23.09.2012 - ODG

Irina Bokova takes part in the launch of the United Nations Sustainable development solutions network, at Columbia University, New York

© UNESCO - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at the launch of the United Nations Sustainable development solutions network, New York, September 2012

“Our generation’s greatest challenge is sustainable development,” stated Jeffrey Sachs in his opening remarks for the launch of the new sustainable development solutions network, on September 22, at Columbia University.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs has been appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to convene this new global network with the purpose to mobilize civil society, companies and universities to support and expand local problem solving.

 “Many solutions already exist on the ground to nurture sustainable development. We need to scale them up and disseminate them, so that more communities can adopt and adapt strong solutions.”

The Director-General of UNESCO took part in the opening debate, with the participation of the UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, the special adviser on post-2015 development planning, Amina Mohammed, ITU Secretary general Hamadoun Touré and the Director-General of WHO, Margaret Chan, among others.

“There is no plan B because there is no planet B”, stated the UN Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson. "We are reaching the limits of our planet, and this message has been reenergized during the Rio + 20 conference. Twenty years after the first Rio conference, the clock is ticking fast and we have only achieved limited results."

Eliasson pleaded for early warning mechanisms, and stronger capacities to manage natural resources, underlining the role of new technologies, education and multilateralism to do so.

Most participants agreed that there is an important gap between what is understood by the scientific community and what is actually known by the general public on sustainable development issues. Clear scientific facts have not yet penetrated policy. It is urgent to bridge this gap as we have already passed some environmental tipping points. Ms Amina Mohammed concluded by saying, “there is a lot of knowledge in the world- the time has come to bring this knowledge to purpose”.

Irina Bokova recalled that “while focusing on global challenges, interdependence, and growth, sometimes we overlook the fact that the biggest inequalities in this world are not only in Africa, but in emerging countries from the south. They experience simultaneously rapid growth and massive inequalities. We have to tackle the issues of social inclusion, mistrust and intolerance if we are to sustain any development model. Sustainable development cannot be about new technologies only, it has to build on social inclusion.”

"I see a strong synergy between this global solutions network and the scientific advisory board to the Secretary General, to be hosted and conducted by UNESCO," continued Irina Bokova. "We must build a stronger science policy interface. We need also to support first-movers on the ground, and to encourage new initiatives and concrete solutions emerging from the civil society."

The Director-General stated that “it is also in this context that we should look at Secretary-General’s new initiative “education first” and its third pillar, global citizenship. Citizenship includes ecological awareness, skills and education for sustainable development. "This is the best way to better integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development."

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