|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Upcoming DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn
Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, told correspondents today that the upcoming annual Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations Conference in Germany — on the theme “Sustainable Societies; Responsive Citizens” — is an important opportunity for NGOs and civil society to meet and begin preparing for next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — Rio+20 — which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June.
Addressing a press conference at Headquarters, Mr. Akasaka said the Bonn Conference, which will be held from 3 to 5 September, is also an opportunity to recognize the enormous value of volunteering, giving back, and being responsive citizens in this, the tenth anniversary year of the International Year of Volunteers. The Conference is organized by the Department of Public Information, in partnership with the DPI/NGO Executive Committee, the Federal Government of Germany, and United Nations Volunteers (UNV).
The Conference will focus on two interlinked issues: sustainable development and volunteerism — the power of individuals to affect change and transform society, said Mr. Akasaka, who was joined at the press conference by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, Miguel Berger; Donna Keher, Chief of the Partnerships and Communications Division of United Nations Volunteers; and Felix Dodds, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future and the Chair of the sixty-fourth annual Conference.
Specifically, he added, the Conference will examine best practices and how to change consumption and production patterns; the links between the green economy and poverty eradication; and the role of civic engagement and voluntary action in the achievement of sustainable development.
One of the main goals is to expand the Department of Public Information’s network of NGOs and volunteers to new partners, and to work together to inform and explain to communities around the world the links among climate change, water, energy and food — key issues in achieving sustainable development and a green economy, he said. He added that an estimated 2,000 NGO representatives from some 100 countries and territories will take part in the Conference, making it the biggest ever annual event.
Mr. Akasaka attributed the high level of participation in Bonn to what he said was “the sense of urgency felt by NGOs and civil society to move towards more sustainable, just and equitable societies — where the planet is protected, and where every man, woman and child has a chance for a better life”. In his view, that made the Conference an important — and inspiring — meeting, as the world looked ahead to Rio+20.
Mr. Berger told reporters that Germany was extremely happy Bonn had been chosen to host the Conference, and was proud to contribute €600,000 for its hosting. He said the city was “well prepared” to receive the participants and was known as Germany’s “UN City”, with a strong cluster of some 16 United Nations organizations and offices in the field of sustainable development and environment, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV). That dimension had created a certain synergy with the topic of the conference.
He added that his Government believed that sustainability was what moved much of today’s political debate in Germany, which was why it was particularly supportive of the event. Whether it was in talking about the “green economy” or sustainable social structures, his country had a very active civil society that focused on sustainability at the national and international level, so much so that sectors like environmental technology had become important industrial growth sectors.
However, none of the major challenges of the twenty-first century could possibly be tackled by Governments alone, he said, and the advancement of sustainable development was more than an industrial strategy. In that context, the active support and the commitment of non-governmental organizations was essential in advancing the cause of sustainability.
In her remarks, Ms. Keher said that, if the next generations are to benefit from development, then development had to be sustainable, and that was the challenge everyone faced. The best solutions were often the simplest of solutions, she said, and this year’s theme reflected that, by pointing out that creating sustainable development is not the just the job of Governments or institutions. Sustainable societies need responsive citizens, people who rise to the challenge and take action of their own free will and work towards a better and brighter future for all.
Ms. Keher noted that, for sustainable development to work, people have to get involved. “Simply stated, we need volunteers.” In her view, the Conference presents the “golden opportunity” needed to forge long-term partnerships that build sustainable development through civic engagement, saying that a spirit of volunteerism inspires a sense of responsibility and a thirst for change.
Also addressing reporters, Mr. Dodds, Chair of the Conference, lauded the leadership role Germany was playing for Rio+20, as the upcoming DPI/NGO meeting is one of three conferences Germany is hosting in the lead up to Rio+20.
He said that, with all the challenges facing the planet with regard to sustainable development and climate change — a situation that was going to get much more difficult moving forward before it gets better — Rio+20 will need to provide much-needed new momentum on environment and sustainable development. Pointing to the many broken promises over the 20 years since the first Rio Summit, he said next year’s Conference will have the two themes of the green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development; and an institutional framework for sustainable development.
In that regard, he said, the international community faces a number of major challenges on a number of fronts: Human societies living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet; climate change emerging as an “out-of-control driver”; an increasing link between environment and security; and the current economic consumption model. Governments must give the United Nations the mandate, resources and the institutional capacities needed to deal with these challenges.
He said the parallels of the world’s ecological problems to the financial crisis are clear: “The banks and financial institutions privatized the gains and socialized the losses. We are doing the same with the planet’s natural capital. Our present lifestyles are drawing down the ecological capital from other parts of the world and from future generations,” he declared, adding, “We are increasingly becoming the most irresponsible generation this planet has ever seen”.
In response to a correspondent’s question on the manner of NGO recognition and accreditation, Mr. Dodds said he believed it is necessary to revive a recommendation contained in the “Cardozo panel report” that had been made for a uniform accreditation of NGOs through the UN system that had never been followed up.
The press conference concluded with the signing of the Host Country Agreement between the UN and the Government of Germany by Mr. Akasaka and Mr. Berger.
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