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Global Sustainability Panel Sets Overall Goal, Guiding Principles

March 2011: The Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) has issued the report of the second meeting of the Panel (GSP 2), which took place from 24-25 February 2011, in Cape Town, South Africa. The summary highlights the presentations of the three Working Groups (WGs) that were established to advise the Panel, the Panel's overall vision of sustainability, a framework, and guiding principles for the Panel's work.

On the WGs' three topics – poverty, paradigms, and markets – each WG presented its findings and recommendations. A Synthesis Paper of the three reports, prepared by the GSP Secretariat at the request of the GSP Sherpas at their 25 January 2011 meeting, was presented to the Panel.

On the overall vision of sustainability, the Panel considered impediments to fulfilling the sustainable development agenda to date, including “short-termism,” failure to properly price natural resource use, and the market's inability to tackle inequity. Members emphasized the importance of intra- and inter-generational equity and social justice for sustainable development and of developing a new approach to managing the global commons. Members disagreed on the wisdom of a low-carbon green growth approach.

The Panel reached consensus on its overall goal: “To eradicate poverty and reduce inequality, make growth inclusive, and production and consumption more sustainable while combating climate change and respecting the range of other planetary boundaries.” Key sub-goals could include: food security and agriculture; decent jobs; small and medium enterprises (SMEs); access to energy; green growth; disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience; health; education; payment of environmental services; and ensuring sustainability in fragile contexts.

On a framework covering the different elements of its vision, the Panel discussed core challenges – such as planetary boundaries and climate change, vulnerability to shocks, and the North-South paradigm – and cross-cutting means to achieving the Panel's overall goal, such as: markets, governance, technology, gender equity and empowerment of women. The framework is presented visually in an Annex to the report.

Finally, the Panel discussed the importance of guiding principles for its common vision. Members stressed the importance of focusing on “key drivers and high impact solutions,” and avoiding too much breadth; looking at practical and concrete recommendations or tools for successful implementation, including by holding dialogues with various stakeholders; working in a strategic manner; adopting the language of economists rather than environmentalists; and offering recommendations that are practical and relevant to the needs of countries.

The next meeting of the Panel (GSP 3) is scheduled for 16-18 May 2011, in Helsinki, Finland. According to GSP Co-Chair President Jacob Zuma in his remarks concluding the Cape Town meeting, a topic for that meeting will be the importance of global governance and balancing the different levels and platforms of development in countries and regions. [Report of GSP 2]