15 February 2011 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for a “revolution” in how the world defines prosperity and relates to nature, based on the twin pillars of a sustainable development that breaks with the profligacy of the past and an equality that embraces empowerment for all.
“We need to reinvent what we mean by progress,” he told students and faculty at the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru, where he received an honorary doctorate. “For most of the last century, the world burned its way to prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences.
“Those days are gone. In the 21st century, supplies are running short and the global thermostat is running high. The old models are not just obsolete, they are dangerous.”
In an address that reprised some of the major themes he elaborated in a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, Mr. Ban stressed the global nature of the challenges and the need for a global, multi-national response.
“We are living in an era of transformation, of sweeping changes in the global landscape, with new economic powers emerging, disasters striking with greater force, the impacts of climate change growing ever clearer, drug trafficking and organized crime syndicates that at times seem capable of outgunning legitimate police forces,” he declared.
“Today’s challenges have global reach. No single country or group, however powerful, can deal with them alone. We must work in common cause not just as a matter of pragmatic burden-sharing, though that is reason enough. We must find common solutions because we share a common future.”
He noted that Peru and Latin America as a whole can see the consequences of climate change with Andean glaciers melting and sea levels rising, potentially disrupting the ecosystem of the Galápagos and threatening the very existence of some Caribbean nations.
“Climate change leads us down a path that no longer works – a path of the past. We need to build paths to the future. That means de-coupling greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth through energy efficiency,” he said.
But the second pillar of the required revolution is also vital. “We cannot talk about sustainability without talking about equality,” Mr. Ban said, noting that as the fastest growing country in South America Peru has made impressive progress toward such Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as reducing poverty, providing better access to primary education, and making advances in income distribution.
“At the same time, let us remember: inequality is not just a question of how much of the proverbial pie one has; it is about ensuring that all are involved in the baking and all can share in the feast. Participation and social cohesion are crucial parts of the picture.”
That entails empowering farmers’ organizations and civil society groups, consulting indigenous people on land issues, and empowering Latin America’s women, with fighting violence against girls and women a priority, he added.
“At the same time, for vast sectors of the region’s population, especially young people, democratic and macro-economic stability has not translated into tangible improvements in their daily lives,” he stressed. “Social cohesion is firmly on the agenda. But it remains to be seen whether reforms can happen fast enough.
“Indeed, we should worry about the slow pace of change. We should all be concerned when people say they would sacrifice democracy for economic and social progress. It is not just possible to have both – in the long run, it is essential.”
At an earlier news conference after talks with President Alan García, Mr. Ban praised Peru’s efforts in trans-Pacific integration, in addressing climate change and in closing the digital divide as “examples that provide lessons for all nations.”
News Tracker: past stories on this issue