Archive for February, 2013

google plus hangout

Successes and way forward after Rio+20

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Shared post   On 12 February, the first in a series of Google+ Hangouts was hosted by DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development, outlining key outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference and the actions taken to realize promises made. “The message of inclusion, engagement, integration of decision-making, all that came out very strongly from Rio,” said Nikhil Seth, Director of DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development. As the first panelist to take the stage in this online discussion, Mr. Seth, who also headed the Rio+20 Secretariat, described the event in Rio de Janeiro as one of the largest UN conferences ever, bringing together 50,000 people representing governments, civil society, media and academia. “The major concern that came out at Rio, was the fact that we are heading towards a set of economic, social and environmental crises,” he said. “The only way to change things is to rethink development. That was the fundamental message from the Rio outcome,” Mr. Seth added. He underscored the importance of engagement of people in the follow up process. “We need to give it real meaning in the way we work and the way we focus on implementing, to realize the future we want,” he said. Mr. Seth also highlighted one of the main messages conveyed, namely that people are important, “but equally important is the planet on which the prosperity of these people depends,” he said. The role of young people as “architects of the future we want”, as well as the significance of developing the so called sustainable development goals were other outcomes underlined by Mr. Seth. Elizabeth Thompson, former Minister for Energy and Environment of Barbados and the Executive Coordinator for Rio+20, outlined some of the main challenges that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face and what the conference has meant for them. “The Rio conference was very important for SIDS, as one of the outcomes was an agreement to host a UN conference specifically for Small Island Developing States,” Ms. Thompson said, referring to the event scheduled to take place in 2014. “The challenges that small island developing states encounter are very, very difficult and complex and there are a number of items on the agenda at Rio which treat particularly to their issues – climate change, issues of oceans and the blue economy, marine biodiversity and sustainable energy,” she explained, underscoring particularly the vital role of sustainable energy. In addition to outcomes related to sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, water and sanitation, Ms. Thompson underlined the importance of capacity building in order to make SIDS competitive, as well as partnerships. “I hope that we will see coming out of this, an increasing number of partnerships as part of the mechanism in which the benefits for small islands developing states can be achieved and can be leveraged,” she said.
Supplying real time information
Kimo Goree, Vice-President of the International Institute for Sustainable Development Reporting Services (IISD), shared his perspective covering the conference. IISD provided real time information on the negotiations and most other events taking place in Rio. “IISD continue to track the negotiations after Rio and we’ve been providing reports on the negotiations taking place in the General Assembly and the establishment of the open working group for the development of sustainable development goals,” Mr. Goree added. “Rio+20 builds on 20 years of involvement via NGOs, now referred to as Major Groups in international discussions on sustainable development,” he said. He shared his experience, dating back to the preparations for the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, when Mr. Goree was one of the handful of NGOs participating in a preparatory meeting in Nairobi. Mr. Goree also explained that it was at that meeting in Nairobi 23 years ago, that a decision was made allowing NGOs to attend. “It set precedent for unprecedented NGO access,” Mr. Goree explained. “NGOs were at the table and not in the streets,” he added.
Commitments for specific actions
“I have seen the value and importance of these big international gatherings in stimulating attention to probably the biggest challenges we as humans face,” said Jacob Scherr, Director of global strategy and advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). An environmental lawyer and advocate for many years, Mr. Scherr attended the original Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and he also took part in preparations for last year’s event. “Some of these commitments were real game-changers,” he said, mentioning multilateral development banks, which made a commitment to invest 175 Billion USD to green urban transportation and the pledge of 40 of the world’s largest manufacturers and retailers, to make their supply chain deforestation free within the next eight years. “Microsoft, which has operations around the world, said that they would make their own facilities carbon neutral by the end of next year,” Mr. Scherr further added. “In addition to the negotiated outcome document, The Future We Want, there were hundreds of these commitments for very specific actions,” he explained. “And those are the ones that we think will be the real legacy of Rio.”
Stay tuned for more hangouts
Moderated by John Romano, Social Media Focal Point within DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development, the discussion also responded to online questions posted via social media. Some concerned the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals and the possibility for civil society to interact in the process. Others focused on how we could make local actions impact on an international level for the future we want. After the hangout had concluded, Mr. Seth shared his thoughts saying, “the Google+ format helps you have a conversation. And if we are hoping to change things, if we are hoping to inspire people, we have to talk to them, and listen to their concerns and be responsive to them,” he said, also pointing out that his Division looks forward to hosting more of these events in the near future. For information about this and upcoming hangouts: Full on-demand video featuring “Sustainable development in action” Post-Rio+20 Hangout on 12 February 2013

