Global Sustainable Development Post-MDGs
Building a new architecture for a new world
The global community is facing a set of unprecedented opportunities in the year 2015, with two critical UN processes on climate change and sustainable development set to culminate. 2015 marks the year that world leaders have agreed to commit to a new climate change treaty, as well as their commitment to establish a set of new global "Sustainable Development Goals" to replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals. With time running out to address a wide range of 21st century sustainability challenges, we must all collectively seize this opportunity to catalyze meaningful action toward a sustainable future.
The 2012 Rio+20 Conference broke new ground in encouraging all actors to make specific promises to take action on the full range of sustainability challenges. The conference launched over 1,400 initiatives and multi-stakeholder partnerships worth over $640 billion, pledged by a wide range of stakeholders. These game-changing "voluntary commitments" included commitments to action from Heads of State and national governments, governors, mayors, CEOs, philanthropic organizations, multilateral development banks and civil society leaders. This was the real success of Rio+20. NRDC sees these types of "commitments to action" as the very means of implementation for the Sustainable Development Goals and the new Climate Change treaty in 2015.
NRDC operates in a culture of action. Implementation is in our DNA, and so is accountability. For more than 20 years, we have brought our focus on implementation to the United Nations where we have encouraged the conversations to go beyond broad promises and pledges to focus on concrete actions and real accountability. In the lead up to the Rio+20 Conference, NRDC launched its "Cloud of Commitments" Initiative, to compile and hold accountable the hundreds of commitments and partnerships resulting from the conference. But because the scale of the crises we face today is so enormous, we must ensure that our local and international efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainable development are intertwined. We must organize our actions in a bold new architecture that can drive the transformative changes we need to ensure a brighter future for us all.
In her final speech as U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton emphasized that the world has fundamentally changed in the past few decades. She said the UN and other international structures must evolve to effectively deal with climate change and other 21st century global problems. She called for a "new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek....Where once a few strong columns could hold up the weight of the world, today we need a dynamic mix of materials and structures."
In response to that call, NRDC co-hosted the Rio+20 to 2015 Conference with Yale University in November of 2013 to discuss this new architecture needed to drive and deliver real results on a wide range of sustainability challenges. The message from the conference at Yale was clear: the traditional top-down, one-size-fits-all approach of the past is not delivering the needed results. Therefore global goals must be supported by a constellation of commitments across all sectors and at every level -- from leaders of countries, cities, corporations, and civil society.
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In terms of negotiated commitments, Rio+20 is perhaps best seen as a starting point rather than an ending point for action on sustainable development, with the true impact of many commitments yet to be felt due to the long implementation times required. While significant progress has been made on many of the negotiated and voluntary commitments established, stakeholders have a responsibility to maintain the momentum initiated at the Summit and hold governments and other commitment makers to account on their promises.
The world needs new structures and collaborations to meet the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly changing, interconnected world. The Rio+20 to 2015 Conference helped to stimulate a response to the challenge set out by Hillary Clinton who, in her farewell speech as US Secretary of State, called for a "new architecture for a new world" to address climate change and other pressing global sustainability challenges. The conference was held at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies from November 1-2, 2013.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to catalyze the transformative changes needed to end extreme poverty, improve human well-being, and protect our shared planetary home. To meet these challenges in a world that has changed dramatically since the inception of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, NRDC proposes a new architecture for a new global partnership. This framework will drive the action and accountability that is essential to securing a sustainable future.
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