Secretary-General, in Remarks to Sustainability Panel, Calls for Fresh Ideas, Renewed Commitment to Fairly Sharing, Protecting Global Commons

13 December 2011

Secretary-General, in Remarks to Sustainability Panel, Calls for Fresh Ideas, Renewed Commitment to Fairly Sharing, Protecting Global Commons

13 December 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in Remarks to Sustainability Panel, Calls for Fresh Ideas,

Renewed Commitment to Fairly Sharing, Protecting Global Commons


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the fifth meeting of the Global Sustainability Panel, in New York on 13 December:

I am very grateful for your hard work over the past 16 months.  In particular I thank President [Tarja] Halonen and President [Jacob] Zuma for their leadership in guiding this Panel through to its conclusion.  I — and many others — eagerly anticipate your final report on 12 January.

Sustainable development is an overriding priority for my second term.  Next month I will present my action plan to the General Assembly for the coming five years.  Your recommendations will help shape the United Nations system’s policies on sustainable development for years to come.  I look for your guidance on governance issues in particular.  How can the United Nations system work more effectively — and with other institutions — to make sustainable development a reality?

Your report can also make a major contribution to the “ Rio+20” process.  The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that we cannot afford to waste.  All the issues that will be on the table in Rio — climate change, demographics, water, food, energy, global health, women’s empowerment — are intertwined.

And all the pillars that underpin the Rio process — stabilizing the global economy, safeguarding the environment, and ensuring social equity — are parts of a single agenda.  We cannot make progress in one without progress in the others.  At Rio the world should act on this fundamental understanding.

Today, warning signs are coming from many directions.  Policymakers are worried about the debt crisis in Europe and the United States.  Markets are volatile.  There is widespread public dissatisfaction with politics as usual — from protesters on Wall Street to demonstrators in Tahrir Square and beyond.

There is increasing inequity, not only between countries, but within them as well.  We will not achieve sustainable development without addressing inequality — 1 billion hungry people, one in five people without access to electricity, nearly 80 million young people out of work, 67 million children not in primary school, pervasive poverty, egregious disparities in access to sanitation and adequate health care.

This is not equitable.  It is not sustainable.

Nor can we live with deteriorating ecosystems.  Science tells us that we are approaching, and increasingly over-stepping, certain planetary boundaries.  This, too, is not sustainable.  But how can we avoid crossing these boundaries without denying developing countries the opportunity to grow their economies?

I hope to see this issue of equity addressed in your report.  We need fresh ideas and a renewed commitment by all countries to fairly share and protect the global commons.

Economy, equity, the environment — all three must be woven into one seamless cloth.

I am also eager to hear how you propose to sell the sustainability agenda to your fellow ministers and politicians.  I know you agree with me that the current economic crisis is no excuse for inaction.  But it does make for a difficult political environment in which to argue our case.  I am relying on you to synthesize the smart solutions that will build a more sustainable society.  And I will look for your strong advocacy when difficult trade-offs need to be made.

When I selected this Panel, I looked for seasoned individuals with significant experience on the frontlines of national and international politics.  I need you to craft the political arguments that will help to advance the argument for sustainable development — especially to a sceptical audience.  This is pivotal to the success of your efforts.

This is a long-term project.  I will count on your leadership and commitment far beyond the date that you deliver your final report.  You are the authors, but more importantly, you need to be its champions.  I need you to be the vanguard of the sustainability revolution.

We need to show how sustainability is politically feasible, economically beneficial and socially viable.

I look forward to your ideas, and I thank you again for your engagement.

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