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GSP, States Exchange Views on Roadmap to Sustainability

20 October 2011: The President of the UN General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, convened an informal interactive dialogue with the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP). Panel members and UN member States discussed the prospect of sustainable development goals (SDGs), other potential agreement areas for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), and some recommendations expected to be issued by the Panel.

Opening the event at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 20 October 2011, President Al-Nasser placed the dialogue in the context of the 1 November 2011 deadline for contributions to the Compilation Document for the UNCSD.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Panel's mandate was to provide a roadmap for policy makers, business leaders and civil society to use in building a more viable and equitable future. He called for developing a “new generation of sustainable development goals to pick up where the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) leave off.”

Tarja Halonen, President of Finland and GSP co-Chair, said the major areas of the Panel's recommendations would be: economy, people empowerment, and governance.

Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa and GSP co-Chair, spoke by video conference to highlight leadership roles now being played by developing countries in shaping the global agenda, and said those countries' futures depend on finding a sustainable path to growth.

Also speaking by video conference, Kevin Rudd, Australia's Minister of Foreign Affairs and a GSP member, said “planetary boundaries” included not just climate change but also rates and levels of biodiversity loss, ocean acidification and chemical pollution.

In the interactive session with States, Kenya on behalf of the African Group, suggested several parameters for sustainable development, including that it: be pro-poor and democratic; emphasize empowerment; be inclusive and participatory, including women and youth in governance and development; and be holistic, recognizing the balance of the three pillars and institutions. Spain urged the GSP to maximize its consultations with others, in particular the Group of 20 (G20). Denmark underlined that the goal of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) had an important role at Rio+20, and that it covered all three pillars.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) emphasized the need for "unforgettable narratives" and messengers who can articulate a clear, bold vision for equality. He underscored the importance for political and business leaders to be persuaded to see sustainability as essential to growth. Egypt said green economy emphasized the environmental pillar and hoped Rio+20 would not be treated as an environmental conference. He requested an Executive Summary of the GSP's final report ahead of the 1 November deadline for the Compilation Document. Bangladesh suggested that the Panel identify the responsibilities of each stakeholder in implementing the UNCSD's goals, and that sustainable development be divided into building blocks that can be accomplished one at a time.

Closing the interactive dialogue, President Halonen said there seemed to be consensus support on creating SDGs, and that Rio+20 could “prepare the understanding that it will be done” and some basic elements, but not agree on the entire list of goals. Regarding Egypt's request for an Executive Summary by 1 November, she said that today's exchange had communicated the key points, such as seeing beyond environmental issues, but that the Panel's report would not be finalized until December. [Statement by Ban Ki-moon] [Statement by UNGA President] [UN Press Release] [Webcast of Dialogue]