Peoples Sustainability Treaties People’s Sustainability Treaties
Details of the Proposal


Failure at Rio+20 cannot be accepted; failure of the official process should not become an obstacle towards successful evolving of a global movement to lead the transition towards sustainable futures on earth. CSOs shall not make a historical mistake of simply being reactive to a weak international agenda on sustainable development; they need to assume their rightful place in global citizenry and provide the vision, leadership, and commitment towards reinforcing a strong agenda and action plan to forge ahead in a transition towards sustainable futures for all, including both humans and biodiversity.


The Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties initiative is an open invitation to civil society to come together to develop an independent, collective outcome for a sustainable future beyond Rio+20. These independent collective agreements are produced by people’s organizations in parallel to the official UNCSD2012 and to further to strengthen the People’s Summit Rio+20 and all other independent efforts towards creating people’s visions and voices. The treaties are essentially a forward looking process and targets a future beyond Rio+20 and will become a living document towards the transition to a sustainable world order.


Proposals and abstracts

Peoples Sustainability Treaties on Sustainable Development Goals


Certain broad thematic issues may be more appropriately addressed across the targets and indicators of all SDGs, rather than comprising a specific goal in its own right.

  • Poverty eradication (is an overarching goal to which all SDGs contribute);
  • Equality (including gender equality, equality of resource access and distribution, income equality and intergenerational equality);
  • Resilience (to both the natural disasters and the effects of climate change);
  • Sustainable Consumption and Production (as in sustainable lifestyles and livelihoods);
  • Planetary Boundaries (environmental limits).


Based on this, we the Civil Society of the World urge an outcome of Rio+20 to be the launch of an agreed process for the creation of Sustainable Development Goals under the principles express hereby.




We the Civil Society of the World judge that, as the fundamental premises under which an SDG framework would be defined, the key principles must be ambitious and aspirational. We urge the UN Bureau of the Preparatory Committee of Rio+20 and the member states to strongly consider these clearly defined principles as part of the outcomes of the SDG framework under discussion.

  • Principle #1: Universality: globally agreed and relevant for all countries, involving international overriding goals, with countries developing their own pathways to targets. This will require strengthening governance practice and institutions.
  • Principle #2: Focused on poverty eradication: SDGs have to aim at eradicating poverty by addressing its root causes.
  • Principle #3: Rights-based approach: SDGs must be conceived under the language and action of a rights based approach, serving as an overarching guide to systematic change, upholding the Principle of Non-Regression (that nations cannot amend or repeal current laws designed to protect human rights).
  • Principle #4: Comprehensiveness: each goal must integrate social, environmental and economic dimensions, and interconnect these areas. This will provide a holistic and cross-cutting framework that can better deliver for people and the environment. The global challenges we currently face are interlinked, and therefore solutions must reflect this, using the relationships between the issues to address them in an integrated-systems fashion.
  • Principle #5: Measurability: SDGs must have clear and transparent indicators, along with near-term benchmarks within the longer-term scope of the goals. Qualitative metrics should also be used to judge progress, and identifying regional disparities otherwise not recognised through quantitative data. Universal definitions of terminology must also be agreed upon to help facilitate the process.




Peoples Sustainability Treaties on Consumption and Production


Twenty years ago in Rio the UNCED Agenda 21 alarmed us: ‘the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances’. Ten years ago, in the ‘Johannesburg Plan of Implementation’ governments decided to develop a ’10 Year Framework of Programmes to support sustainable consumption and production. Now, ten years later this framework is still undeveloped and poorly represented in the Rio+20 document ‘The future we want’. In various regions of the world national action plans or programs were developed; and none of them made a significant difference towards changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns. No country can demonstrate that it absolutely decoupled economic growth from environmental pressure. Social conditions have improved among some of the poorer countries but deteriorated in some cases. The world is struggling to find a way out of the financial crises; among several of the industrialised countries and in developing countries dissatisfaction is growing, some of it registered in through public riots and radical political and social movements. All of this in a world where economic growth is been promoted further and levels of consumerism rising; or when austerity is imposed this has disastrous consequences both for wellbeing and sustainability. Still one of the major elements of the western dominated sustainable consumption and production discourse is to encourage consumers to play their roles as active market actors and to take responsibility to buy green or more sustainable products. This is what a so called green growth would be built of. Such a perception - if at all - reflects a weak sustainable consumption concept.




We emphasize our commitment to already evolved principles that promote sustainable lifestyles such as the ‘Mother Earth Principle’ including the ‘Planetary Boundaries Principle’, the principles for societies and social rights which includes the ‘Dignity Principle’ as well as the ‘Justice Principle’, and the principle of ethics in governance including the ‘Precautionary Principle’, the ‘Resilience Principle’, and the principle of ‘Equal and Differentiated Responsibility’.

We further propose the following principles for strong sustainable consumption and production governance:


Principle #1: Equitable Consumption

The economy serving the lifestyles we aim for– has to follow the principles of sustainable economies, which aims at a fair but limited share of resources for everyone on earth and at a fair and just distribution of wealth. Both are based on a limited scale of the economy which needs to remain within ecological boundaries.

