Food, climate and financial crises threaten sustainable development goals – UN official

23 February 2009 – A range of challenges from food and financial crises to climate change are threatening global efforts to achieve development that is sustainable, or that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, a top United Nations official said today.

“These multi-dimensional challenges do not have purely economic solutions, nor purely social or environmental ones. They require integrated solutions that combine economic, social and environmental elements,” Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang told a UN meeting on sustainable development that began today in New York.

He noted that food prices remain high, following on from last year’s crisis, and the global financial and economic slowdown has exacerbated the situation.

“Forecasts suggest that this year could produce the worst economic record since the end of the Second World War,” Mr. Sha said, noting that growth rates are falling everywhere, unemployment is rising, poverty is deepening, and hunger and malnutrition are on the increase.

In addition, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the set of globally agreed anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline – is in “jeopardy.”

On top of these challenges, the international community faces the threat of climate change, which if left unaddressed will, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated, only increase poverty and hardship, he noted.

“Now is the time for the champions of sustainable development to step forward,” he exhorted the gathering, which is meeting in preparation for the 17th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, which is slated to hold its annual session in May.

All of the present crises put “a new responsibility on the Commission to provide the leadership and guidance that the world needs today,” he added.

The themes on the Commission’s agenda this year are agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification, and Africa.

“Each provides an entry point for addressing the food crisis. Each is central to the pursuit of the MDGs. Each is affected adversely by climate change as well as the global recession,” he stated. “And the policy response in each of these agenda areas can contribute to the solutions of these global challenges.”

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