Beyond Rio+20, countries must take "people-based" approach to sustainability

Jun 21, 2012

Rio de Janeiro - Countries must work  together on a "people-based"  approach to social, economic and environmental  sustainability on both the international and local level, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and UNDP head Helen Clark told a high-level forum at the Rio+20 conference today.

"Rio is about thinking globally, but acting locally," the UN chief said in his opening address.  "When leaders do not act locally, nothing can be done."

"At heart,  Rio is about putting people first," he added.

UNDP's Clark, in the keynote speech, said "The human development approach can guide policy makers to focus on what matters most - better lives for people."

Prime Minister Erdogan said the risks posed by rising inequality in the world. "Societies which spend and consume without any limit are obviously very attractive to others, but if some people are getting richer and some people are getting poorer, this is not a model for sustainable growth," he said.

Speakers took as  their  common point of departure the "Istanbul Declaration" - Towards an Equitable and Sustainable Future for All - that was adopted at the 2012 Global Human Development Forum in Turkey in March. The Istanbul Declaration stressed the importance of  a Rio +20 outcome based on  "a globally adopted vision that combines equitable growth with environmental sustainability, rooted in universal values and global social justice." The Declaration emphasized further that the post-2015 development goals now under discussion in Rio must be relevant to all nations and based on measurable indicators.

"UNDP argues that development is about far more than growth in GDP per capita, and that it must lead to tangible and positive changes in people's lives,"  Clark  said.

Prime  Minister Jigmy Thinley of Bhutan, which has pioneered its own happiness-based  assessment of  progress, also urged  the adoption of broad-based measures of development.

"Gross national happiness is more important than GDP, and is needed to integrate sustainability and equity in the post-2015 agenda," Thinley said.  "Happiness must be the pure goal of development, so why do we trivialize it? Because we trivialize happiness and the purpose of life, and therefore pursue the wrong things."

The speakers confronted key questions posed to leaders at Rio:

  • What are the polices that will reduce inequality while  promoting other aspects of sustainable human development?
  • What are the barriers preventing  progress?
  • How can we galvanize global support for needed reforms that will benefit people in all countries and communities?

"Sustainable development is not only prosperity in one's own country, but global prosperity," Erdogan commented.

"Last year's global Human Development Report issued a stark warning that unless both greater equity and environmental sustainability are prioritized, human development progress will slow, and some regions may witness a reversal in human development, " Clark noted in her keynote speech.  "But sustainability, equity, and empowerment are central not only to the human development paradigm; they are central to advancing sustainable development, and they must help shape discussion on the post-2015 development agenda."

Today's forum -   "From Rio to 2015 and Beyond: Charting a Course for a Fairer World" - was convened by the government of Turkey and  moderated by Cevdet Yilmaz, Turkey's Minister of Development, and Khalid Malik, Director of UNDP, Human Development Report Office. The dialogue also featured remarks by  Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan of Turkey, and Janos Pasztor, Executive Secretary of the  Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability.

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