See the outcome of five intense days of talking and walking/hiking in the mountains of North-western Greece in early August 2014; an initial contribution to creating the “global demos with a global ethos” that our world urgently needs.
See briefing on the subject published online by the Future United Nations Development System (FUNDS) project.
Summary of lecture that I gave at Queen Mary, University of London on 12 March 2014.
I spent a good part of the past February to June period helping prepare a Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS) session entitled “A Climate for Change: New Thinking on Governance for Sustainability”. The seminar took place from 23 to 27 June 2013 in Salzburg, Austria, at the beautiful Schloss Leopoldskron. About 50 persons from 26 countries, with ages spanning 60 years and professions covering a wide range of sustainability-related fields, came together to consider some major global challenges of our times. From conceptualizing the interconnections between people, the environment and the economy, to rethinking economics, trade and finance, addressing climate change and the food-water-energy nexus, learning from local good practices and investing in knowledge sharing and education, engaging civil society and the private sector, and holding institutions and other actors accountable at all levels, this was a very rich exchange, with an impact on all those that participated and hopefully beyond.
I am reproducing below the Salzburg Statement issued at the end of the session under the title “Finite Planet, Infinite Potential”. It can also be found online at www.salzburgglobal.org/go/515 , where the session’s report will also be posted in the coming weeks. Happy reading and hopefully acting in response!
Brussels, 6 July 2013
Finite Planet, Infinite Potential
The Salzburg Statement on New Governance for Sustainability
We, citizens of many countries and of the world, share our one and only planet with more than seven billion others. We call for leadership, justice and imagination at all levels to find ways to preserve the Earth and enhance prosperity and wellbeing for all.
We face a daunting future. Unless we change course, we will condemn our children and grandchildren to an uninhabitable planet. We must act with urgency, inspired by individual and collective wisdom, to address critical challenges such as climate change, population growth and biodiversity loss. We have to support and sustain life, now and into the future.
We need innovative approaches to governance that reflect the complexity and interdependence of sustainability challenges and that safeguard human dignity, gender equity and the common good.
This Statement is addressed to leaders of governments and international organizations, business, religion, civil society, science, education and the media, and to individuals. Ten priority actions can transform life chances and opportunities for current and future generations throughout the world:
- Move beyond narrow short-term thinking and vested interests, especially in decisions concerning food, water and energy security.
- Encourage and reward social and technological innovation for a low-carbon economy that addresses the needs of all.
- Support and replicate, on a sound evidence basis, dynamic and inclusive initiatives by cities and local communities.
- Engage civil society, business, and sub-national authorities in decision-making and partnerships for action.
- Stop subsidies to polluters, put a price or tax on carbon, and ensure that markets value natural capital.
- Use economics, finance and trade systems in new ways that compound rather than discount future value, encourage sustainable lifestyles, and enhance global prosperity, equity and resilience.
- Integrate assessment of climate and disaster risks, and supply chain viability, in infrastructure and other investments.
- Agree on common goals and indicators to accelerate and measure progress.
- Invest in exchange of knowledge and best practices, and in education for sustainability at all levels.
- Embed the rule of law and accountability in all decision-making and implementation, nationally and internationally.
Together, women and men of all nations, races and creeds, we have the knowledge and means to avert the grave threats facing humanity. The global transformation required may not be fast, easy, simple or cheap – but it is perfectly possible. We offer two proposals for urgent consideration:
- Establish innovative, independent and powerful representations for future generations to align today’s policies and actions with the long-term common good.
- Convene open and inspiring exchanges at neutral fora, such as Salzburg Global Seminar, to build trust and confidence between high-level decision makers and stakeholder groups, and look for new thinking and breakthrough ideas.
Salzburg, June 2013
As is the custom, at around this time every year the chiefs of the human tribes and agglomerations make their way to New York, for the annual meeting of our global village. They come in their fancy clothes and their motorcades (pity the New York motorists) and they are received by their convener, the “Secular Pope” (replace “Pope” with “Grand Mufti” or “High Priest” etc, as you feel appropriate), also known as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, together with the General Assembly President.
This year the gathering is taking place in the midst of, among other dramatic events, continuing mayhem in Syria; often violent protests in the Muslim world against a US film insulting the Prophet Mohammed; wild scenarios over Iran’s nuclear fuel processing; tensions between Japan and China (and Taiwan) over a small group of disputed islands; several hot spots in Africa, like Mali, Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia; further evidence of climate change and a looming new food crisis; and ongoing global financial problems most dramatically manifested in the debt crises in the countries of Southern Europe. The human family seems to be as dysfunctional as ever…
In this blog and the next one(s) under the same title I will try to extract some elements from the many speeches that are being made at the United Nations General Assembly these days. The emphasis of my search, although not necessarily of the speeches themselves, will be on elements of substance that point to some direction (i.e. vision and leadership) and recommend policies and actions (i.e. delivery and not just talk). Let’s see what fish we will catch this year…
For this post, I am focusing on statements made at the beginning of the General Assembly’s “General Debate”/VIP segment, on 25 September 2012, by the UN Secretary-General, the President of Brazil and the President of the US. They all touched on most current issues mentioned above, from their respective angles, but I won’t repeat all that here.
It is interesting to note the large amount of time President Obama dedicated to the violence caused in response to the anti-Mohammed film, which formed the beginning, end and spine of his speech. He condemned and threatened the perpetrators of violence, specifically mentioning the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya. At the same time, he criticized the film at the centre of the protests, while explaining the sanctity and greater benefits of freedom of speech. He called on all concerned to address honestly and constructively the tensions between the West and an Arab World that is moving towards democracy. He also explained the approach adopted by his Administration around the world, especially towards the Muslim and Arab world, including the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and, in 2014, from Afghanistan, the welcoming by the US of political change in the Arab world including Egypt, the continuing efforts to resolve peacefully the situations regarding Iran and Syria, and the importance of implementing the two-state solution in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was a principled, proud, determined but indirectly humble, subtly self-critical and definitely more-cooperative-than-usual US attitude. It was an attitude certainly appreciated through regular applause by the UN General Assembly, and will hopefully generate positive reciprocal action around the world. It remains to be seen whether it will also resonate with the US public in the November Presidential election.
President Rousseff also condemned the religion-based provocation and violence, and stressed the need to build on the Alliance of Civilizations project initiated by Turkey and Spain some years ago. Equal rights and the empowerment of women was again central to the speech of the Brazilian President, as was the global economic crisis and the need to follow-up on the outcome of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development. She called on developed nations in particular to rise to their responsibilities, keeping in mind the possible adverse effects that policies they introduce may have on emerging economies, like the unbalancing of exchange rates when placing too much emphasis on monetary policy, and stressed the importance of cooperation. She also enumerated measures that Brazil is taking from its part including strict control over public spending, accompanied by a simultaneous increase in investments in infrastructure, education and social inclusion. It was a speech by a leader of a country in the ascendant, with increased confidence, vision and results to show for innovative policies, strengthening the argument for a more central role, including on the UN Security Council, for Brazil.
Secretary-General Ban asked the world’s moderate majority to end its silence and speak out against intolerance, which he saw as being at the heart of the violence caused by the US film that he criticized strongly. He urged for more leadership to be shown in tackling the global challenge of climate change, and put forward sustainability and the green economy as offering compelling opportunities for jobs, growth, innovation and long-term stability.
Ixelles, 25 September 2012