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Towards a better planet and a life of dignity for all

Published by Huffington Post on Tue, 24 May 2016

As we approach the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), it is important to put into perspective the challenges facing the international community ahead of this crucial meeting and the fundamental goals that underpin it.The gathering in Nairobi will be a part of a much broader global reflection. Its landmark precedents, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, have put the world on the road to making environmental sustainability key to human development and our efforts to end poverty and hunger.At the threshold of this journey, which starts at UNEA, lies the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals - a global cornerstone that marks a sharp turn in the international community's course towards sustainable human development. Evaluating accomplishments, measuring progress and quantifying pending objectives will be vital to the success of the Agenda 2030. The progress already made in recent years is enough to fill us with hope, but we cannot rest on our laurels, faced with the long list of unfinished tasks. Poverty, inequality and exclusion continue to top the agendas of national governments and add complexity to planetary challenges. An abysmal distance still separates us from achieving a life of dignity for all; and every day the rapidly changing global dynamics adds new problems or exacerbates existing ones at a pace that far outstrips our ability to tackle them. The unquestionable correlation between poverty and the environment obliges us to pay utmost attention to the role of environmental policies in tackling social inequality. Currently, the majority of people living in extreme poverty inhabit rural zones, where they rely on forests, natural resources and ecosystem services as their principal source of income. Paradoxically, global studies show that a vast proportion of these resources are subject to violent changes, degradation and unsustainable use, diminishing the capacity of ecosystems to satisfy the needs of peoples and nations. Efforts to protect the environment are therefore also efforts to eradicate poverty. Loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, land-use changes and deforestation are not only a threat to nature, but also to the well-being of people. We must address these challenges if we are to achieve sustainable human development. To do this, we must move towards sustainable patterns of employment, production and consumption. Neither hunger nor climate change will wait for us while we find solutions. Instead, we must take energetic, forceful decisions now if we are to turn the tide. It is time for ambitious proposals and audacious solutions. Now is the time to leave our comfort zones and accept our historic responsibility. It is the hour of new global paradigms, which will effectively change the direction towards a future that we all want. In his report A life of dignity for all, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that, with our actions to implement the 2030 Agenda, "multilateralism is being tested." This is an extremely accurate statement: the year 2030 is poised to become a trial for humanity, at which the strength of our political will and our ability to overcome today's challenges will be judged. We have a mission to foster a new global partnership, which will harness humanity's accumulated knowledge to build momentous agreements that will guarantee the well-being of future generations. To achieve this, we must integrate the economic, social and environmental sustainability dimensions of agreements that are broad enough to cover the entire international community, but flexible enough to apply to every corner of the world. Improving public-private partnerships and citizen participation, fostering technological development and accessibility to innovation, strengthening international cooperation, mobilizing internal resources responsibly and driving better governance - these are the key ingredients of the global political debate that are essential to achieving the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The seven cross-cutting thematic priorities of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) perfectly reflect the most urgent global issues and together constitute a guiding light for the construction of efficient environmental governance around the world. UNEA-2 offers us an opportunity to reflect on this and to agree on the steps necessary to realize the transformation we want. As we sit down at negotiating tables in Nairobi this week, a hope for a better planet and a life of dignity for us and for future generations will be our motivation. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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