Key consultative processes have been going on globally to gather the broadest voices with the intent to effectively shape the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. In the Asia Pacific region there is a considerable effort put in to engage different communities and sectors in these consultations. Representatives of 17 constituencies are in Thailand to take this dialogue further ahead and consolidate peoples' agenda for development justice before the regional intergovernmental meeting (Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development - APFSD) opens later this week.
Let us hope government delegates will listen to peoples' voices from the frontlines of development struggles. The 17 constituencies mentioned above, include: women, farmers, fisherfolks, small and middle enterprises, indigenous peoples, NGO, science and technology, older group, people with disabilities, people living with HIV, migrants, trade union and workers, local authorities, youth, children and adolescents, urban poor, LGBTIQ, and people displaced by conflict, disasters and climate change) and five sub-regions (South-East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific), shared Wardarina of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).
“We have to consolidate our civil society input for the regional APFSD as well as for other processes which will be taking place at the global level” said Wardarina. She hoped that post-2015 sustainable development agenda will deliver development justice for all: development justice framework includes social and gender justice, environmental justice, accountability to peoples, redistributive justice and economic justice.
Connecting the dots
There was a compelling thrust to ensure '3 pillars' of environment, economic and social aspects are all fully integrated while shaping post-2015 sustainable development framework. But may be, it is easier said than done!
Frances Quimpo from Center for Environmental Concerns in Philippines is also the focal point of Science and Technology constituency for RCEM (Asia Pacific Regional CSOs Engagement Mechanism). She shared with Citizen News Service (CNS): “Major challenge is integrating environment with other two pillars of sustainable development: social and economic! We cannot look at these three issues in silos.”
But is economic ‘pillar’ overshadowing the other two social and environmental ‘pillars’? Frances Quimpo said “Yes! Most of the times it is the economic pillar which takes the lead in terms of working, developing policies and planning. It would have been good if economic pillar was more concerned about addressing people’s needs but what is happening is - economic pillar is mostly profit-driven and private corporations are dictating what economic policies governments should be following - that is where the problem lies! Once you have capitalists in the lead it already spells disaster for the environment – because they do not see environment in an integrated manner. We need to recognize how environment should be nurtured, and how it really helps societies and affects people’s lives. Some communities like indigenous peoples do not only look at environment as a source of food or other natural resources but to them environment is sacred. These are some things that are not really economically valued.”
'Natural resources are raw materials for economic sector'
“Economic sector looks at natural resources simply as raw material for production of the commodities which it plans to sell. They do not care if they extract too much or if they cause environmental disasters - to them it is simply a source of raw materials and has that much economic value only. Moreover people’s rights are not really well considered – for example people are often given wages which are even lower than the minimum wages” said Quimpo.
"We need to make closer integration of social, economic and environmental pillars a reality! We need to factor-in when discussing economic aspects what extracting natural resources will actually mean in terms of social and environmental impacts."
Corporations evade responsibilities
Quimpo added: "Neoliberal economic policies such as of privatization are geared up to strengthen and enhance the profit-driven global economy. As long as the general profit-driven economic framework rules it is not possible to hold big corporations accountable for social, economic and environmental impacts they have in people’s lives. Corporations evade responsibilities as they do not want to be held accountable. Civil society has to make this change happen so that economic, environmental and social pillars are truly integrated in context of post-2015 sustainable development agenda."
Rights-based approach has to be central!
Abantee Nurul an advocate in Supreme Court of Bangladesh who works with Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK) shared with Citizen News Service (CNS) that "Environmental issues are very important for Bangladesh as in the last few years it has been increasingly impacted by environmental disasters. Labour related issues also need to be addressed by post 2015 development framework. Many people get illegally trafficked from Bangladesh to countries such as Thailand. In Bangladesh labour cost is very cheap. Government, readymade garment business owners and multinational corporations are not complying with laws related to safety and security of the labourers. So this needs to change! If there is a global binding treaty on business and human rights, then corporations would be bound by laws to give higher wages to labourers at par with global standards and would be held accountable for violating safety and security of labourers.”
"Over all in post-2015 development discussions, there is no specific mention of human rights. There should be a specific mention of human rights including women’s rights. Approach to the sustainable development should be rights-based - it is presently welfare based and not rights-based!” said Nurul.
It is important to note that as the processes to shape the post-2015 development agenda move forward, there are other processes too moving ahead which may help strengthen some of the issues raised in these discussions too. For example, civil society consultations are being held to help shape a possible global binding treaty on business and human rights. APWLD along with International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) had organized the Asia Pacific consultation for such a global binding treaty earlier this month. In June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to elaborate a binding instrument "to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises".
This provides another critical opportunity to advance corporate accountability. If post-2015 development agenda strongly echoes this corporate accountability component, among other critically important recommendations from civil society, to effectively and comprehensively integrate the economic, environmental and social pillars, then it will indeed be a major leap towards development justice!
Bobby Ramakant, Citizen News Service (CNS)