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Speeches, 1/14/2014

Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja's Speech at the Diplomatic Academy in Lima: Sustainable development and Post-2015 agenda 

January 14, 2014

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Your excellencies, Dear students of Diplomatic Academy, Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to have this time to share with you thoughts about sustainable development and objectives of the Post-2015 agenda. I see multilateral cooperation of utmost importance when we are facing global challenges, such as poverty, inequality and environmental threats. As we have a group of current and future diplomats before us, I consider this a great opportunity to develop common understanding and set goals to face these challenges.

I will start by a short history brief on the multilateral process of promoting sustainable development. After that I will focus on the post-2015 agenda and the current situation we are facing. I will end by giving some examples of solutions that multilateral and bilateral cooperation can present.

Dear audience,

The concept of Sustainable Development stems back from the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development where it was defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It contains within it two key concepts:

(1) the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and

(2) the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs. Solidarity between generations is a particularly important principle. All development needs to be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable in order to make that solidarity a reality.

Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992, there have been many important UN conferences over the years addressing sustainable development.

Speaking on behalf of my Government at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, I stressed that "with climate change, the accelerating loss of biodiversity and current other changes, we may, at best, have only a few decades time to reach ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development. No-one can be certain that we can do this, or even if it is possible at all. We need a strong sense of urgency to be able to correctly address our agenda."

Many considered that the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference lacked ambition. However, in the last one and a half years, significant progress has been made in a number of areas where decisions were made in Rio.

In particular, I would like to highlight the process towards agreeing on Sustainable Development Goals – the Post-2015 Agenda – by 2015. An Open Working Group in New York has been established to debate these goals and it is expected to provide a report by August 2014 followed by an intergovernmental negotiation process.

At the same time, while heading for the new universal goals, we need to do our utmost to conclude the unfinished work on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Although a lot still remains to be done, I congratulate Peru for the great results in reducing poverty rates in to half of the 2000 level. Additionally infant mortality and extreme poverty has reduced and now 96 % of the population has access to basic education. You show an excellent example.

Poverty may and will hinder any other development process and development will decelerate if poverty is not tackled. Therefore poverty eradication and sustainable development must be placed at the core of the new post-2015 development agenda. They are strongly interlinked. Poverty can only be eradicated within the context of sustainable development.

Another common denominator to guide the future agenda should be the focus on reducing inequalities. In today’s world, we all face the challenge of increasing inequalities both within our national boarders and between our countries. Empowering women and girls is crucial. In addition, special attention needs to be paid to children and vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as persons with disabilities and ethnic and linguistic minorities. No one should be left behind. This was well presented by your president Ollanta Humala in United Nation's General Assembly last September. The idea that social inclusion is the best guarantee for sustainable economic growth is something that resonates well with the Finnish society. Ever since the Second World War we have worked hard in guaranteeing all our citizens the same opportunities to study, work and lead a healthy life. These policies have resulted in rapid industrialization and the development of an innovation society which is better equipped to face the shocks of an uncertain global economy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As declared at Rio+20, the new development goals should be transformational and address the multiple and intertwined challenges of ensuring environmental sustainability, eradicating extreme poverty, and achieving economic and social wellbeing. This calls for a true integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development into the new goals. In addition, peace and security, human rights and good governance need to be seen as prerequisites for sustainable development.

The new goals should be universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development. This means that there would be goals for the developed countries, as well. This kind of goals and/or targets could be related, for instance, to environment or reduction of inequalities.

When defining new goals, it is crucial to consider the planetary boundaries of the Earth. All growth and development must respect planetary boundaries. In this respect, the mandate from Rio+20 to strengthen international environmental governance and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is of great importance. The new universal UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) – meeting for the first time next June – is the leading environmental authority to set the global environment agenda and promote coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN system.

Advancing green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is an interesting and important avenue to address the multiple challenges of sustainable development. The Government of Finland has launched several green economy related political strategies and programmes on sustainable consumption and production, bio-economy and clean technology, to name just a few. In order to achieve sustainable development, it will have to come alive at the level of individuals – through work and everyday living. In this respect, shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns is instrumental. Developed countries should Iead by example.

In Finland, we have prepared our national Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development titled “Finland We Want 2050” within wide participation from all levels of society. The vision in the commitment is “a prosperous Finland within the limits of the carrying capacity of nature.” The commitment includes eight shared objectives and indicators to measure progress. In order for the commitment to be effective, it calls for the public sector, private sector, civil society and all entities to make their own commitments on how they will promote sustainable development in their work. This is an example of a whole society joining its forces for a common goal – cooperation on a national level.

On the global level, Finland’s development policies aim at promoting an inclusive green economy which will strengthen human well-being, social equality and social sustainability. The green economy we want to promote is low-carbon, resource-efficient, socially inclusive and creates responsible entrepreneurial activity and decent work and well-being for all.

In this respect, I would like to underline the importance of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes that was adopted at the Rio+20 Summit aiming at accelerating the shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns in all countries by supporting regional and national policies and initiatives. It is a true global partnership in capacity building and facilitating access to financial and technological solutions for developing countries.

