Caritas welcomes that the fight against poverty is put at the forefront of all concerns for achieving sustainable development and that a ‘Common Vision’ starts with the commitment to free humanity from hunger and poverty. However, many of the important points mentioned throughout the document, related to poverty, remain declaratory in nature.
In addition to poverty eradication, changing unsustainable production and consumption patterns, protecting and managing natural resources are recognised as overarching objectives and essential requirement for sustainable development.
An interesting aspect of this recognition is to facilitate ecosystem conservation, regeneration and restoration, opening up for real stewardship of creation which also gives back to nature what human intervention has taken away over time. “People are at the centre of sustainable development” – this statement goes in the same direction as the Caritas position on Rio + 20.
The document renews political commitment by reaffirming the Rio principles and already adopted Action Plans (including those in favour of Least Developed Countries and Africa), seemingly reminding States of what they already agreed to and what they still have to accomplish.
While on the one hand, not questioning the already existing sustainable development principles gives a certainty in international relations, on the other there is no innovation, no real advancement in spite of 40 years of talks and evident failures of the current models.
One of the few decisions contained in the document, setting up a High Level Political Forum – universal and intergovernmental in nature – is a way of keeping the concern of achieving sustainable development alive, however, drawing from other processes of the same nature we know that these processes are slow and their outcome is not binding.
Caritas underlines the need to allow women to develop their potential allowing them to become actors for sustainable development and to fully contribute to political processes and measures in this regard. The text highlights that discriminatory laws and formal barriers to women participation have to be repealed and there is a need for ensuring equal access to justice and legal support and reform of institutions.
While welcoming that the text stresses the need for women to have the structures and means to develop their full potential, we regret that this is a one-sided vision. Men and women have to work together, as one human family. We miss a commitment by male leaders to work with their peers to change attitudes and role models. While supporting the change for women, there is also a need for men to adapt to this change, in order to make it possible.
Public-private partnerships are recognised as a means to achieve sustainable development. The document supports “national regulatory and policy frameworks” to advance sustainable development initiatives “taking into account the importance of corporate social responsibility”. Companies are encouraged, where appropriate, to consider providing information on their sustainability programs in their reporting cycle. This engagement falls short of obliging private business to do anything. The document overlooks the heavy responsibility of large business companies – extractives, agribusiness, and the industry – in the state of world’s development today.
We as Caritas will be vigilant together with other actors of civil society in monitoring that these public-private partnerships are not managed in such a way that key natural resources, which should be accessible for all, become commodities and thus accessible only for those who have the means.
Green economy is considered in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. It does not appear as a self-standing economic model, but rather as “one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development”. It could provide policy options, “but should not be a rigid set of rules”. This leaves much manoeuvring room and is presented as fully in line with sustainable development principles. We hope it is not pure rhetoric.
Caritas welcomes that there is a renewed commitment to the full and timely achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. However, this commitment is weakened by referring to “making every effort”, rather than undertaking concrete actions.
The commitment to develop further goals on sustainable development remains weak, as they are considered to be “also useful”. The Millennium Development Goals contained a vision about a future without poverty and hunger and development, which were easy to understand for the public.
The new set of goals, should be integrated in a post-2015 framework and should reflect a commitment towards achieving sustainable development, which is action oriented, focused and communicable to a broader public, in order to make the achievement of sustainable development a responsibility of every citizen.
We strongly emphasize the need for the process around the development of sustainable development goals be inclusive, involving civil society and those who are most affected by the negative impact of an unsustainable development.
Caritas has stressed the need to rethink the current economic model and proposes to listen to those who propose a social, ecological economy as a way to get inspired for reform in the current economic system. A social economy would balance economic interests with interests of the person, the environment and the common good, would implement participation in the production process, promote learning and well being of related communities, offer decent jobs and access the impact of the production cycle for the environment. Caritas says no to speculations on food and to land grabbing at the detriment of the local population and agriculture, which feeds our planet.
Caritas encourages world leaders to reinvigorate the document, in order to provide a message of hope for humanity.