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Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature

Wednesday, 20 April 2011 · NLB Conference Room 2

For more information on this event, please visit the official website for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20):


On 20 December 2010, the UN General Assembly, under item 20 (i) “sustainable development” of the agenda of its 65th Session, adopted Resolution 65/164 on “Harmony with Nature”, requesting, inter alia, an interactive dialogue focused on: (a) ways to promote a holistic approach to sustainable development in harmony with nature, and (b) sharing national experiences on criteria and indicators to measure sustainable development in harmony with nature.  The interactive dialogue is intended to inform the on-going preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 (Rio+20).
Addressing the World Economic Forum session on “Redefining Sustainable Development” in Davos on 28 January 2011, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, described sustainable development as the “growth agenda for the twenty-first century”, but warned against “consumption without consequences” and called for all to “live in harmony with the world” around us, as did the ancients, who saw “no division between themselves and the natural world”
The Secretary-General’s intervention built on his Report on “Harmony with Nature” (A/65/314). This document reflects upon the nurturing kinship that humans have had with the Earth throughout the history of civilization. The report provides an overview of how the consumption and production patterns of the 21st century do not adequately recognize the intimate relationship between humans and the environment, the result of which has severely affected the Earth’s carrying capacity and compromised environmental, social and economic sustainability. The Report elaborates on the “route back to the future” which involves “reconnecting with nature”.

Implementing the holistic concept of sustainable development, as agreed in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI), is a two-fold challenge: first, integrating, economic, social and environmental goals in a diverse world of differing levels of economic and social development, and second, ensuring equity between present and future generations.

In terms of this double challenge, harmony with nature, which is an integral part of sustainable development, involves humans reconnecting with the world around them and forging a new consensus between countries of differing levels of development, which takes explicit account of the needs of future generations. 

Designing and implementing sustainable development policies that are truly in harmony with nature implies profound changes in consumption and production patterns, energy and materials use and lifestyle aspirations.   Such deep changes would require promoting major shifts in attitudes, behaviour and education, as well as changes in public policy and consensus-building at all levels, through inclusive processes that respect national sovereignty and the rights of individuals.

Objective and Expected Outcomes

The interactive dialogue of the General Assembly on Harmony with Nature aims to examine how humans can better reconnect with the world around them. It is intended to promote an exchange of ideas and experiences from multiple perspectives about lessons learned in implementing and measuring sustainable development and about new and successful ways to reconcile economic and social development with conservation of the Earth.
The dialogue is expected to yield the following outcomes:


General Assembly: Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature (Part 1)

General Assembly: Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature (Part 2)


The interactive dialogue will take place on Wednesday, 20 April 2011, during the commemoration of International Mother Earth Day, at UN Headquarters in New York. The dialogue will consist of two moderated panel discussions with independent experts in sustainable development and in its measurement. The floor will be opened to delegates and other participants for questions to the panelists, as well as brief interventions to share their experiences and other perspectives.
Panel One: Ways to promote a holistic approach to sustainable development in harmony with nature
The first panel would focus on the two challenges in a holistic approach to sustainable development in harmony with nature: ensuring the integration of economic, social and environmental objectives and ensuring equity both within and across countries as well as between generations. The panel would offer a wide array of perspectives, including sociological and anthropological ones, on how humankind can effectively reconnect with nature to achieve economic and social development that is more harmonious and balanced in relationship to the Earth’s carrying capacity.
Panel Two: Sharing national experiences on criteria and indicators for measuring sustainable development in harmony with nature
In recent years, there has been an increasing recognition that gross domestic product (GDP) needs to be supplemented by other measurement tools for measuring progress in terms of social well-being and environmental sustainability.  
From the statistical and economic measurement work of the UN, as well as outside expert research such as that of Professors Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi (2009)*, one can identify three relevant areas of work on measuring sustainable development: (a) UN sustainable development measurement tools, including the set of sustainable development indicators of the Commission on Sustainable Development, as well as the system of economic and  environmental accounts (SEEA) under review by the Statistical Commission, (b) the use of composite measures such as the carbon footprint, and (c) broader indicators on human well-being and environmental sustainability, such as Gross National Happiness pioneered by Bhutan and the set of indicators of well-being being developed by OECD.  

The Panel would discuss the state of the art in the measurement of sustainable development and indicate the way forward for measuring economic progress, social well-being and environmental sustainability in harmony with nature.

*Report of the Commission of the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress by Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi (2009).



10 –10:20 am

Opening Remarks

  • Acting President of the General Assembly
  • H.E. Mrs. Asha-Rose Migiro, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General
  • H.E. Mr. Pablo Solon, Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the UN

10:20 – 1:00 pm

Interactive Panel Debate 1: Ways to promoting a holistic approach to sustainable development in harmony with nature


  • Mr. Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Center


  • Ms. Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya, India
  • Mr. Peter Brown, Professor, McGill University, Canada
  • Mr. Cormac Cullinan, Environmental Attorney, South Africa
  • Ms. Riane Eisler, Author of “The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics” (2007)

3 – 5:45 pm

Interactive Panel Debate 2: Sharing national experiences on criteria and indicators for measuring sustainable development in harmony with nature


  • Mr. Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Center


  • Mr. Paul-Bertrand Barets, Head of International Economic Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, France
  • Mr. Gilberto Gallopin, Regional Adviser on Environmental Policies, Economic and Social Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Mr. Ivo Havinga, Chief, Economic Statistics Branch, UN DESA Statistics Division
  • Mr. Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director, Global Footprint Network

5:45 – 6 pm

Closing Remarks

  • Mr. Sha Zukang, Secretary-General for Rio+20
  • Acting President of the General Assembly




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