In addition, my Government is financing the initiative called Partnership for Action on Green Economy. This PAGE initiative of UNEP, ILO, UNIDO and UNITAR supports 30 countries over the next seven years in building national green economy strategies. Peru is one of the first countries where PAGE initiative will help developing national green economy policies. I have been informed by UNEP that the official launch of PAGE in Peru is expected in March this year.

Finland is also financing regional initiatives in the Andean region on forestry, meteorology, and renewable energy that provide good opportunities for collaboration both with the PAGE initiative and bilaterally.

Dear friends

When discussing and analyzing what the new agenda should look like, we also need to think about how we can achieve the shift towards sustainable development. In this respect, I am happy that my fellow Finnish countryman, Mr. Pertti Majanen, an experienced and knowledgeable Ambassador in our foreign service, was elected to be the Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing together with Mr. Mansur Muhtar, Executive Director of the World Bank and former Nigerian Minister of Finance.

The Committee, mandated by the Rio+20 Conference and working in parallel and in close co-operation with the Open Working Group of Sustainable Development Goals, will look into the financing needs, mobilization of resources as well as institutional arrangements to propose effective solutions to facilitate funding for sustainable development. It will not be an easy task but it will certainly be an opportunity to create a forward-looking framework that our common future Sustainable Development agenda calls for.

I firmly believe that sustainable development financing must – to a large extent – be based on domestic resource mobilization and management. Official Development Assistance will still play an important role, especially in the Least Developed Countries, and as a catalyst for other financing. In view of improving domestic resource mobilization, national tax collection and its administration need to be strengthened. In the same vein, illicit financial flows and tax evasion need to be tackled. Revenue from national resources must be managed transparently and they should benefit all citizens. Our experience in Finland has shown that taxation is an effective means to address inequality.

Development challenges ahead of us are various and huge – both in terms of content and financing. In order to achieve sustainable development, new partnerships are necessary. Civil society and the private sector play an increasingly important role. Promotion of green economy is a prime example of the need for these new partnerships. Involvement of various stakeholders – even beyond traditional groupings – in the design and implementation of the new goals also increases ownership.

It is also important that those responsible for the implementation of the new agenda are held accountable. This requires a strong accountability mechanism which in turn requires more and better data and relevant and solid indicators.

The High Level Political Forum, established by the Rio+20, is mandated to advance enhanced and balanced integration of the interrelated dimensions of sustainable development while recognizing its fundamental link with poverty eradication. A review mechanism within High Level Political Forum will be one of the key factors measuring the progress of the future Sustainable Development Goals. We all need to work hard towards ensuring the success of this High Level Political Forum as the forum to keep track of sustainable development at the highest political level.

Impacts of climate change have a tendency to amplify the challenges of developing countries in addressing poverty and promoting economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development. Thus, we are of the view, that we have reached a point when a green economy is not a luxury, but a prerequisite for poverty reduction and sustainability. Combatting climate change as well as other environmental challenges related to the planet´s carrying capacity thus need to be entwined with the post-2015 agenda.

The Worldwatch Institute reported in 2012 that Peru is the only country in the world that can be seen as truly sustainable. The comparison between countries was made by comparing the United Nation's Human Development Index and the Ecologial Footprint measure. The idea behind this is that a country needs to respond to the human needs of the population with a sustainable ecological cost. In order to be sustainable, The Human Development Index score needs to exceed 0.08 – a number the UN deems the lowest threshold for a high level of human development – and the country's ecological footprint should be less than 1.8 hectares per person, which is the global average limit for not undermining the earth’s ability to regenerate.

This is exceptional. You have reached a balanced level of resource consumption and social development. I encourage your nation to continue the work on social equality and sustainable use of natural resources. With this setting, it is reasonable that Peru will host the COP20 climate negotiations in December 2014. Finland gives its strong support to Peru as the COP20 Presidency, and we believe Peru can play an important role in building bridges between the views of different groupings and, in particular, in approaching the like-minded developing countries. COP20 will have a crucial role in laying the foundation of the new global climate agreement.

Peru has shown the ability for sustainable development. It has also shown in its politics that economic growth does not just mean development, but that a more equal distribution of growth leads to sustainable development. We share the view that women, children, youth and marginalized groups such as the indigenous people need to be included in the development agenda. Equity and justice are the keys to achieve sustainable development.

I hope that with this short overview on the current global development agenda, I have been able to demonstrate that a global common vision is crucial to achieve our objectives. We share the same objectives and the same values to achieve them: equality and respect of nature.

Dear young diplomats,

climate change and global development issues will remain in our global agenda for the coming years. The solution to these global challenges lie in cooperation – cooperation between nations, like UN conferences but also in cooperation within one nation: the roles of the public and the private sector and the civil society need to be seen linked and equally important. Cooperation, be it national, global, vertical or horizontal is not only welcome, but necessary.

Thank you, muchas gracias!

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Updated 1/14/2014

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