The social side of Sustainable Development

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When we talk about sustainable development we are often tempted to think only about the environmental side of it and forget about the other two equally important parts, the economic and the social ones. Regarding the latter, a very interesting piece writen by Trevor Hancock* discusses the dimensions of social sustainability and the importance of including it in the public debate. Below are some excepts from the article that can be found at: A community is composed of people as well as the places where they live; it is as much a social environment as a physical environment. Thus, communities must not only be environmentally sustainable, they must also be socially sustainable. In discussing sustainability both social and environmental it is important to understand that both of them require a system of economic activity that is compatible with and not destructive of either the ecological web of life or the social web of life of which we are a part, and upon which we depend for our health, well-being and quality of life. Thus, any discussion of socially sustainable communities must include a discussion of the physical design of the community and the economic system of the community. As a society, we make social investments and we have a “stock” of social and human resources. Economic development can either contribute to or deplete those social resources (see Osberg, 1990). Many would argue that the form of economic development championed by Thatcher and Reagan has been socially unsustainable, depleting human and social capital and resources in addition to the damage it has wrought to the natural environment. The concept of socially sustainable development including socially sustainable urban development has received less attention than the concept of environmentally sustainable development. What would constitute socially sustainable development? I would argue that it is development that it:
  • meets basic needs for food, shelter, education, work, income and safe living and working conditions;
  • is equitable, ensuring that the benefits of development are distributed fairly across society;
  • enhances, or at least does not impair, the physical, mental and social well-being of the population;
  • promotes education, creativity and the development of human potential for the whole population;
  • preserves our cultural and biological heritage, thus strengthening our sense of connectedness to our history and environment;
  • promotes conviviality, with people living together harmoniously and in mutual support of each other;
  • is democratic, promoting citizen participation and involvement, and
  • is livable, linking “the form of the city’s public places and city dwellers’ social, emotional and physical well-being” (Lennard and Lennard, 1987)
The systems and processes that we put in place to achieve these ends can be thought of as the “soft infrastructure” of the community, a term used by Len Duhl, Professor of Public Health and Professor of Urban Planning at the University of California at Berkeley, to describe those elements of the community that contribute to social well-being. This “soft” infrastructure includes formal human services (health, education, social services, recreation and culture, etc.) as well as the community’s informal structure the web of voluntary organizations and social relationships that comprise community. Urban planning needs to integrate these elements into all its work, giving as much weight to the soft infrastructure as to the hard infrastructure if we are going to create communities that work. * Trevor Hancock was a founding member of the Canadian Green Party. He is a principal exponent of the ‘healthy communities’ movement in North America. Source: Image source:

The UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC)

