Rio+20 Call from Lawyers and Organizations


Open for signature 1 October 2011 to be delivered


We, the undersigned lawyers, solemnly appeal to all participants in the United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 4-6 June 2012, to ensure that the Conference serves all living beings and humanity in an effort to preserve and protect present and future generations  from ecological disaster, including climate change,

We, the undersigned lawyers, concerned about the accelerating degradation of the environment, and desiring that human activities respect global ecological limits of the Earth,

We, the undersigned lawyers, reaffirming the indispensible role of law and of the measures in place to provide for effective implementation of the law at the international, regional, national and local level so as to contribute to the continual improvement of the quality of the human and natural environment to which all are entitled, and

Taking into account the announced themes of the Rio+20 Conference, namely "a green economy in the context of sustainable development and eradication of poverty"  and  "the institutional framework for sustainable development",

I. Call upon the States and Governments of the world to highlight the political importance of the Rio+20 Conference through the following strong signals:

1. The presence of Heads of State and of Government at the Rio Conference on 4-6 June 2012,

2. The solemn reaffirmation of the principles of international solidarity and sustainable development, as essential elements in the struggle against poverty and inequality,

3. The proclamation of the interdependence between world peace and security and the respect for human rights and protection of the environment.

II. We further call upon World leaders to fill significant gaps in environmental law through:

1. Establishing a principal of non-regression in environmental law,

2. Committing States to implement and give effect to environmental democracy as defined in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration of 1992 through the rights to information, to participation and to access to justice, either by ratifying relevant existing conventions or by creating new global or regional conventions,

3. Commitment by States either to ratify or adhere to, as the case may be, global and regional conventions on environmental protection that are either already in force or not,

4. Commitment by States to sign in Rio the global convention on mercury currently being negotiated under the auspices of UNEP.

III. We further call on World leaders to commit to negotiations that will lead to true global environmental governance:

1. By inviting the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations to broaden the jurisdiction of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to include the environment and to assure adequate representation in ECOSOC of environmental NGOs,

2. By creating a World Environment Organization (WEO) as a specialized institution of the United Nations joining together all States with new missions, endowed with significant capacities and able to reinforce actions undertaken by UNEP,

3. By creating judicial mechanisms for environmental conflict resolution, including a World Environmental Court,

4. By giving civil society and in particular environmental NGOs a greater role in international and regional decisionmaking processes concerning the environment and/or sustainable development, through the adoption of a set of guidelines guaranteeing minimum standards of participation in such processes, as well as a greater role in international and regional organizations.

5. By reinforcing the independence of international organizations so as to guarantee the absence of conflicts of interest; and in particular so as to guarantee the independence of the World Health Organization (WHO), by seeking an end to its agreement of 28 May 1959 to defer to the International Atomic Energy Association on questions related to exposure to radioactive substances and resulting health consequences.

IV. We further call on World leaders to commit themselves to negotiating new Conventions or similar instruments on the environment that respond to urgent needs in regard to health, preservation of biodiversity and human rights, namely :

- An international Pact on environment and development
- A Convention on protection of soils
- A Convention on environmental impact assessment that includes consideration of social and cultural impacts and impacts related to energy consumption
- A Convention regarding pollution of the oceans and seas from terrestrial sources
- A Convention on marine protected areas on the high seas
- A Convention on exploitation of offshore oil
- A Convention on landscapes
- A Convention on environmental protection in the context of armed conflict
- A Convention on ecological catastrophes
- A Convention on the legal status of persons displaced for environmental reasons

V. We further urge World leaders to promote an economy capable of supporting the implementation of sustainable development and contributing among other things to the eradication of poverty:

1. By reinforcing the environmental responsibility of private enterprises, in regard to both preventation and rehabilitation, and by establishing internationally the duty of social and environmental governance, including full respect of existing norms,

2. By reinforcing the capacity of judges to handle environmental disputes through training that ensures their independence and professionalism, including by creating, as needed, specialized environmental tribunals,

3. By going beyond the current non-binding international agreement on forests to adopt a convention on forests as soon as possible and in any event no later than the deadline of 2015 fixed by the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF),

4. By embedding the right to water and to sanitation in the framework of sustainable development,

5. By reinforcing social and environmental rights under the Energy Charter Treaty and aiming for universal access to energy through an ambitious plan of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA),

6. In light of evidence of the globalization of massive acquisitions of agricultural lands and natural and rural areas, and the acceleration of impacts on food security, biodiversity and soils:
- by initiating negotiation of a Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity on land acquisition and control and protected areas, and
- by creating within the FAO an international program of action for the development and preservation of agro-ecosystems,

7. By developing new qualitative and quantitative indicators for measuring progress in the environment and in development,

8. By establishing, in accordance with the precautionary principle, a mechanism for the control and regulation of nanotechnology that may pose a risk to the environment and health,

9. By supporting the promotion and development of sustainable tourism consistent with both environmental and developmental needs.

We, the undersigned lawyers, are convinced that in order to make rapid progress toward sustainable development, it is vital to make advances in environmental law and to better integrate it with other areas of the law.

To fully implement and give effect to environmental law, it is necessary to reinforce concerted action by governments, legislatures, local communities, international and regional organizations, civil society, private enterprises, worker organizations, and environmental and sustainable development NGOs.

Judges, prosecutors and lawyers, at the national as well as regional and international levels, have a particular responsibility to present and future generations in implementing and giving effect to environmental law.

We, the undersigned lawyers, call upon States, on behalf of the people they represent, to make the 2012 Rio+20 Conference a decisive moment toward the common future of humanity and ecosystems.


Centre international de droit comparé de l’environnement (International Center for Comparative Environmental Law)

Limoges, FRANCE, 1 October 2011

A call issued following the working sessions of the world meeting of lawyers and environmental law organizations from five continents, in Limoges, France on 29-20 September and 1 October 2011 (reports, along with 25 recommendations, available at :

Michel PRIEUR - CIDCE    Contact the author of the petition