UN Secretary-General’s blueprint on global sustainability launched from Addis Abeba
By Keffyalew Gebremedhin
January 31, 2012
Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A future worth choosing, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s blueprint “for creating a sustainable planet, a just society and a growing economy” was launched Monday from Addis Abeba, where he is attending the 18th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
On the occasion, Secretary-General Ban said that sustainable development is a top priority for his second term of office. In that connection, he observed, “We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet.” he added. “Sustainable development offers our best chance to change course.”
In submitting their 99-page report to the secretary-general in their letter of 30 January 2012, the two Co-chairs of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability President Tarja Halonen of Finland and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa emphasized:
The signposts are clear: We need to change dramatically, beginning with how we think about our relationship to each other, to future generations, and to the eco-systems that support us. Our mission as a Panel was to reflect on and formulate a new vision for sustainable growth and prosperity, along with mechanisms for achieving it. With seven billion of us now inhabiting our planet, it is time to reflect on our current path. Today we stand at a crossroads. Continuing on the same path will put people and our planet at greatly heightened risk. The other path, we believe, provides extraordinary opportunity, but we must be committed and courageous in following it. Changing course will not be easy. But over time, we believe that following a more sustainable path will enhance human well-being, further global justice, strengthen gender equity, and preserve the Earth’s life-support systems for future generations.
The high-level panel sees its report as a continuation of the process started by the Brundtland report, which a quarter of a century ago introduced the concept of sustainable development to the international community. Although since then the world has gained a deeper understanding of the interconnected challenges we are facing today, the report states that sustainable development provides the best opportunity for people to choose their future.
The panel has made three concrete proposals on the way forward. These are empowering people to make sustainable choices, working towards a sustainable economy and strengthening institutional governance that support sustainable development. In its detailed recommendations, the report attaches enormous importance to the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental.
The work of the High-level Panel, which the secretary-general commissioned in August 2010 was carried out by 22 members drawn from senior positions in government, parliaments and institutions from: Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, India, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
This report, according to the United Nations, is expected to serve as an important contribution to the Organization’s work on sustainable development, particularly in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil this June.
Synopsis of the recommendations
The report contains 56 recommendations geared toward facilitating realization of the objectives of sustainable development. These are divided into three major headings. They are:
A. Empowering people to make sustainable choices is the first one and it comes with 26 recommendations. Again, this part divides into six major parts, into which the recommendations are distributed. The focuses of these recommendations is summed up as follows:
(i) Delivering on the fundamentals of development: international commitments to eradicate poverty, promote human rights and human security and advance gender equality.
Three recommendations focusing on the imperative of eradicating poverty, government responsibility to respect, protect and provide for human rights and gender equality are clearly spelt out.
(ii) Advancing education for sustainable development, including secondary and vocational education, and building of skills to help ensure that all of society can contribute to solutions that address today’s challenges and capitalize on opportunities.
Three recommendations focus on the need for expanding educational opportunities and the necessity of private/public cooperation to that end.
(iii) Creating employment opportunities, especially for women and youth, to drive green and sustainable growth.
Four recommendations on green jobs and decent work polices, opportunities for young entrepreneurs, equality in work places and access for women farmers to land and resources are presented.
(iv) Enabling consumers to make sustainable choices and advance responsible behavior individually and collectively.
This has four recommendations that focus on sustainable production and consumption; the need for labeling of produces that aim to facilitate informed choices are presented.
(v) Managing resources and enabling a twenty-first-century Green Revolution: agriculture, oceans and coastal systems, energy and technology; and,
This has eight recommendations dealing with importance of working on agreement on global principles for sustainable and responsible land and water investment deals, universal access to affordable sustainable energy 2030; provision to citizens, especially those in remote areas with access to technologies, and international financial institutions supporting enlargement of innovation.
(vi) Building resilience through sound safety nets, disaster risk reduction and adaptation planning.
There are four recommendations to governments to ensure that all citizens are provided with access to basic safety nets through appropriate national efforts and the provision of appropriate capacity, finance and technology.
B. Working towards sustainable economy is a major heading that is divided into four subheadings and consists of 13 recommendations. These focus on ensuring sustainability of the economy through the following measures.
(i) Incorporating social and environmental costs: regulation and pricing to reflect externalities.
This comes with three recommendations requiring governments to create price signals that value sustainability to guide consumption and undertaking reforms, establishing the necessary institutions and standards.
(ii) Creating an incentive road map that increasingly values long-term objectives.
The four recommendations under this deal with businesses aligning their practices with universally accepted principles, sovereign wealth supporting the transition to sustainable development.
(iii) Partnering to leverage new investments.
Five recommendations are listed here, dealing with forging strategic partnership between governments and businesses; public investments to create enabling frameworks for additional financing. It also calls for measures for corporate accountability.
(iv) Establishing a common framework for measuring progress.
The one recommendation under this calls for establishment of a Sustainable Development Index by 2014.
C. Strengthening institutional governance. This is a major part of the report and breaks into five parts zeroing on the institutional aspects of sustainable development. These are:
(i) Coherence and accountability at the national and local levels
The five recommendations point to the need to ensuring the rule of law, good governance and citizens’ rights of access to official information, public participation in decision-making and the interface between science and policymaking.
(ii) Coherence and accountability at the regional and global levels.
Three recommendations under these treat the role and importance of equity in relation to sustainable development in a comprehensive way, nationally and locally, specifically calling on bilateral donors to step up their efforts to promote on impact of sustainable development in a comprehensive way.
(iii) Sustainable development goals.
The two recommendation under this call for a set of key universal sustainable development goals, covering all three dimensions of sustainable development [economic, social and environmental] as well as their interconnections to galvanize individual and collective actions
(iv) A global sustainable development outlook.
Under this come two recommendations highlighting the role of the UN secretary-general and the scientific community.
(v) Strengthening international governance for sustainable development.
Five recommendations are sketched pointing to the need for a global council to improve the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development making full use of the United Nations as the world’s global forum.
In conclusion, the report is pressing the point harder that the time is over for economists, social activists and environmental scientists simply to talk past each other — almost speaking different languages, or at least different dialects. “The time has come to unify the disciplines, to develop a common language for sustainable development that transcends the warring camps; in other words, to bring the sustainable development paradigm into mainstream economics. That way, politicians and policymakers will find it much harder to ignore.”