International Development Law Organization

Rio+20: Using law to build the future we want

21 Jun 2012

As world leaders, civil society activists and private sector representatives gather for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) is focusing its efforts on promoting the critical link between law and sustainable development. Legal and institutional reforms remain key to delivering sustainable development and a green economy. 

National legal frameworks can be effective tools to safeguard natural resources, encourage green markets and support the empowerment of local communities. International treaties already exist and could, in most cases, resolve human and eco-systems threats if governments and national courts were to incorporate these principles into their own laws. 

Two decades ago, promises were made yet progress has only been marginal. Today, a number of inter-related global issues need to be tackled effectively and urgently: from environmental degradation to poverty and inequality. The efficient allocation of resources to meet everyone’s needs, must now become a priority of all governments’ reform agenda for a development that is sustainable and not damaging to the planet. There are still 1.3 billion people without access to clean water; about half of humanity lacking access to adequate sanitation and living on less than 2 dollars a day; and approximately 2 billion without access to electricity (source: global issues facts and figures). 

Over 190 countries have signed global treaties on sustainable development in the last 20 years, yet only few of them have been able to reform their legal frameworks consistent with international law and best practices; and in those few, implementation is generally weak. Legal professionals —regulators, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, police— are frequently inadequately trained; and vulnerable groups, most affected by degradation of natural resources, are often unaware of their rights. 

Building technical capacity and forming networks of legal experts are indispensable tools to implement adaptation to climate change, nationally appropriate mitigation of green house gases and access to climate finance; and to strengthen sustainable development law, policy and practice (regulations, management system and procedures) locally and regionally. 

With the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IDLO will make its own contribution to addressing this challenge by training government delegates, civil society and private sector representatives and members of the legal community from the Latin American and Caribbean region at Rio. Participants will gain skills and technical knowledge on the legal best practices in the region, introducing innovative mechanisms to develop strategies tailored to their own countries. 

Decisions of international tribunals and national best practices reveal the enormous potential that law can play in resolving disputes, promoting sustainable development and enforce obligations and rights established under international instruments. National enabling legal environments, with tailored legal instruments and human rights-based approaches, are critical to ensure a just, equitable and inclusive global green economy. 

With this in mind, IDLO will present at Rio a series of Compendia of Legal Best Practices for Sustainable Development that will highlight how law can deliver sustainable development in areas of green economy and water. 

Facilitating South-South knowledge sharing and coupling it with legal innovation and political will can help build the future we want.