Rebalancing pillars key to sustainable development

“The message from the countries of Asia and the Pacific is that getting it right means that Rio+20 must rebalance the pillars of sustainable development – ensuring that people are placed more firmly at the centre of the post-Rio+20 agenda,” Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) told an audience that included heads of State and Government and senior Ministers at a Rio+20 side event focused on regional approaches to sustainable development.

The discussion, “Green Growth and Sustainable Development: Regional Perspectives” was organized by the UN’s five regional commissions, including ESCAP, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Economic Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), and the UN Regional Commissions Office in New York.

The Rio+20 outcome document explicitly mandates the regional commissions to operationalize and implement sustainable development at the regional and subregional level - promoting a balanced integration of its economic, social and environmental dimensions. The multidisciplinary expertise and platforms of the commissions provides a comparative advantage, in promoting green economy policies for instance, in the context of poverty eradication.

Addressing the event on the challenges of Asia-Pacific poverty and inequality, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono observed that: “Economic growth should go hand in hand with social development and environmental protection. Education is central to eradicating poverty as well as in promoting the green economy. The poor must be empowered and the best way to empower the poor is through education.” The President added that, “in Indonesia, this was why the Government is constitutionally mandated to allocate at least 20% of the national budget to education.”

President Yudhoyono also focused on food security and agriculture as one of the key sectors, from the Indonesian experience, to drive implementation of green economy practices, saying: “We need to find ways to simplify the way we live and the way we manufacture goods and raise crops and livestock. This effort will mean moving to greener, more resilient options.”

The wide-ranging discussion by the Executive Secretaries of all of the regional commissions touched on many issues, including the need for a third industrial revolution; policies that promote eco-efficient economic growth and reduce pressures on natural resources; youth employment; natural resource governance; and human security in the context of man-made disasters. The forum provided an opportunity for the regional commissions to focus on elements of the green economy which are critical and specific to their regions and highlight the challenges to and opportunities for effectively implementing an integrated approach to sustainable development.

In her statement, Dr. Heyzer pointed out some of the many initiatives undertaken by Asia-Pacific countries who have adopted green economy policies and strategies to achieve sustainable development, noting, “There are now a number of national and sub-national Asia-Pacific examples of effective green growth policies and strategies, including those from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea. There is a need to build on these ‘green shoots’, to replicate and scale-up the practices that are making a difference.”

In closing, the ESCAP Executive Secretary pointed out that green growth is a tool for sustainable development. “As important as green growth can be, it will not solve the root causes of persistent poverty alone. In keeping with the aim of placing people at the centre of sustainable development, green growth must be integrated with inclusive social policies to ensure that the costs and benefits of transitions are justly shared.”