Up to now mainly more efficient use of resources is promoted in a strategic approach to changing wasteful consumerist behavior. This approach attempts to green the consumption habits of the consumerist society, especially in the industrialized rich countries. Of course, it is a necessary contribution that consumers strive for commodities and services produced according to efficient ecological and adequate social requirements. However, it is an insufficient first step for the start to make the jump from today’s unsustainable consumption towards global wide sustainable societies. Efficient consumption does not provide hope for half of the world’s poor who lack adequate access to resources, goods and services. They need equitable opportunities to consume at least their basic needs before consuming smartly.


Principle #2: Well-being

Governments should provide the conditions for fulfilling basic needs, which is necessary (but not sufficient) for a good life. For the different consumption patterns we like to see, people have to be enabled through changes in infrastructure and choice opportunities which should be mainly engineered by government actions and investments. Based on this, conscious consumption would allow enjoying more quality of life and less environmental cost, through a better way of ‘choosing and using’ from the part of confident and educated consumers. Finally we also have to consider an appropriate consumption which means accepting how each person’s well-being is influenced by civic, cultural and religious aspects. This often means more energy consuming activities like commuting make people less happy while experiences like being with family dancing, laughing chatting with people and contributing to the flowering of your community are most joyful and less energy consuming. And indeed, as human beings we know this is true it by heard. The call is to accordingly acting on that.


Principle #3: Sufficiency

To complement the emphasis on the efficient use of resources, sufficiency is key which could be achieved through mindfulness, sharing, and local sourcing. While efficiency is important in a transition towards a sustainable system of consumption and production, it is sufficiency which needs to be the broader goal. Sufficiency extends to a sharing and caring society which thus transcends into holistic approach towards sustainable living . It brings in critical elements of living sustainably on earth: adequacy, self-reliance and contentment. Living according to the principle of sufficiency means to understand how to live within the resource limits of our own environment and the carrying capacity, commit to it and become content and happy with life by being mindful of those around. Living in the context of sufficiency means search for a natural freedom and integrity – to engage in life from a sense of personal wholeness rather than a desperate longing to be completed by greed of material comforts and accumulation of wealth.


Principle #4: Sustainable Societies

The approach towards creating a sustainable economy should be the replacement of the current economic order of inequity, destruction and greed that has kept half of the global people in poverty and created a potential climate catastrophe. A true sustainable economy is integrated in a concept of sustainable societies which ensures social equity, protects the ecological balance and creates sufficiency. In other words, the core idea of a sustainable economy should be to promote sustainability, conceived of as the wellbeing of all people and the diverse arrays of non-human life. The growth-and-accumulation approach therefore needs to be replaced by distribution and sharing to ensure equitable consumption and production opportunities.


Principle #5: Decentralized Governance

Governance of sustainable development essentially needs to be viewed as a decentralized process of action. While policy can be made and rule of law be established at the international, regional and national levels, the implementation of sustainability will remain a make-or break reality at the community levels. While global economies and national economies define themselves in terms of “growth” or “green”, communities that are not in the compulsion of consumerism will determine sustainability. Sustainable consumption and production governance essentially needs to be viewed from a locally or nationally driven exercise, rather than a mechanism of control at the international level; as it appears to be in the focus of the international governance frameworks and mechanisms.



Peoples' Sustainability Treaty on Sustainable Economies


The world is in search of an alternative economic system, one that can address the conflicts inherent in the prevalent corporate-capitalist economy: immense wealth for a fortunate few and crippling destitution for far too many, amazing technological prowess on the one hand and a compromised planet on the other. The much-needed transition to a new economic system envisions profound transformations in the fundamental values and organizing principles of society; new values and development paradigms that emphasize quality of life and material sufficiency for all, human solidarity and global equity, and affinity with nature and ecological sustainability.


At the root of the flaws in the current economic model lies an implicit, dominant theory of single-minded economic purpose: namely to achieve continuous economic growth, as measured principally by GDP, by relying on “free markets” without strong enough instruments to deal with their negative impact on human and ecological well being. The current discourse on Green Economy runs the risk of being little more than an effort to green-wash the existing “brown” economy. It is imperative that this be avoided! The ancillary goals of poverty alleviation and sustainable development should instead be brought front and centre, and the notion of a “green economy” should be recast into a robust mechanism for attaining those actual ends.


A Planetary System of Sustainable Economies, networked across spatial and temporal scales, and interconnected in a way that enhances representation and collaboration, must be respectful of the ecosphere within which it is embedded, resilient in its abilities to absorb shocks by virtue of its anchoring in localism, committed to equity and to fairness and structured in such a way as to minimize the incidence of distortive externalities.


1: The Earth Integrity and Planetary Boundaries Principle

The Earth, her natural communities and ecosystems, possess the inalienable right to exist, regenerate, flourish and evolve, and to continue the vital cycles, structures, processes and functions that sustain all beings. We each have a duty to protect her integrity. Indeed, our own wellbeing depends upon it.


