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The well-being of our planet strongly depends on forests, the lungs of our planet. Examining forests from the perspective of sustainability, innovation and energy is well-founded and highly useful.
Developments towards the green economy offer promising opportunities for the sustainable use of products and services relating to forests. The full-scale utilisation of this potential requires that we exploit scientific data, advanced technology, and innovations. Forests, for Finland and for the Finns, are vital in many ways. This is another reason why I welcome the opportunity provided by the Koli Forum to engage in diverse debate on forests.
Green economy cannot be achieved through technology alone. What we need is a holistic approach that includes the environmental perspective, as well as the social and cultural perspectives. The green economy must help people to improve their living conditions. This involves the creation of decent jobs, above all, but also extends to the provision of social services, and improved opportunities for participation.
The idea of well-being of our planet in harmony with the nature was already presented by the Brundtland Commission more than 20 years ago. Since then the international community and governments have in several conferences and negotiation processes made efforts to implement sustainable development. Progress has been made, notably through Millennium Development Goals, but the work must continue.
The most comprehensive of these from the sustainable development point of view is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development taking place in Rio de Janeiro in June next year – the so-called Rio+20 conference. It will be preceded by the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban and the 13th session of UNCTAD in Doha. The United Nations is also starting the preparation for the final review of the Millennium Development Goals, with the 2015 deadline for reaching the goals approaching.
Across various sectors, the international community is engaged in negotiation processes seeking common solutions to global challenges from climate to biodiversity and from the rules of international trade to rooting out corruption. At the same time, we need to create a more far-reaching vision that will shape the framework for short-term problem-solving.
Peace and security, the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and development – these three pillars form a universal framework, a framework on which the UN Millennium Development Goals are also based. The efforts towards sustainability, the necessity of which is stressed by numerous factors, must also be placed within this framework. Adopted nearly two decades ago, the implementation of the Rio Declaration has been insufficient. After natural disasters and other catastrophes, we must ask ourselves whether we could build a more resilient world. The financial and economic crises of the past few years have also raised the question of whether economic activity and the underlying thinking are only based on short-term gains.
It is my hope that the world is gradually realizing the need for sustainable development that takes into account environmental, economic and social aspects without sacrificing the opportunities of future generations for the benefit of the current generation only.
Adopting a balanced approach to the promotion of sustainable development means recognising that not only are global challenges interconnected, but that the potential solutions are connected. A good example of such connections can be found in climate change and poverty: women in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The struggle to provide for the family is made even harder by environmental destruction. If, for example, we were to introduce energy sources that would shorten the distances to find firewood, we could improve the possibilities for children’s schooling.
Achieving changes towards sustainability in the everyday lives of people requires that we abandon many of our familiar ways of working, both at the level of individuals and governments. Global sustainability is built on national and local actions. The primary responsibility lies with the governments, but the more rapid and balanced implementation of sustainable development in future will require the participation of businesses and non-governmental organisations.
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About a year ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability. The Panel, which I co-chair with the President of the Republic of South Africa Jacob Zuma, is due to submit its report at the end of the year. The Secretary-General asked the Panel to come up with a bold new vision of global sustainable development.
The Panel aims at making concrete suggestions that look into 2050 and beyond. Although the timeline may appear lengthy (to other than forest owners), many of the investment decisions made today will continue to bear fruit 30 to 40 years into the future. Short-sightedness is not, therefore, an option.
The Panel has received much support, for example by the President of the EU Commission Barroso, by the President of the European Council van Rompuy and naturally also by the the Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, who is also a member in the Panel.
The UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability is building its proposals on the concept of sustainable development as it was approved at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 and later expanded. The Panel has chosen as a starting point a people-centered approach, with the eradication of poverty and the strengthening of social justice in major roles.
If we succeed in making recommendations that match increased prosperity with democratic values and human rights, social justice and the planetary boundaries, we will have taken a giant leap forward. To achieve this, all human resources need to be put into use. It means that the resources of women and youth must be made fully available.
This is one of the focus areas of the Panel as we try to find the most critical ways for promoting sustainable development.
Setting out to find global solutions, the Panel aims at abandoning the North-South divide that burdens all intergovernmental activities. Problems vary in their degree of severity; we must target the most effective measures at helping those most vulnerable. However, the problems facing all three dimensions of sustainable development are global.
Building on the above basic premises, the Global Sustainability Panel has made a number of choices relating to objectives and means. These choices are reflected in the draft report currently being prepared.
We have chosen four sectoral priorities which will receive special attention as we discuss our recommendations. These priorities are: access to clean, affordable and safe energy; access to clean water; food security in the context of agriculture and fisheries; and the creation of decent jobs, with a particular focus on the role of small and medium enterprises. Forests and related expertise may have a significant contribution to make to each of these objectives.
The Panel aims at promoting a green, low-carbon economy in a way that serves the needs of people. Our search for potential means to do that extends to the areas of markets, governance and technology. As I mentioned before, gender equality and women’s empowerment must be given serious attention.
When shaping its long-term vision, the Panel is particularly bearing in mind that a new conference on sustainable development – Rio+20 – will be organised in Rio in June next year. The preparatory process for the conference is placing certain expectations on the Panel.
As discussed by the Panel, one thing we could do in Rio next summer to gear up the efforts towards sustainable development, social justice and the eradication of poverty would be to adopt sustainable development goals as an extension of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which steer the efforts of the international community up to 2015. I have found the MDGs to be an efficient way to reach results.
Sustainable development goals would also make it possible to adopt a new approach to the measurement of development. The GDP has been widely found to be too narrow an indicator, particularly in terms of sustainability. Several alternative measurement methods have been proposed. When selecting suitable indicators, it is vital to focus on their ability to steer social activity towards sustainability.
The time span of the Millennium Development Goals will run out in 2015.The Rio Conference could launch a process leading to the adoption of sustainable development goals in 2015. Building on the goals for sustainable development, the international community and national actors could set their sights on a long-term sustainability vision.
I would like to conclude by wishing the best of success for your work here at the Koli Forum. I hope your discussions prove interesting.