GSP Extends Its Work, Briefs on Current Draft Report

15 December 2011: At its fifth meeting, the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) decided to extend its work, delaying the finalization of its report to the Secretary-General. Some elements of the expected report were shared during a briefing for States and other stakeholders on the sidelines of the Second Intersessional Meeting of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), on 15 December 2011.

GSP 5, held from 13-14 December, was intended to be the final meeting of the Panel, in preparation for launching the report in January 2012. However, it now will organize an additional meeting to take place as soon as possible, said Janos Pasztor, GSP Secretariat.

According to updates provided at the briefing, the current draft of the report includes sections on drivers of change, empowering people, markets and institutions. Sherpas for Panel members offered detail on each major section.

Fortunato Albrinho, the Sherpa for GSP member Luisa Dias Diogo of Mozambique, said the Panel's vision puts people at the center of global priorities. He suggested that the key actionable recommendation is to empower people to make sustainable development choices. To this end, government and international partners should cooperate to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in order to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality, as a priority for achieving sustainable development. Specific ways to encourage sustainable choices include creating jobs, improving education, health care, access to clean and affordable energy, and food security.

Varad Pande, the Sherpa for GSP member Jairam Ramesh of India, said the panel had discussed at length the issue of sustainable consumption, which balances sustainability of livelihoods with sustainability of lifestyles. Other key issues for this chapter are pricing externalities and scaling up emissions trading schemes, subsidies disclosure and reduction, scaling up public financing, and engaging the private sector and governments in leveraging private capital. He also said the Panel was looking for more inclusive indicators than GDP, noting that the sustainable development paradigm required a change to the “3 M's” – modeling, monitoring and measuring progress.

Hannu Kyröläinen,the Sherpa for GSP co-Chair Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, said good governance was the foundation of sustainable development. Several themes were under consideration in this regard: coherence and accountability at the national and local level, as well as regional and global level; sustainable development goals (SDGs) and a proposed global sustainability outlook report from the Secretary-General; and improving the institutional structure includng all relevant actors to better address sustainable development challenges, including by creating peer review between governments.

In response to a question on the reason for the delay, and a new timeline, Pasztor said the Sherpas would meet following the briefing to work on the schedule, and the report would be prepared as soon as possible for utilization in the UNCSD process. Kyröläinen added that the quality of the outcome took precedence.

In response to a question on planetary boundaries, Pande said this issue must not become a limit on the growth agenda for many countries. The Panel was working toward a road map that would respond equally to both needs.

In response to questions on SDGs, Kyröläinen said it was not feasible for the Panel to draft a set of goals, but a way forward to be considered. Regarding how countr-driven they would be, he added that the Panel saw individual governments as playing a large role in formulating them.

In response to a question on agriculture and food security, and addressing hunger and poverty within environmental constraints, Albrinho said the Panel had linked this to education and knowledge on environmental issues.

During the GSP's fifth meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Panelists to emphasize sustainable development his “the overriding priority” and that the UNCSD could not be a wasted opportunity. He also looked to the Panel for guidance, he said, as he developed his action plan for the coming five years, particularly on governance. In addition, he hoped to see the issue of equity addressed in the report. Finally, he expected the Panel to craft political arguments to “sell” the ideas to fellow leaders, including skeptical ones. [IISD RS Sources] [Remarks of UN Secretary-General to GSP 5] [UN Press Release]