High-level panel presents route to sustainability

National Tapajos Forest Young Residents Play on Bridge (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Co-Chairs Mrs. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, hosted an Interactive Dialogue of the United Nations General Assembly with the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability at the United Nations Headquarters in New York today. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Panel last August to “reflect on and formulate a new vision for sustainable growth and prosperity, along with mechanisms for achieving it.” 

The panel is focused on creating a blueprint for a sustainable future by addressing a number of issues including hunger, poverty, inequality, climate change and by building a low-carbon, green economy. The dialogue provided Member States the opportunity to be informed of what has been accomplished, as well as to share their views and suggestions.

Mr. Joseph Deiss, President of the General Assembly, opened the dialogue addressing the challenges of continuous population growth, urbanization and industrialization. He stated, “We are reaching the limits of our planet’s carrying capacity,” emphasizing the scarcity of resources.

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro called for a global development model that tackles poverty reduction, job creation, inequality, climate change and environmental degradation, while ensuring adequate access to water, energy and food for all. “We have to ask; will the 9 billion people who are expected to inhabit this planet in 2050 have the opportunity to thrive,” said Ms. Migiro.

Governmental, private and public sectors have made progress and undertaken efforts toward sustainable development. However, “what is lacking is the implementation, that’s where the difficulties are,” said Mrs. Halonen. She highlighted ways to build bridges between the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainability and the need to work more with communities. She suggested the solution is global sustainability, creating a planet that “supports its people’s needs, everyone’s needs.”

Mrs. Cristina Narbona Ruiz, the Spanish Ambassador to the OECD and former Minister of Environment of Spain, stated “here now, we need to integrate sustainability to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals and move beyond 2015.”  Everyone has the right to access clean water and breathe clean air.  She noted the need to implement a framework to mitigate natural risks and improve local and international governance.

Mr. Zuma anticipates the Panel will produce a final report at the end of the year and make a substantive contribution to the preparatory process for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.  He concluded, “We look forward to engaging broadly through an outreach programme during the work of the Panel and beyond, to ensure buy-in to the Panel recommendations and implementation thereafter.”

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