• Road to Rio: Greening Human Development | Olav Kjørven

    22 Mar 2012

    In Istanbul this morning I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at our Global Human Development Forum on Sustainability and Equity, co-hosted with the Government of Turkey.

    This conversation happened in the right place at the right time. Istanbul is the place where East meets West – Europe meets Asia - across the Bosphorus Strait. Istanbul as a city illustrates how two unique and distinct cultures can come together, live together and thrive, creating a new, vibrant community.

    That is what needs to happen now with the three strands of sustainable development.

    As the UN SG said in his message to the Istanbul conference this morning, leaders will find themselves at a crossroads in Rio. It is an appropriate metaphor.

    Many of us in the sustainable development business come from the environmental movement. We have deep passion and belief in the obligation of today’s generation to preserve species, protect ecosystems and tackle climate change. We will never apologize for that.

    But we know that green is not enough. Sustainable development requires something more.

    In 2011 and so far in 2012, we have heard clear warnings from Nature that humanity is arrogantly pushing her boundaries, just as we have heard societies demanding human rights and justice, opportunities and decent jobs, affordable health care and energy access.

    Responding successfully will require decision-makers from across the environmental, social and economic divides coming together to create the future we all want. Silos of excellence are not acceptable.

    A basic condition for success, as UNDP Associated Administrator Rebeca Grynspan said this morning, will be for “the participation in Rio to reflect the different constituencies. In the end, the answers can only emerge through inclusive dialogue and partnership.”

    In June, Rio+20 has to be a whole-of-society event.

    Once arrived, ministers, investors, activist and experts can choose to leave Brazil by divergent paths. Or they can leave together, on the same road, with one destination in mind.

    “Road to Rio” is a series of posts by senior officials of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), outlining some of the key challenges around human development central for achieving the sustainable future we want.


About the Author

Olav Kjørven is United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP's Bureau for Development Policy.

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