New development goals must address complementary aims, UNDP chief says

Mar 18, 2013

Helen Clark says sustainability must be integrated at every level

San Jose, Costa Rica — UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark called here today for new development targets that focus on how growth, poverty alleviation and sustainability can complement one another.

“At UNDP we believe it is critical to link the poverty eradication, social equity and environmental sustainability agendas together,” she said, opening a two-day conference on a new agenda after the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) pass their 2015 target date.

“Environmental sustainability cannot be a mere add-on to a new global development agenda—or stand alone in a vertical silo,” Helen Clark said. “The imperative now is to move from a discourse focused on trade-offs among growth, poverty and environment to one that looks at how to advance the three strands of sustainable development together.”

“At UNDP we call this the ‘triple win’ approach. We see it being put into practice in a range of countries—rich, middle-income and poor—that are determined to develop…in a way that sustains our world for future generations.”

Costa Rica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Roverssi, Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet Nicolas Hulot and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner also opened the meeting—during which more than 100 participants from around the world will discuss how an environmental agenda can inform global development post-2015.

“The world will not be able to sustain economic and social progress if the environment is wrecked. We need the integrated approaches to sustainable development which Rio + 20 endorsed put into place,” Helen Clark said.

While environmental protection is often seen as an obstacle to economic growth, growth that destroys ecosystems is unsustainable and aggravates inequality, hitting the world’s poorest people hardest.

For example, Malawi’s loss of wealth resulting from unsustainable use of natural resources is estimated at 5.3 percent of GDP annually—more than the African country allocated for education and health combined in 2009, she said.

Costa Rica in contrast is seen as a leader in sustainable development through ecotourism, reforestation, an innovative system of payments for environmental services and drive to rely 100 percent on renewable sources of energy.

Coupling essential human development targets with targets for more sustainable management of natural resources could mean including a target on expanding access to energy, alongside a target for energy efficiency; matching food and nutrition security with targets for sustainable food production and reducing waste, or including targets on access to improved sources of water with a target limiting contamination.  

Whatever targets succeed the MDGs, Helen Clark said, their success will hinge on whether they rally international support and commitment to action.

The meeting here is part of a global conversation about a future development agenda, comprising consultations in almost 100 countries, 11 thematic sessions on environment, health, water, economic growth, employment and other issues, and a survey that invites people to vote on 16 development priorities.

Findings will be delivered to the UN Secretary-General and world leaders, including the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Heads of State and Government attending the opening of the 2013 UN General Assembly, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and other processes.

Contact information

Stanislav Saling, UNDP
Tel: +1-646-781-4077
Cell: +1-917-346-1955

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