What It Would Take to Usher in a New Era

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By R. Nastranis
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

BERLIN (IDN) - If wishes indeed turn into reality, the world will usher in a new era coming June. Such an era will be guided by "a new vision", "a new deal" or "a renewed commitment to sustainable development". It will be characterised by "strong emphasis on social inclusion, social protection, and equity, in recognition of the fact that economic development has too often gone hand in hand with environmental degradation and increased inequality."

This would require a reset of the global agenda, declared more than 200 leading development experts, civil society activists, government ministers, private sector representatives and UN officials from all regions of the world, who gathered in Istanbul on March 22-23, 2012.

They called on the world community to take bold action against global social inequities and environmental deterioration. This, they said, should be the basis for the work at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro from June 20 to June 22, 2012. "Development must be with and for the people, equitable, inclusive, and human rights driven," they asserted.

The 'Istanbul Declaration', unanimously adopted at the first Global Human Development Forum on March 23 pleads for a better-coordinated "mobilization of global capital and local resources," good governance on the local and global level, and full empowerment of women "through access to education, health care, basic services and their participation in the labour force."

The Forum was organized by Human Development Report Office of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Bureau of Development Policy in partnership with the Government of Turkey's Ministry of Development.

The Istanbul Declaration endorses the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability and UNDP's 2011 Human Development Report on Sustainability and Equity, and stresses "the need to maintain progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, while building a consensus for a new post-2015 global framework that:

- Is universal in character, with relevance for all nations;

- Reflects the entirety of the sustainable development agenda, including the continuing importance of reducing poverty and inequality – particularly for the least developed countries;

- Addresses all three dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental), and their interconnections; and

- Is based on measurable indicators that can promote effective monitoring of progress and response to challenges."

In a personal message to Forum participants, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Sustainable development recognizes that our economic, social and environmental objectives are not competing goals that must be traded off against each other, but are interconnected objectives that are most effectively pursued together in a holistic manner. We need an outcome from Rio+20 that reflect this understanding and that relates to the concerns of all.”

More than 120 heads of state and government have confirmed their participation in the Rio conference, making it one of the largest such gatherings of world leaders in recent times.

"The most important question that needs to be decided is, are we going to advance and develop economically for now, or are we going to focus on sustainable development while considering future generations? "Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, a member of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel of Global Sustainability, said at the Forum. "As long as development and the economy do not progress at the same pace, it is difficult to achieve prosperity."

Government and civil society leaders from developing countries have strongly urged that the Rio conference address not only ecological threats such as climate change and pollution, but place equal emphasis on such critical social concerns as hunger, preventable disease and endemic poverty.

The 2011 Human Development Report, cited in the Istanbul Declaration and analysed in depth at the Forum, argued that simultaneous progress on both fronts is essential. The 2011 Report showed that reducing social and economic inequalities within and among nations should help reduce environmental risks, while a failure to slow environmental deterioration will further widen social and economic inequalities around the world.

"This is also a matter of intergenerational equity," said Khalid Malik, director of UNDP's Human Development Report Office. "What we do today as a world community will determine what kind of societies and environment will be inherited by those who come after us, and their opportunities for further human development should not be restricted by our failure to make the right policy choices now."

The Human Development Report has pioneered new approaches to measuring development since its introduction of the Human Development Index more than two decades ago, and participants at the Global Human Development Forum stressed the importance of continuing innovation in this area, at the Rio + 20 conference and beyond.

“We manage what we measure – and, in turn, what we measure affects what we do," the Istanbul Declaration stated, adding: "It is therefore vital that we measure progress towards sustainable development in a more comprehensive manner.

"Measures are required that go beyond GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to capture a fuller picture of human development, and emphasize sustainable and equitable outcomes. We urge greater support for the work underway around the world, in the United Nations and elsewhere, to design and use more appropriate measures of progress, and for countries and communities to collect data accordingly."

Thakur Singh Powdyel, Bhutan's Education Minister, who introduced the Declaration for adoption at the Forum: "What we measure is what we value. We can't steer a course without a reliable compass."

Among other featured speakers at the Global Human Development Forum were Tarja Halonen, the former President of Finland; Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization; Brian Atwood, Chair, OECD Development Assistance Committee; Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for Development Cooperation, Sweden; Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya, Minister of Planning, Kenya; Muhammed Asghar, President of the National University of Science and Technology of Pakistan; and Senator Cristovam Buarque of Brazil.

Olav Kjorven, director of UNDP's Bureau of Development Policy said: "In 2011 and so far in 2012, we have heard clear warnings from Nature that humanity is arrogantly pushing her boundaries, just as we have heard societies demanding human rights and justice, opportunities and decent jobs, affordable health care and energy access."

He added: "Responding successfully will require decision-makers from across the environmental, social and economic divides coming together to create the future we all want."

UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan expressed the hope that the Forum will help establish new partnerships across sectors, and that the discussions and the Declaration will "capture the imagination and interest of a much broader audience."

The Istanbul Declaration stresses: "It is time to reset the global development agenda. The world needs a renewed commitment to sustainable development and strong political leadership to implement it."

In what the Declaration calls the "new deal", it said: "Economic growth and wealth creation should be inclusive, generate new decent jobs, and reduce poverty. The benefits should be extended to every individual in society. Defending and promoting the right of all to a clean and safe environment and a good standard of living – through the use of rights-based social compacts and the expansion of social protection to include the environmental dimension – are also required."

The Declaration pleads for adjustments to current patterns of production and consumption to afford future generations at least the same development opportunities as the current generation. "These adjustments," it says, "will require structural transformations." [IDN-InDepthNews – March 25, 2012]

2012 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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