Sustainable Development Agreement Signals New Cooperation on Finding Solutions to Global Crises

19 May 2009

Sustainable Development Agreement Signals New Cooperation on Finding Solutions to Global Crises

19 May 2009
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York





In an agreement that signals a significant convergence between developing and developed countries on key issues, countries agreed on a wide range of policy options and measures at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development to address the food and climate crises in a manner that improves the wealth and well-being of people while protecting the environment.  The Commission reached its agreement on Friday evening, as it concluded its seventeenth session.

“Sustainable development is the bridge between the North and the South”, says Tariq Banuri, Director of the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development.  “It is a means of building trust between the North and South.  Building trust is particularly important today, when several crises call for common solutions.  The Commission’s success is an important expression of common commitment that can enhance such trust, and have positive effect on other actions and negotiations, such as the Copenhagen climate change conference.”

Close to 1,000 people participated in the Commission, including more than 40 ministers with diverse portfolios, as well as representatives from farmer’s organizations, academia, business and industry, women, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, youth, workers and trade unions, and local communities.

“The dream has come true!  We have found consensus and adopted a final outcome document and finalized a ‘Shared vision’ -- two documents that can set the scene for change,” said Gerda Verburg, Chairperson of the Commission and the Netherlands’ Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Ms. Verburg said many new and interesting proposals were discussed at the Commission which could make a difference, such as initiating a home-grown green revolution, especially in Africa; highlighting the crucial role agriculture must play in the climate change agenda; responding to the challenges, as well as opportunities, for sustainable production of biofuels; advancing the international water agenda in relation to agriculture; the need for a vigorous response to desertification based on a global drought index; and an ecosystem approach.

According to Mr. Banuri, one important message from the participants was that, although the world has enough knowledge of what works, this knowledge has not yet been translated into action.  This has produced two concrete results. First, the Commission decision, as well as inputs from experts and major groups, stressed the need to “scale-up” pilot projects to national and regional scales to work for the benefit of millions of people, rather than a few thousand.

Second, the meeting brought to the fore the need for a “knowledge partnership”, which would make such experiences and information easily accessible to policy makers and practitioners.  This will also help in facilitating future agreements.  “Information is distributed somewhat unequally today, and we need a mechanism that makes the latest knowledge more accessible so countries can act in concert on the common agenda.”

In addition to the 52-page negotiated outcome that details specific measures to address agriculture, rural development, land management, drought, desertification and sustainable development in Africa, and the “Shared Vision” prepared by the Chair, the Commission also strengthened links and communications between people and communities working on various aspects of sustainable development.

The Commission also showcased several innovative and interactive dialogues between ministers involving the heads of governing boards of international agencies on “how to practically build a bridge from policy to action”.

“By bringing together heads of UN agencies and the heads of their governing boards into a policy dialogue, the Commission created a platform for exploring synergies and commonalities among different policy agendas, such as food, climate, finance or trade,” said Mr. Banuri.  “This is the essence of sustainable development.  To get people out of their silos, to extricate policy processes from narrow partisan logics and create an integrated vision that can move us towards the common goal of sustainable development.”

More information on the Commission’s seventeenth session, including the full press kit, can be found at  An archive of the session’s webcasts can be found at

For more information or interviews, please contact Dan Shepard or Franck Kuwonu, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel: +1 212 963 9495 and +1 212 963 8264, fax: +1 212 963 1186, e-mail:

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.