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Rio+20 Outcome: Human rights emerge as new pillar of sustainable development

22 June 2012

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (22June 2012) – UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, in Rio De Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), welcomed today the final outcome of the Conference, for its broad inclusion of human rights provisions.  “The future we want”, said Pillay, citing the title of the outcome document, “is clearly a future of human rights.”

Commenting on the human rights provisions in the document, Navi Pillay said: “When we began our engagement with this process a few short months ago, human rights were virtually absent from the draft text being negotiated by the preparatory committees.  Today, the centrality of human rights in the international community’s conception of sustainable development has been affirmed.”
In March, she wrote to all UN member states, urging them to support the full integration of human rights into the Rio process, launching a campaign that continued through the final conference itself. 

In commenting on what observers have called “the Rio surprise”, Navi Pillay cited the specific inclusion in the document of provisions on the right to development, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to food, the right to water and sanitation, the right to health, to education, to social protection, labour rights, access to justice, the human rights of women, of indigenous peoples, minorities, older persons, migrants (including those in an irregular situation), and of people living under foreign occupation.  She noted, as well, explicit references to human rights relating to sexual and reproductive health and sexuality. 

Pillay also pointed to the inclusion in the outcome of several “key elements of human rights-based approach, including the principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination, and empowerment as well as the rule of law and democracy.”
Recognizing that the document “also leaves us with some unfinished business”, she urged the international community to view the Rio document as “only the first step toward a more ambitious and responsible agenda for our planet, and for the people who live here.”  I am disappointed”, she added, “at the lack of adequate resource provisions, and of adequate  environmental controls, as well as in the deletion in the final hours of the negotiations of references to free assembly and association, and the failure to include provisions on free expression.  Also missing, said Pillay, were “the imperative of human rights impact assessment, as well as calls for due diligence by public and private entities, and stronger accountability mechanisms for government and business enterprises alike.”

“As we move now to develop ‘sustainable development goals’ (SDGs), and to establish a new institutional framework, as called for in the outcome, we must ensure that these additional elements are reflected, and that the SDG framework, is a human rights framework. Only a human rights approach can be truly a people-centred approach" said Pillay. ENDS

For more information or for media requests in Rio de Janeiro please contact Myriam Dessables, [email protected]

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