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The Alliance of Civilisations is a United Nations political initiative of the Secretary General. It was launched in 2005 by former Secretary General Kofi Annan, with co-sponsorship from the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey. Based on the recommendations of a High-Level Group in November 2006, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon appointed Jorge Sampaio, former president of Portugal, as his High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations. A High-level Group of experts was formed by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan to explore the roots of polarization between societies and cultures today, and to recommend a practical programme of action to address this issue. The Report of the High-level Group provided analysis and put forward practical recommendations that form the basis for the implementation plan of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. On 26 April 2007, former President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, was appointed as the High Representative for the UNAOC by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to lead the implementation phase of the Alliance. Since May 2007, President Sampaio has been in charge of achieving the mission of the Alliance by developing a functional framework for action, setting an agenda, and building a network of stakeholders. The Alliance of Civilizations aims to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions. It also helps to counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism. The UNAOC Secretariat, which is based in New York, works with a global network of partners with States, international and regional organizations, civil society groups, foundations, and the private sector to improve cross-cultural relations between diverse nations and communities. It also works at the grassroots level, promoting innovative projects that build trust, reconciliation and mutual respect. Respect and tolerance among human beings in the diversity of their beliefs, cultures, and languages are fundamental values at the core of the UNAOC. The Alliance aspires to the ideal of a culture of peace and dialogue, based on the conviction that “differences within and between societies be neither feared nor repressed, but cherished as a precious asset of humanity.” (UN Development Declaration, 1-6). While active on a number of crosscutting issues, the Alliance works predominantly in the following four priority areas:
  1. Education – In increasingly multicultural contexts that shape our lives in the 21st century, education is fundamental to address the ignorance and the mistrust that are the source of human conflict. Enabling citizens to acquire intercultural competencies and skills is key to fostering intercultural dialogue, overcoming cultural stereotypes, and intolerance and winning the fight against a “clash of ignorance”.
  2. Youth – Youth is a main target group of the Alliance. Roughly one in five individuals, over 1.2 billion people worldwide, is between the ages of 15 and 24. A pool of talent, ideas and energy, young people are key agents for social change, economic growth development and technological innovation.
  3. Media – Traditional media as well as social media and new information technologies shape perceptions, narratives, and attitudes. They hold the potential to bridge cultural and religious divides and to develop a positive narrative around diversity. Amplifying this constructive role is one of the core tasks of the UNAOC.
  4. Migration – Migration and mobility of population shape our multicultural societies. They bring potential for development and innovation which must be harnessed, but also create new challenges that need to be addressed in order to build inclusive and tolerant societies.
The 5th United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Global Forum will take place in Vienna on February 27 and 28, 2013. Entitled “Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue”, the Vienna Forum will provide participants with a unique global platform for constructive and result-oriented dialogue to share lessons on best practices and develop joint initiatives and new partnerships. The Forum will bring together political leaders, representatives of international and regional bodies, the private sector, civil society groups, youth, arts, and the media as well as donor agencies and foundations to explore new ways of promoting cross-cultural dialogue and understanding. A one-day preparatory Youth Event – designed to allow young participants to network and formulate youth-specific recommendations – will take place on February 26, 2013. T he Vienna Forum will focus on how responsible leadership can make a lasting difference, by exploring the concept in light of the following three major issues:
  1. Promotion, protection, and full enjoyment of the universal right to religious freedom in light of religious pluralism through education,
  2. Media pluralism and diversity of media content as key factors to fostering public debate, democracy, and awareness of diverse opinions,
  3. The potential and challenges of shaping a new narrative for migration.
youth summit

Weekly News # 6 / The “Open Competition” – First Youth Sustainable Summit in Berlin (may 2013)

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    (shared post)   Dear colleagues,
If you know people (from all over the world!) between 15 and 25 years old, don’t hesitate to share this information with them! It’s a great opportunity for them to make everyone know their ideas about sustainability and to assist to the First Youth Sustainable Summit in may 2013 in Berlin (one week – the stay in Berlin will be paid by youthinkgreen !!). Please note that there are only two more weeks to go for the “Open Competition”. So, please spread the word !   
We are happy to inform you that youthinkgreen – jugend denkt um.welt calls for an “Open Competition”. With this competition we would like to invite young people dedicated to environmental protection and sustainable ways of living from all over the world to the 1st World Youth Sustainability Summit in Berlin (10. – 20.05.2013).   
The Summit will revolve around the evocative theme of “Youth and Sustainability in Everyday Life – Challenge, Reflect on and Develop New Ways of Living” seen as a great, worldwide challenge and collective task. More than 150 young people from industrialised, emerging and developing countries will come to Berlin to participate in the conference, along with top-class speakers from the scientific, cultural, economic, political and media world to analyse, question and develop the topic through speeches, discussions as well as various workshops. The objective is to draft a common position paper in which the young people from the whole world will develop collective suggestions, impulses and demands for a more responsible future by which they will stand.  Sounds interesting? It surely is! Find the attached invitation with all important details for the “Open Competition” and apply till February, the 28th 2013.  Join the call on Facebook:
We would look forward to your submission!    
Further information? Visit our homepage: Questions? Write us an email: 
Find us also on Facebook and Twitter under _youthinkgreen!    
What is youthinkgreen? youthinkgreen – jugend denkt um.welt is an international educational youth initiative and trains about 220 teenagers from 10 industrialised, emerging and developing countries to become climate ambassadors. The initiative works with the local youth to develop concepts tackling environmental/sustainable problems in their local area. These concepts then result in the creation of local sustainability projects, which ultimately aim at mobilising a growing sustainability movement. 
Núria Mitjans 
Intern youthinkgreen – jugend denkt um.welt e.V. 
Strausberger Platz 5 10243 Berlin Germany 

