Istanbul, March 23—Delegates to the first Global Human Development Forum today unanimously adopted an “Istanbul Declaration” calling on the world community to take bold action against global social inequities and environmental deterioration at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio this June.
“It is time to reset the global development agenda,” the Istanbul Declaration states. “The world needs a renewed commitment to sustainable development and strong political leadership to implement it.”
The Istanbul Declaration was adopted by consensus at the conclusion of the two-day Global Human Development Forum, a gathering of more than 200 leading development experts, civil society activists, government ministers, private sector representatives and UN officials from all regions of the world.
The Forum was organized by UNDP’s Human Development Report Office and Bureau of Development Policy in partnership with the Government of Turkey’s Ministry of Development.
Today’s Istanbul Declaration was supported by the Government of Turkey as a key contribution to the UN debates and discussions leading up to the Rio + 20 conference in June. Negotiations on the conference agenda and proposed resolutions resumed this week at UN headquarters in New York.
The Declaration stresses the need for global and national development strategies to put “strong emphasis on social inclusion, social protection, and equity, in recognition of the fact that economic development has too often gone hand in hand with environmental degradation and increased inequality.
Achieving those goals will require better-coordinated “mobilization of global capital and local resources,” good governance on the local and global level, and full empowerment of women “through access to education, health care, basic services and their participation in the labour force,” the Declaration says.
“I hope that this Forum will help establish new partnerships across sectors, and that you will take these discussions and this Declaration home to capture the imagination and interest of a much broader audience,” UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan told Forum participants.
The Declaration endorses the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability and UNDP’s 2011 Human Development Report on Sustainability and Equity, and stresses “the need to maintain progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, while building a consensus for a new post-2015 global framework that:
- Is universal in character, with relevance for all nations;
- Reflects the entirety of the sustainable development agenda, including the continuing importance of reducing poverty and inequality—particularly for the least developed countries;
- Addresses all three dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental), and their interconnections; and
- Is based on measurable indicators that can promote effective monitoring of progress and response to challenges.”
In a personal message to Forum participants, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Sustainable development recognizes that our economic, social and environmental objectives are not competing goals that must be traded off against each other, but are interconnected objectives that are most effectively pursued together in a holistic manner. We need an outcome from Rio+20 that reflect this understanding and that relates to the concerns of all.”
More than 120 heads of state and government have confirmed their participation in the Rio conference, making it one of the largest such gatherings of world leaders in recent times.
“The most important question that needs to be decided is, are we going to advance and develop economically for now, or are we going to focus on sustainable development while considering future generations?” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, a member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Global Sustainability, said at the Forum. “As long as development and the economy do not progress at the same pace, it is difficult to achieve prosperity.”
Government and civil society leaders from developing countries have strongly urged that the Rio conference address not only ecological threats such as climate change and pollution, but place equal emphasis on such critical social concerns as hunger, preventable disease and endemic poverty. The 2011 Human Development Report, cited in the Declaration and analyzed in depth at this week’s Forum, argued that simultaneous progress on both fronts is essential. The 2011 Report showed that reducing social and economic inequalities within and among nations should help reduce environmental risks, while a failure to slow environmental deterioration will further widen social and economic inequalities around the world.
“This is also a matter of intergenerational equity,” said Khalid Malik, director of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office. “What we do today as a world community will determine what kind of societies and environment will be inherited by those who come after us, and their opportunities for further human development should not be restricted by our failure to make the right policy choices now.”
The Human Development Report has pioneered new approaches to measuring development since its introduction of the Human Development Index more than two decades ago, and participants at the Global Human Development Forum stressed the importance of continuing innovation in this area, at the Rio + 20 conference and beyond.
“We manage what we measure—and, in turn, what we measure affects what we do,” the Istanbul Declaration stated. “It is therefore vital that we measure progress towards sustainable development in a more comprehensive manner. Measures are required that go beyond GDP to capture a fuller picture of human development, and emphasize sustainable and equitable outcomes. We urge greater support for the work underway around the world, in the United Nations and elsewhere, to design and use more appropriate measures of progress, and for countries and communities to collect data accordingly.”
Commented Thakur Singh Powdyel, Bhutan’s Education Minister, who introduced the Declaration for adoption at the Forum today: “What we measure is what we value. We can’t steer a course without a reliable compass.”
Among other featured speakers at the Global Human Development Forum were Tarja Halonen, the former President of Finland; Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization; Brian Atwood, Chair, OECD Development Assistance Committee; Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for Development Cooperation, Sweden; Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya, Minister of Planning, Kenya; Muhammed Asghar, President of the National University of Science and Technology of Pakistan; and Senator Cristovam Buarque of Brazil.
“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,” said Olav Kjorven, director of UNDP’s Bureau of Development Policy. “Responding successfully will require decision-makers from across the environmental, social and economic divides coming together to create the future we all want.”