A panel discussion focusing on different ways to ensure Rio+20 is a success for sustainable development brought together panelists, delegates and United Nations agencies for an informative debate at UN Headquarters.
The event entitled “Advancing Sustainable Development: What Should Rio+20 Achieve?” was organized by the Second Committee of the General Assembly and DESA, as part of the preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012, also known as Rio+20.
The main themes of the discussion mirrored those of the Rio+20 Conference: the green economy, in the context of sustainable development and poverty alleviation, and the institutional framework supporting sustainable development.
Starting the debate, Professor Rehman Sobhan of the Centre for Policy Dialogue in Bangladesh reminded those present that injustices in the world social order had condemned successive generations to poverty, whilst leaving them the most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and the depletion of natural resources.
“In order to address sustainability, we need to address the source of the problems in society; we need to address deprivation and injustice,” he said, calling for the democratization of access to vital resources such as water, food, land and energy.
“These resources belong to society… Local communities should be stakeholders,” Professor Sobhan added, warning that unless large segments of the world’s population were empowered to take part in the distribution of resources, societies would increasingly be exposed to the risk of desperate people uniting against injustice and potentially posing a threat to democratic institutions across the globe.
These sentiments were echoed by Felix Dodds of the Stakeholder Forum, an international organization working to advance sustainable development and promote stakeholder democracy at a global level.
“The consumer model is not only failing, it is threatening economic stability,” he said, calling for an end to irresponsible capitalism, which he linked to big banks, privatizing gains whilst socializing losses, at the expense of society and the environment. He urged delegates to use the Rio+20 Conference to pursue a more responsible form of capitalism that could meet the needs of all, in a sustainable and equitable manner.
Examples of what had been done to promote green growth in the Republic of Korea were shown in a series of case studies presented by Dr. Soogil Young of the Presidential Committee on Green Growth. He detailed policies implemented by the Government of President Lee Myung-bak to promote low carbon green growth by simultaneously pursuing environmental objectives and economic growth and encouraging the development of a synergic relationship between the two.
In the question and answer session, Juanita Castaño of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) made a statement covering the environmental (green), the economic and social components of sustainable development. “Synergies across these considerations are not automatic,” she cautioned, but “an appropriate mix of national policy reforms and strategic international policies can help attract …substantial investment,” she added, drawing on examples in Tunisia, China, Brazil and Uganda.