Our first official partnership in the E4S project

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Our Education 4 Sustainability project is making important steps in this new year. We are happy to announce that we recently signed our first partnership agreement! This is great news, as we rely on our partners to provide us the local perspective that we need in order to come up with a tailored and effective strategy that will allow our project to reach its goals. And now, meet our first official partner: the Ecological Movement of Moldova (Mișcarea Ecologistă din Moldova). EMM is a voluntary and non-governmental environmental organisation committed to restoring the natural balance of the environment in Moldova through sustainable development, conservation of natural resources and preservation of important ecological sites and monuments. EMM has a very long tradition in Moldova: it was founded in 1990, but its group of volunteers was active since 1983, when they formed the Green Movement. One of the main activities of EMM is to inform the public at large on the problems associated with environmental conservation and protection in the Republic of Moldova in accordance with the Constitution of Republic of Moldova, the existing legislation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. EMM acts as an umbrella organization for a total of 10 territorial branches in different districts of Moldova and 15 affiliations with more than 2,000 members. Every EMM’s territorial branch has the right to be a legal entity. EMM’s stated goals are: to form an environmental vision and contribute to the awareness raising of citizens on this issue, to restore natural balance, to change collective mentalities for the better of the environment and greening of the society, the recovery of the environment, the restoration of cultural and spiritual ethical-moral universe by developing and implementing projects in the following areas and fields:
  • Environmental education, information and training;
  • Access to information and public participation;
  • Protected areas, biodiversity, natural and cultural heritage, ecological and sustainable tourism;
  • Spiritual Ecology;
  • Development of partnerships;
  • Integrated management of water resources;
  • Advice, expertise and audit;
  • Compliance to environmental legislation and access to justice;
  • EU integration and connection to EU environmental standards; etc.
EMM’s efforts in information dissemination, public awareness, and active participation at the local level contribute to its goal of promoting civil society in the Republic of Moldova. EMM acts as an organizer and supporter of community-based projects and initiatives, thereby advocating non-governmental citizen action. EMM’s work in the protection and conservation of the environment has been acknowledged by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and accordingly, in 1995 EMM has been admitted in IUCN. Since 2002, EMM is the Danube Environmental Forum National Focal Point in the Republic of Moldova. At the same time EMM is member of the GEF ONG Network, of the Danube Competence Center and of other national organization and committees. EMM has implemented a series of environmental education projects, being a major player in civil society, forming public opinion on attitudes towards environmental issues and the importance of their resolution, promoting environmental education and public awareness. The implemented projects cover a wide range of topics: water, waste management, public awareness and trainings on environmental protection, educational publications, trips and demonstrative lessons. EMM is the founder of the first journal of ecology in the Republic of Moldova. You can find out more information at: The educational system of the Republic of Moldova is in a reform period now: the Educational Strategy 2020 is under preparation and it is very important to make all the efforts to obtain the including of the sustainable development and of the ecological education in the priorities of the Government of the Republic of Moldova. EMM has been an active promoter of this issue during the time and it is being even more insistent in this very important phase for Moldova’s educational system. We are sure that EMM will be a trustful and powerful partner for the Education4Sustainability project in Moldova and we look forward to cooperate with them. Image source:

