The multistakeholder engagement process for the Bonn2011 Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus Conference aimed at providing a space for stakeholders to contribute to the conference's outcomes, and ultimately to the recommendations being brought to the Rio+20 Summit by the German government.
The stakeholder engagement process began with the creation of an International Advisory Group (IAG), whose members represented a wide and diverse constituency from the North and South including women, indigenous peoples, farmers, development and environmental NGOs, science-based groups and local governments. Its guidance was key to identifying the best way to engage with stakeholders globally and ensure that their inputs were appropriately collected and taken forward during the conference. In addition, the IAG played an important role in selecting which stakeholder representatives would be involved. Invitees represented different organisations and social movements from different regions, constituencies and areas of expertise; particular care was taken to ensure an appropriate gender balance.
The stakeholder consultation process took place between September and October. Regional workshops were convened at the UN NGO/DPI Conference (Bonn, 3 September, 2011), the Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting for Rio+20 (Addis Ababa, 19 October, 2011) and the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for Rio+20 (Seoul, 20 October, 2011). Moreover, a global online consultation in English and Spanish ran from 15 September to 15 October, and received over 400 responses.
The consultation process collected feedback on the key issues a nexus approach should take into account, and the roles governments, civil society, the private sector and others should play in connecting the three securities. The results of the consultations were put forward by stakeholder representatives during the conference, actively flagging issues policymakers will have to take into account if the nexus approach is to ensure poverty alleviation, socioeconomic inclusion and environmental protection.
Civil Society Inputs to the Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus
Stakeholders agreed upon the importance of mainstreaming water, energy and food security as a poverty eradication strategy, and the need for a coherent and harmonised policy response. A nexus approach was viewed as essential to discussions at the forthcoming Rio+20 Summit.
In the first place, there was a strong consensus that decision-making around the three securities should better integrate a human rights-based approach, whose implementation should go beyond legal guarantees of service delivery to encompass the dynamic, political potential of human rights discourse. Participants argued that a rights-based approach is about enabling individuals and civil society groups to actively retrieve their rights by participating in decision-making and holding rights-bearers to account, especially where tradeoffs are involved. The starting point for such an approach is to focus upon the needs and expectations of the most marginalized sectors by guaranteeing transparency, meaningful participation and access to mechanisms for legal redress where rights have been violated. Special mention was made of local communities and indigenous peoples, who often find themselves overlooked by policymakers; the imperative is both to involve such groups in decision-making around the Nexus and strengthen their capacity to participate fully and effectively.
Secondly, stakeholders sought to emphasise the importance of governance for the successful implementation of a Nexus approach. Governance failures and insufficient regulation of the private sector were linked to a variety of negative socioeconomic and environmental impacts; corruption, food price speculation and unsustainable resource use were highlighted as particularly harmful factors. Strong regulatory frameworks will be essential if the nexus approach is to be realised meaningfully.
Emphasis was also placed upon the role of women, with gender raised as an important crosscutting issue for nexus policies, programmes and institutions. A nexus approach should guarantee women equitable access to and control over land, energy and water resources, engage women in decision-making and leadership at all levels, and upscale women-led enterprises and productive activities.
Finally, the role of education and knowledge was highlighted. Policymakers should acknowledge the role played by individual behaviour in determining the success of nexus policies, and exploit education as a tool for driving social reform by instilling progressive environmental values and strengthening participation and empowerment. Making education a basic right is a precondition for sustainability.
The Nexus towards Rio+20 and Beyond
In the run-up to Rio+20, the expectation of stakeholders is to keep involved in the process and for the German government to strongly support the active and prominent participation of civil society representatives and independent thinkers, in order to encourage new ideas and contributions.
They also recommend that a Nexus approach should involve work on fiscal reform, in order to account for the true environmental costs of production and consumption in reporting and accounting models (eg. the polluter pays principle should be adopted in practice in standard accounting and reporting practices for both business and governments, green taxes, elimination of all subsidies that undermine sustainable development, particularly those underpinning fossil fuel use and unsustainable agricultural and fishery practices). The blue economy was highlighted as another important approach, and Nexus policies should recognise the services provided by oceans to ensure the global community can continue to rely upon the marine environment.
The next months will be important if the recommendations emerging from the Bonn2011 Nexus Conference are to be fully exploited, requiring strong commitment from all sectors to ensure that fundamental changes to the current system are made. This will underpin an effective and inclusive transition to a sustainable development paradigm.