The XVII Presidential Forum was organised at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, 22 March on the theme of sustainable development. Topics featured in the debate included climate talks, the indicators of a good life, the role of girls and women, and green technology. Highlights of the debate are available on YLE Areena.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability in August and invited President Tarja Halonen to co-chair the panel with President of the Republic of South Africa Jacob Zuma. The main objective of the panel is to form a new vision of sustainable growth and to make recommendations for measures geared towards its achievement. President Halonen encouraged the participants of the Presidential Forum to support the work of the Panel by contributing their ideas and suggestions.
In her opening address President Halonen stated that the notion of sustainable development – economically, socially and ecologically sustainable growth – enjoys wide recognition. She emphasised that now is the time to focus on its implementation. “We must find the time to implement these principles – even at the expense of topical crises.”
The call for sustainable development is particularly topical with the Rio+20 Conference to be held in Brazil in June next year, 20 years after the UN Conference on Environment and Development.
“What are the means for achieving a green economy? How can we influence production and consumption patterns that are putting a strain on nature? What types of economic and welfare indicators should we develop? How can we harness underutilised resources: women, young people and the poor? These are the questions that have been on my mind,” President Halonen said. She particularly highlighted the importance of eradicating poverty with regard to all three aspects of sustainable development. “These problems cannot be divided between north and south; poverty is omnipresent.”
In addition to the President of the Republic, invited speakers at the Presidential Forum included Minister of the Environment Paula Lehtomäki, Senior Research Scientist Antti Kasvio, and Professor Helena Ranta, Chairman of the Board of the National Committee for UN Women in Finland. The event was chaired by journalist Tarmo Ropponen.
Participants from different areas of society, including Members of Parliament, researchers and representatives of various organisations, had been invited to the forum.
Presidential Forums have been arranged since 2006. Themes on previous occasions have included Finnish labour competitiveness, expertise and innovations, foreign policy, care for the elderly, the Baltic Sea, tolerance, municipal services, the “silent years” in Finnish history, Finland in the face of change, fundamental and human rights, jobs and unemployment, climate change, family violence, globalisation and the UN Millennium Development Goals, peacekeeping and crisis management, and the Arctic region.