The conference brought together experts from UN organisations, research institutions and governmental organisations. Photo credit: Connor Brightwell
Connecting the dots across the SDGs
In June 2016, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), with support from the Swiss Confederation and SwedBio, hosted a workshop in The Hague entitled “Connecting the dots across the SDGs: environment, justice and people. What can we learn from biodiversity mainstreaming?”
In this workshop, two recent major advances under global agendas focusing on the themes of “environmental sustainability” and “law and justice” were discussed. One of these major advances is the important window of opportunity offered by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to integrate environmental sustainability across several agendas. In contrast to a stand-alone issue under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), environmental sustainability is now integrated in various targets across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Legal innovations arising
Another significant innovation is SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions as a stand-alone goal in the 2030 Agenda. An increasing awareness is emerging across environmental agendas of a link often overlooked, specifically, the need to connect scientific and technical solutions with appropriate legal and policy frameworks backed by accountable institutions and empowered people. The workshop brought together experts from UN organisations, research institutions and governmental organisations working in these fields to share legal innovations arising in their respective fields. In addition, they held a dialogue on the design and operationalization of effective law and justice approaches for achieving the environmental sustainability goals within the 2030 Agenda. Dr. Claudia Ituarte-Lima, Research Fellow at Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and International Environmental Law Adviser at SwedBio was invited to co-moderate the afternoon session.
Law and justice initiatives – vital tools for operationalizing socio-ecologically dimensions of SDG 16
As part of the workshop, a momentum for linking human rights and biodiversity was identified with the upcoming thematic report in March 2017 of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Environment and Human Rights focusing on linking human rights, biodiversity and conservation. In terms of disasters, law was proposed as an important tool for disaster risk reduction, and clear opportunities exist to further promote ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction approaches and better links to environmental issues, including environmental justice. Yet, some participants considered that a lot of work is still needed for navigating uncertainty, addressing prevention and crosscutting causes of the negative impacts that disasters have on vulnerable communities.
Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings”, Helene Molinier, Program Manager- Strategic Initiatives of IDLO, argued that overcoming environmental degradation is also an act of justice.
Claudia Ituarte-Lima argued that safeguards can contribute to the operationalization of internationally recognized human rights and the intertwined socio-ecological dimensions of SDG 16:
“Instruments that make the connection between safeguards, human rights and socio-ecological resilience, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity Voluntary Guidelines for Safeguards in Biodiversity Financing Mechanisms (BFMs), can help address the risks of those most affected by environmental degradation. They can also prevent conflicts that disrupt BFMs, as well as prevent harm to people that biodiversity and climate related projects are supposed to support”.
Linking environmental sustainability with law and justice approaches is also part of a broader IDLO-SwedBio Collaborative Partnership that focuses on building the evidence on legal preparedness for biodiversity mainstreaming.