Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the UN Environment and Development-UK Committee (UNED-UK)


Report on an Ongoing UK Multi-Stakeholder Process, for the Environmental Audit Committee's Inquiry into UK Preparations for the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development—An Overview of Stakeholder Involvement


  Agenda 21, the main outcome of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, is based on the principle that governments alone cannot deliver on sustainable development, and need to work in close alliance with key "stakeholder groups"—women, youth, indigenous people, farmers, business and industry, workers and trade unions, the scientific and technology communities, local authorities, and NGOs. Such alliances have become known as "multi-stakeholder processes".

  In preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the UN has suggested that all Nations conduct a national reviews or "National Progressions", in order to define what has been achieved so far, the barriers to progress, and ways towards a more sustainable way of life. This process aims to include all members of Civil Society, with a particular focus on the aforementioned stakeholder groups, thus ensuring that the priorities, opinions, and experience of all will be, as far as possible, reflected in the agenda at the Johannesburg Summit.

  In addition, UN member states have agreed to a series of regional and global consultations between themselves, where Civil Society groups were encouraged to become directly involved with the preparation process, and spread the message as widely as possible amongst individual citizens.


  Stakeholder Forum for Our Common Future (formerly UNED Forum) was almost certainly the first organisation in the UK to argue that if the WSSD was to be a success, then Civil Society must be fully involved in both national and international preparations. UNED-UK Committee (the UK arm of Stakeholder Forum) facilitates a multi-stakeholder process, aimed at creating a neutral space within which the different sectors of UK Civil Society can communicate, build consensus and channel their ideas and experiences about sustainable development into the WSSD process.

  During broad consultation with UK Civil Society, it was agreed that if people in the UK were to become involved we needed to address not just global issues "out there", but also issues of local and national interest. Moreover, progress on these would enable the UK to provide the most effective boost to Johannesburg's prospects of success—leadership by domestic example.

  Five thematic areas were initially identified and multi-stakeholder dialogue groups set up to address them. These areas have recently expanded to seven:

    1.  Biodiversity & Natural Resources Conservation.

    2.  Education for Sustainable Development.

    3.  Energy & Climate Change.

    4.  Population & Sustainability.

    5.  Sustainable Cities & Communities.

    6.  Sustainable Production & Consumption.

    7.  UK in the Wider World.

  It is essential that the UK be seen to lead by example through its domestic policies. If UK citizens are to embrace sustainable development, not only must the process be made directly relevant to them, but also it is essential that they are fully involved in the development and implementation of sustainable development policies.


    —  Inform as many stakeholders as possible of the opportunities and challenges of the WSSD.

    —  Facilitate the creation of ongoing working groups to develop the framework within which debate can take place, expand, and be politically effective.

    —  Identify key social, economic, and environmental issues where real progress is vital in the UK and Globally.

    —  Develop a UK-wide consensus of actions that government, major groups, the business community, and individuals can take in these areas, which will both promote sustainability in the UK and enable the UK to lead by example at the WSSD.


    —  To facilitate independent review process within local government, professional bodies, business and industry, trade unions, the youth and women's movements, the faith communities, and other key sectors of civil society.

    —  To take full account of the realities of devolution and work with Civil Society and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in promoting separate but parallel dialogues on sustainable development.

    —  To persuade, through an effective communications plan, opinions formers and the media to buy into the national review process promoted by Government and the United Nations.

    —  To focus the debate on the seven areas, outlined above, which are of genuine importance to the UK.


  UNED-UK, although not directly involved in an international awareness raising campaign around the WSSD, is working with a range of organisations, including the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, to raise awareness domestically. This programme aims to raise the profile of and interest in the WSSD, and advance the understanding of sustainable development throughout the UK. The programme will be extended to actively engage the media. UNED-UK has a large outreach capacity, provided by its broad and growing stakeholder network, which will give any awareness raising campaign a magnifying effect, thereby extending well beyond UNED-UK's direct stakeholder base.


  UNED-UK has held three national conferences on the subject since March 2001, and now actively engages over 350 different representatives in the dialogue groups. The NGO sector, including the environment and development NGOs, is well represented, as are women's organisations, local government, and the scientific community. The business community has been represented to a lesser extent, and the most under-represented stakeholders are farmers and indigenous peoples. We have reached a broad range of organisations and institutions with these events, and thousands more with our general activities. It is hoped that future collaboration with DEFRA, the Business Action for Sustainable Development, and the Prime Minister's business initiatives will further draw industry into the debate.


  Working with Government, it is essential that UNED-UK further develops the multi-stakeholder process in order to engage, inform, and involve a greater number of stakeholders. Government are inevitably our key partners, and we are grateful for the support that DEFRA have given us so far. Such a pattern has been all too rare in other countries.

  It may now be possible to build on this unique pattern of cooperation in the final run up period to the Johannesburg Summit, and hope that such a development would greatly contribute to the effectiveness of the UK's contribution. Given sufficient levels of resources, UNED-UK and others could achieve so much more, and assist government in their move to include Civil Society in the full spirit of Agenda 21.

  We are now working to refine the reports of our groups into manageable and useful inputs into a National Civil Society Report, which we expect to publish by early summer. If this attracts sufficient support at the national level, we hope that it will have a long-term influence on public perceptions, on government policy and on the Johannesburg process itself.

  If the WSSD is to be a success, this process of stakeholder involvement must continue far beyond September 2002, to ensure that recommendations and future policies are practical and easily implemented. Progress towards and implementation of sustainable development in the UK will only be achieved if Civil Society is fully supportive of any initiative, and included in the decision making process. This brings the argument for a really effective, well co-ordinated and adequately resource national multi-stakeholder process a full circle.

February 2002

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