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Countdown for Rio+20 begins

Urgent international action needed to combat social inequalities and environmental risks, UN Secretary General tells Istanbul Forum

| | May 12, 2012 | 6:54 pm
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Urgent international action needed to combat social inequalities and environmental risks, UN Secretary General tells Istanbul Forum

Social justice and environmental protection are equally urgent and intrinsically linked universal goals, with coordinated global action needed on both fronts at the UN’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to an audience of development experts, civil society leaders and government officials at the first Global Human Development Forum, held against the backdrop of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s first Global Human Development Forum in Istanbul on March 22.

“The world stands at a crossroads,” the Secretary-General said in his message to the Istanbul Forum. “We need everyone – government ministers and policymakers, business and civil society leaders, and young people – to work together to transform our economies, to place our societies on a more just and equitable footing, and to protect the resources and ecosystems on which our shared future depends.”

UNDP’s 2011 Human Development Report – “Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All,” which argued that social inequalities and environmental hazards must be combated together for the sake of future generations – provided the framework for the two-day Istanbul dialogue. The Global Human Development Forum was organised to examine the critical social, economic and environmental challenges facing the world today, including better approaches to assessing national and global progress.

“The concept of human development originated in well-founded dissatisfaction with using only gross domestic product as a measure of human progress,” the Secretary-General noted in his statement. “Though this understanding has become something of a benchmark in our thinking about development, there remains a need to dramatically change the way we value and measure progress,” he added.

Earlier, UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan of Turkey opened the Forum by stressing the importance of collective global action at the Rio+20 conference. “This Forum is particularly timely and important,” Grynspan said. “It provides a unique opportunity to debate the messages we want to take to Brazil, reflecting on what we have learned since the Stockholm Conference in 1972 and the Earth Summit in 1992.”

More than a hundred heads of state will be leading their national delegations to the June Conference on Sustainable Development, making it one of the largest such high-level gatherings in recent times, the UNDP communiqué stated.

“Sustainable development recognises 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,” the Secretary-General stressed in his message. “We need an outcome from Rio+20 that reflect this understanding and that relates to the concerns of all.”

Deputy Prime Minister Babacan, a member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, urged the adoption of new ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ to guide global priorities following the 2015 conclusion of the UN’s 15-year Millennium Development Goals campaign. Cevdet Yilmaz, Turkey’s Minister of Development, who moderated the Forum discussion on the “Social Contract: Building Equity and Sustainability”, said, “The Forum provides a solid platform to share different viewpoints on the universal goal of having resilient people and a resilient planet.”

Tarja Halonen, the former president of Finland and co-chair of the High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability Panel, also spoke on a special Forum session devoted to the Panel’s recommendations. Forum discussion topics included: “A New Deal on Sustainable Development”; “Innovative Financing for Sustainable Future”; “Assessing Human Progress”; and “Building Coalitions for Change”. The Forum will feature the launch Friday of a major new report by the UN Economic Commission for Europe: “From Transition to Transformation: Sustainable and Inclusive Development in Europe and Central Asia”.

Other government officials and development experts participating in the Istanbul discussions included, Kandeh K Yumkella, Director-General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization; Thakur Singh Powdyel, Minister for Education of Bhutan; Brian Atwood, Chair, Development Assistance Committee, the OECD; Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for Development Cooperation, Sweden; Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya, Minister of Planning, Kenya; and Senator Cristovam Buarque of Brazil.

The Global Human Development Forum was organised jointly by UNDP with support from the Turkish Ministry of Development and the Government of Denmark.

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