OAS Sponsors Dialogues on Sustainable Development Governance
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Leading up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), the Organization of American States (OAS) has organized monthly thematic dialogues on governance issues in sustainable development, on such topics as climate change, biodiversity, forests, oceans, disaster management and public participation.

A final session will be held in May, on improving the environmental performance of the private sector.

OASApril 2012: The Organization of American States (OAS) has sponsored a series of thematic “hemispheric dialogues,” intended to generate recommendations on institutions and governance for sustainable development to submit to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) and the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability, both taking place in June 2012.

The public dialogues consist of short presentations from a variety of experts from governments, civil society and intergovernmental organizations, followed by open discussion with audience participation, moderated by an OAS expert on the session’s theme. A final thematic session will be held on 17 May 2012, on “improving the environmental performance of the private sector through law and institutions.”

Participants in the first dialogue, held in September 2011, on basic tools, principles and stakeholder roles, agreed that while multi-stakeholder participation must be the foundation on which a new international environmental governance (IEG) infrastructure is established, the State still has a major role to play in establishing and/or strengthening the legal framework. They also agreed that IEG faces serious obstacles, from a development philosophy that treats environmental capital as an infinite public good, to inadequate financial resources, to policies focused more on meeting short-term welfare benefits rather than medium- to long-term development goals.

In the second dialogue, held in October 2011, on “Governance, Public Participation, and Gender Mainstreaming in Sustainable Development Decision-Making,” participants generally agreed that governments and civil society organizations should actively provide information, and harmonize standards for measuring the accomplishments of Rio Principle 10 on access to information, public participation and access to justice, and of the principles of the Inter-American Strategy for the Promotion of Public Participation in Decision-Making for Sustainable Development (ISP). They also discussed the idea of negotiating a regional instrument for the Americas to harmonize interpretation and implementation of Principle 10.

Participants at the third dialogue, held in November 2011, on “Effective Governance for Integrated Water Resource Management” (IWRM), discussed the importance of: promoting co-responsibility in IWRM by all actors; involving indigenous people, the media and civil society; using the ecosystems protection approach to maintain water quality and availability; promoting knowledge of existing laws and regulations; and culture-linked education as a tool to ensure equal conditions for the proper use of water resources.

A fourth dialogue focused on ocean governance was held in December 2011. Participants generally agreed on the need to: provide accurate information on marine resource use; bridge gaps between scientific data and policy; rebuild fish stocks and emphasize “smart expansion;” address incentives and subsidies that result in the loss of marine resources and the degradation of marine ecosystems; and strengthen regional institutions to ensure transboundary, cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination at all levels of ocean governance.

In the fifth dialogue, held in January 2012, addressing “Biodiversity and Forest Ecosystems in Economic Growth and Equity,” participants agreed that: forest conservation and sustainable use efforts should focus on country and sub-national levels while a global regulatory framework continues to develop; governments should focus on supporting bottom-up approaches; and a combination of policy tools should be implemented, including market-based instruments such as payment for environmental services (PES) schemes.

The sixth dialogue, held in February 2012, focused on energy and climate change. Participants suggested that governments work with their partners to, inter alia: increase and improve energy efficiency and energy saving measures; better link energy and climate change policies and strategies; promote best practices on the sustainable use of biomass; facilitate the acquisition and deployment of renewable energy technologies; and promote energy integration.

A seventh dialogue, held 4 April 2012, addressed disaster risk reduction (DRR), discussing information flows, decision-making processes, community involvement, risk communication and awareness, investment in building preparedness, resilience and response capacity. [OAS Dialogue Series in the Framework of Rio+20] [IISD RS story on second dialogue] [Guest article on the energy and climate change dialogue]

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