The Planetary Boundaries Principle clearly establishes that human development is dependent on intact ecosystems and that development pathways need to acknowledge that there are limits to economic growth. Sustainable economic systems must respect such limits and governments need to set clear long-term targets to maintain a safe and equitable operating space for the entire planetary system.


2: The Resilience-by-Localization Principle

The Resilience-by-Localization Principle emphasises that diversity and diversification are preconditions for sustainability and quality of life. A System of Sustainable Economies enhances resilience by supporting a model of many green economies, each relevant to some different cultural, social and environmental contexts. Such a system builds economic, social and environmental resilience, in part, by promoting long-term decision making above the short term, by regulating the finance sector and by constraining speculation, and by consciously building safety nets in the form of local, self-reliant economies. A diversity of organisational models and governance levels needs to be cultivated, along with diversified economic activity that minimizes commodity dependence.


A System of Sustainable Economies must ensure that the public, private and non-profit sectors all work together to support the nurturing of diverse regional and local economies. It must work to build local skills and capacities, while giving respect to indigenous local knowledge and while promoting the diffusion of “best practice” thinking across the various domains of knowledge.


3: The Equity, Dignity and Justice Principle

A System of Sustainable Economies must deliver equity, dignity and justice, both within and across countries, and within and across generations.


The Equity Principle mandates that such a system respect human rights and cultural diversity, while promoting equality based on gender, class, ethnicity and age. It must support the right of all people to a sufficient level of development, by respecting indigenous peoples rights to lands, territories and resources.


Poverty eradication and a more equitable distribution of wealth should be the main priority of governance and measured in those terms. It must create genuine prosperity and wellbeing for all by transforming traditional jobs and actively helping build capacity and skills and developing new, decent green jobs.


The Dignity Principle upholds that every human being, now and in the future, has the right and the opportunity to build a robust livelihood. It delivers a just transition by providing universal access to health, education, water, sanitation, food, energy and other essential services, while respecting the rights of workers and trade unions. It supports sustainable, diverse economies and local livelihoods.


The Justice Principle upholds fair sharing of all benefits and burdens within and across nations. This includes the use of natural resources, access to goods and services, and the responsibility to avoid and compensate for damages. Under such a system, all institutions, corporations and decision-makers need to be subject to equal standards of accountability and personal responsibility for their decisions.


4: The Inclusive Governance Principle

The Inclusive Governance Principle states that subsidiary democracy must be upheld and revitalised in accordance with the principle of prior informed consent, giving opportunities to youth, women, poor and low skilled workers, indigenous peoples and local communities.


Structural transformation should be driven by appropriate public investments that guarantee benefit sharing based on transparent and participatory negotiations that include all affected people.


Operating entirely in an accountable and transparent manner, a System of Sustainable Economies would work to manage markets in a manner that keeps the benefit of all in mind. It must foster diverse cultural values as it builds societal awareness and informed participation by diffusing education and skills development amongst all citizens, thus empowering them to promote full and effective participation at all levels, from global to local.


5: Beyond-GDP and the Precautionary Principle

The Beyond-GDP Principle recognises the inherent limits and distorting effects of using GDP as an exclusive or even a primary measure of progress and welfare. Policy goals and monitoring need to be guided by integrated measures of environmental, social, human and economic wellbeing, while taking into account diverse interpretations of human welfare.


The Precautionary Principle should be applied to ensure that new products and technologies do not have destructive or unexpected effects on environmental, social, or human wellbeing. The ‘burden of proof’ lies with the developer or initiator and problem shifting needs to be avoided.


6: Sufficiency, and the Polluter-Pays Principle

Efficiency must be promoted to minimise waste and maximise productivity in the production processes leading towards sustainable production. Efficiency alone, however, does not ensure equitable access to resources and does not prevent over-exploitation of the resources.


While efficiency is important in a transition towards a system of sustainable consumption and production, sufficiency needs to be the broader goal.


The Sufficiency Principle can guide nations and communities towards self-reliance and contentment in their wellbeing. A System of Sustainable Economies would deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Model, while decoupling production and consumption from negative social and environmental impact.


Such a system must implement the Polluter Pays Principle as well, while at the same time moving toward a system of prices that internalize externalities. It must ensure that market prices reflect to true societal and environmental costs of goods and services, incorporating social and environmental externalities.


7: The Internalizing Externalities Principle

A key flaw in the currently dominant corporate-capitalistic system is that true costs and market prices too often do not match up. Many of the costs of economic activity are not included in the market price of those activities. The more we can work toward internalizing externalities, the closer we come to a “true cost” accounting, and the closer we come to an authentic free-market system—one in which supply and demand can actually work to adjust prices in a way that reflects the true state of the world.


8: The Restitution of Natural Capital and Human Capital Principle

At the start of the Industrial Revolution, Man-made Capital was scarce, and Natural and Human Capital was abundant. This was when the world was less dominated by human technology and infrastructure and abundant with local cultures and nature. Today we live in a much fuller world where Man-made Capital is abundant, while Natural and Human Capital is relatively more constrained. We need to move in such a way that we begin to systematically invest Man-made Capital toward the restitution of Natural and Human Capital.