DESA Launches Prototype Global Sustainable Development Report

DESA24 September 2013: The Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) launched the Executive Summary of the prototype Global Sustainable Development Report, 'Building the Common Future We Want,' at the inaugural session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The report - called for in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) Outcome Document - aims to strengthen the science-policy interface and bring together dispersed information and existing assessments. The prototype report illustrates potential content, approaches and ways to engage policy makers and scientists, with the aim of facilitating Member States' deliberations on the final approach and scope.

The summary includes seven sections representing planned report chapters: sustainable development assessments; a review of progress from 1950 until 2050, with the aim of putting economies and society onto a sustainable development path; the consequences of continuing a course of incremental progress until 2050; sustainable development scenarios; measuring sustainable development progress; the climate-land-energy-water-development nexus (CLEWD), including a pilot assessment in Mauritius and a global model; and future issues to consider.

Through a UN crowd-sourcing platform, scientists from around the world proposed and voted on issues they felt were not well represented on the UN agenda that they wanted decision makers to focus on. Scientists identified eight issues: regional natural resource conflicts; CLEWD; political instability from increased wealth inequalities; child labor; non-existent or decreasing environmental justice in developing and developed countries; youth unemployment; persistence of poverty in poor and in rich countries; and anthropogenic reductions in net primary productivity of biological resources.

The report summarizes a review of sustainable development assessments, noting there are thousands of assessments that differ in terms of perceived policy relevance, participation, resources, scale and scope, among other dimensions. Climate change assessments represent the most common assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approach has served as a model for many assessments, including at national levels. The review found UN publications tend to include a wider range of knowledge and participation beyond academic literature and tend to be produced at a lower cost. The review also underscored varying national priorities for sustainable development.

The report illustrates future sustainable development pathways, using modeled scenarios. Although the scenarios vary in approaches and goals, they share the conclusion that there are numerous, feasible sustainable development pathways, and underscore that progress on one dimension can lead to synergies and trade-offs on others.

The report discusses future report issues and directions, from a regular assessment of assessments to building a UN platform for sustainable development models and scenarios.

The final version of the report, which will be published in December 2013, aims to inform the agenda and deliberations of the HLPF, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on sustainable development. [DESA Press Release] [Publication: Global Sustainable Development Report: Building the Common Future We Want]