4 ways to save Rio+20 summit on sustainable development
As 'Elders,' even our optimism is being seriously tested by the lack of urgency about the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development in June. To succeed, the summit must start by setting goals, just as the UN did with its 'Millennium Development Goals' – with some targets now being met.
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First, summit participants must learn from the success of the UN millennium goals. Agreed targets drive collective action. These efforts must be intensified in the years remaining until the 2015 deadline.Skip to next paragraph
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We believe setting “sustainable development goals” that address the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of development in a comprehensive way can galvanize efforts to grow economies and at the same time tackle poverty and inequality and protect the environment. These goals should be universal and have implications for every country, but in different ways.
Second, those attending the summit need to find ways to ensure sustainable development stays at the top of the global agenda. The world does not yet have the right mechanisms to deliver this goal. We believe that the creation of a sustainable development council – with a prominent position in the United Nations, a clear mandate, and the necessary capacity and authority – could make a real difference to developing, monitoring, and implementing policies to advance sustainable development.
Third, there must be stronger backing for the UN secretary-general’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative. The lack of universal access to modern, sustainable energy has a major impact not just on climate change and poverty but also health.
Smoke from wood, dung, and coal from cooking and heating remains one of the world’s major public health problems. Major investment is needed to accelerate the move away from carbon fuels and to improve energy efficiency.
Finally, true sustainable development hinges on much faster progress toward gender equality. Across the world, women still face barriers that prevent them from playing their full role in economies, parliaments, and societies. If we waste half the world’s talent and potential, we simply cannot succeed.
It is all our responsibility – as businesses, members of civic society, and as individuals – to help grow our economies in a way that benefits all and safeguards our planet for future generations. But only governments together can create the conditions in which these other efforts can succeed. It is why Rio+20 is a time for courage and vision.
Gro Harlem Brundtland was Norway’s first female prime minister and is a former director general of the World Health Organisation. She is a member of the UN secretary-general’s Global Sustainability Panel.
Both authors are involved in Elders+Youngers, an intergenerational dialogue on the future of the planet initiated by The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.