) in the Rio+20 outcome document is considered one of the most positive outcomes. However, Nepal’s efforts, as the coordinator of the LDC countries at the UN, to obtain substantive commitment on the means of implementation i.e., finance, technology transfer and capacity building support did not yield the expected results.
Nepal therefore, should look at the outcome document both positively and negatively based on: a) good strength of the declaration to promote the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agenda; and b) the reaffirmation and commitments of the document on other issues and topics that are relevant to address the most important challenges faced by poor and vulnerable countries and marginalized communities in the context of climate change, globalization, and conflict. Nepal being a country rich in water, forests, biodiversity, and hydro energy should also feel happy that the theme of `Green Economy for poverty reduction and sustainable development’ was overwhelmingly adopted by the conference and that `Food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture’ was also given high priority.
What does the outcome mean for Nepal?
Nepal should utilize the Rio+20 outcome as a opportunity and a basis to recommit itself to work on the agenda of sustainable development much more vigorously. It can pick out several forward looking statements such as: a) reaffirmation of commitment to the full implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries (IPOA), b) the Almaty Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries, c) invitation to member states including development partners, to speed up further the implementation of the specific actions for vulnerable and LDC countries, and d) specifically mentioning the areas of support to the Landlocked developing countries such as the construction, maintenance and improvement of their transport, storage and other transit-related facilities. On the Mountain issues, Nepal can utilize the call made to member states `to strengthen cooperative action with effective involvement and sharing of experience of all relevant stakeholders, by strengthening existing arrangements, agreements, and centers of excellence for sustainable mountain development, as well as exploring new arrangements and agreements, as appropriate’. Rio+20 declaration have recognized mountain communities as the true stewards of mountain environment and ecosystem resources. Nepal and other mountain countries’ and global development partners’ efforts to raise the urgency of paying more attention to the increasing vulnerability, growing impacts and immediate needs for launching adaptation activities in mountains, have been heeded by the Rio+20 negotiators as the declaration implicitly supports the call to make `continued and concerted efforts to address the common problems including poverty, food insecurity, nutrition deficiency, social exclusion and environmental degradation’ that the mountain communities face.
Way Forward Ideas:
Nepal therefore should start formulating actionable policies, plans and programmes in transforming Nepal’s economy and development paradigm into low carbon green economic pathways. This approach will help Nepal start realizing the potential benefits that are possible from the global commitment made in the form Rio+20 declaration. Nepal should translate the Rio+20 document into THE FUTURE NEPAL WANTS vision document. For example, Nepal can sustainably utilize its rich mountain ecosystem goods and services through programme such as REDD+, CDM, and Payment for Ecosystem Services that can get Nepal increased climate and development finance. The specific commitments in Rio+20 document on Agriculture, Biodiversity, Water, Forests, and Energy should also be considered as points that strengthen the position of Mountains and LDCs in the post Rio+20 scenario. The text on water stresses the role of ecosystem management for maintaining water quality and quantity and calls for integrated management of water resources. The stress on development of sustainable agricultural technologies as well as developing value chains and agricultural co-operatives can enhance our food security. On climate change, adaptation and resilience building an immediate and urgent national priority has to be mainstreaming climate change in all climate sensitive sectors. Disaster risk reduction has been rightly linked to food production, poverty reduction and climate change which points to the need to integrate adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Nepal’s climate change related programmes. The recognition of the additional financial needs of developing countries to implement sustainable development goals and also the commitment to devise options of finance in post 2014 development agenda can help meet the financial gaps. Since global communities have recognized that mountains have been disproportionately impacted by climate and global changes, Nepal should lobby for specific support to develop and implement Mountain-specific adaptation and mitigation programmes to reduce the vulnerability of its people and enhance the resilience of ecosystems and people.
Finally, from Nepal’s perspective, a roadmap for developing and implementing nationally tailored and country driven sustainable development policies, plans and programmes need to be immediately prepared. The newly reconstituted UNEP Governing Council meeting held last week in Nairobi has put emphasis on the finalizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to promote economic transformation as well as encourage innovative approaches for poverty eradication. Nepal is currently preparing its next 3-year Interim Plan which is a good opportunity to mainstream Rio+20 outcome in Nepal’s national planning process. Nepal should also closely work with her development partners and learn from the experiences of other least developed and developing countries to develop a country-specific green economy strategy and framework. Nepal should also consult broader stakeholders to assess and understand different perspectives and views to develop a new national sustainable development agenda for Nepal. In this endeavour, Nepal should also reach out to other Himalayan and SAARC countries and work in a collaborative manner to operationalize the Rio+20 declaration in a `common but differentiated’ manner since there are number of regional dimensions in achieving sustainable development in Nepal. Nepal’s strategy should be to assess the key issues and challenges facing Nepal and identify suitable opportunities considered as low hanging fruits to initiate Green Economy for sustainable development and poverty reduction by following good governance and enabling institutional framework and principles.