Urgent International Action Needed to Combat Social Inequalities and Environmental Risks, UN Secretary-General Tells Istanbul Forum

22 Mar 2012

UNDP’s first Global Human Development Forum starts today in Istanbul

Istanbul - 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 here today.

“The world stands at a crossroads,” the Secretary-General said in his message to the Istanbul Forum, convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Turkey.

“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 organized 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 today. “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.”

UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan of Turkey opened the Forum today by stressing the importance of collective global action at the “Rio + 20” conference three months from now. “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.

Added Grynspan: “We must recognize that high-carbon; unequal growth will undermine itself by breeding social unrest and violence, and by destroying natural habitats critical for livelihoods. We need a new paradigm of growth and a new approach to the political economy of sustainable development.”

The Global Human Development Forum will culminate Friday with an “Istanbul Declaration” articulating the participants’ jointly proposed goals and priorities for the “Rio+20” summit.

“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,” the Secretary-General said in his message today. “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, will speak today in a special Forum session devoted to the Panel’s recommendations. Forum discussion topics today and Friday also include: “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 U.N. Economic Commission for Europe: “From Transition to Transformation: Sustainable and Inclusive Development in Europe and Central Asia”.

Other leading government officials and development experts participating in the Istanbul discussions include 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 organized jointly by UNDP’s Human Development Report Office and Bureau of Development Policy, with support from the Turkish Ministry of Development and the Government of Denmark.

Contact Information

In Istanbul, Faik Uyanik, and Tel.:  +90 312 454 1105, faik.uyanik@undp.org; Stanislav Saling, +1 917 346 1955, stanislav.saling@undp.org.

In New York, William Orme, Tel.: +1 212 906 6763, william.orme@undp.org;

Related Documents
Human Development Report 2011- Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All

UNDP's flagship publication, the 2011 Global Human Development Report Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All argues that the intensification of environmental deterioration and social inequalities could erode progress made in raising living standards over the last few decades. Least developed countries could diverge from global patterns of progress by 2050.