Green New Deal in Poland: The Social Dimension

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  (shared post)   In the fifth year of the comprehensive crisis we are facing, social questions have come to the top of the political agenda and the public debate in Europe. This Green European Foundation publication, initiated by Zielony Instytut and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Warsaw office, links the European level social policy goals to a concrete national example, Poland. The crisis, as well as the proposed mainstream solutions which focus on fiscal austerity exclusively, don’t come without a social cost. This is illustrated by numbers such as 50% youth unemployment in Spain, the cost of third level education rising by 127% in Ireland or a horizontal 15% pensions’ cut in Romania. Notwithstanding Greece, where consecutive adjustment packages to tackle the budgetary imbalances resulted in an increase in the already high numbers of people living below the poverty line and brought about a situation of imminent collapse of basic social infrastructure such as health care. Over the last years we have seen unemployment and social inequality on the rise in Europe, while the standards of the European model of social protection, labour law, collective bargaining rights or working conditions have seen frequent set-backs. In the EU of the common market, social policy has largely remained competence of individual Member States, despite the Treaty of Lisbon and the Europe 2020 strategy detailing social policy objectives and concrete goals related to employment and poverty eradication. It is Member States which make the major policy decisions influencing the achievement of these goals. Embedded in this context, Zielony Instytut and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Warsaw office initiated this Green European Foundation publication attempting to link the European level trends, discussions and social policy goals to a concrete national example, Poland. In Poland, the developments in social policy seem largely unaffected by the crisis. As the European Trade Union Institute in its Policy Brief 2/2012 points out, “the crisis is essentially perceived and described as resulting from external factors, and in itself no reason, therefore, to call into question existing national social arrangements.” Nevertheless, Poland has also seen a significant rise in economic inequality in the last years, with a widening gap between those being able to harvest the benefits of Poland’s steady economic growth and the growing numbers of people who are left behind and feel the fruits of transformation are not for them. This stratification of Polish society has effects in the radicalization of the political scene as we could witness during the “Independence March” on November 11, 2012. The fierce political debate over the Polish pension reform (raising retirement age to 67 years) is another example of tensions in the society. The hundreds of thousands of young people who already live abroad or are considering to leave the country cannot be seen as a sustainable solution for unemployment among the young generation in Poland.  The growing number of immigrants in Poland requires better access to the social system and integration programs in order to create an open society of equal chances. These are among the key topics this publication tackles in an attempt to give answers to what a Green social model for Europe could be: a model that preserves 20th century achievements but sets out to innovate for the 21st century. We have translated two of the contributions to this publication (“Social Policy – An Introduction” by Ryszard Szarfenberg and “Social Policy – Green debates” by Bartłomiej Kozek) in English as well. You can download these below, alongside the publication in Polish.
sustainability post

Weekly News #5 / Join the E-discussion: 4 February – 1 March Environmental Sustainability for the World We Want: Moving From the MDGs to Post-2015

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(shared post)  
The UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda has proposed that environmental sustainability be one of the four core dimensions in a post-2015 development agenda, along with inclusive social development, inclusive economic development, and peace and security.  Based on this and the outcomes of Rio+20, there is growing consensus that the post-2015 development agenda will need to apply an integrated approach that includes environmental sustainability as a central component if we are to achieve the future we want.You are cordially invited to join us in this e-discussion “Environmental Sustainability for the World We Want: Moving From the MDGs to Post-2015”, and help to define how best to reflect environmental sustainability in the post-2015 agenda. 
This e-discussion is part of the first phase of the global thematic consultation on environmental sustainability which aims to look broadly at what we have learned from the Millennium Development Goals and to bring forward new thinking and experiences related to integrated approaches that link economic, social and environmental sustainability and touch on cross-cutting issues such as gender equality, human rights, young people, inequalities and the partnerships necessary to make progress.  Building upon the 90 discussion notes that have been received, this first e-discussion provides an additional opportunity for people from around the world to help frame the priorities for the dialogue moving forward. The discussion will address the questions outlined below.
We invite you to participate in your preferred language, to share your views, experiences and questions with citizens from all over the world.
We encourage you to review the Framing Paper for background information to help in thinking about the following questions that will be discussed over the next four weeks:
Week 1: Capitalizing on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and MDG7 Achievements and Addressing the Gaps 1.        How and to what extent can we build on lessons learned from MDG7’s achievement in developing our post-2015 development agenda? 2.        How can the post-2015 agenda address any gaps related to environmental sustainability in the overall MDG framework?
Week 2:  Addressing Development Challenges in a Changing World 1.        Which global trends and uncertainties may influence how environmental sustainability is framed in the international development agenda over the next 10-30 years? 2.        What new elements and considerations would need to be incorporated into the post-2015 agenda for it to be environmentally sustainable and adequately capture the essence of the world’s evolving development/financial/social/ economic/ environmental/etc challenges?
Week 3: Framing Environmental Sustainability in the Post-2015 Agenda 1.        In the spirit of the outcomes of Rio+20, what are the barriers and enablers to gradually moving towards environmental sustainability? 2.        Building on the MDGs and the outcomes of Rio+20, how would you envisage a conceptual framework for the post-2015 agenda that can help drive a transition to an environmentally sustainable future? What are the key characteristics?
Week 4: Consensus and Divergence 1.        What are the topic areas where a consensus is evolving and where further dialogue is needed?
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