First published on the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog on June 8, 2012
World leaders and thousands of citizens representing public and private sectors will convene in Rio de Janeiro next week for Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The goal: to exchange ideas for solving some of the world’s most pressing problems; and, to create a roadmap for the future.
The agenda is broad: economic development, environmental sustainability, social inclusion. The participants in the formal talks June 20-22 are hoping to produce a document outlining how the world should move ahead to achieve these things. That could include a set of “sustainable development” goals and commitments – ways to help people climb out of extreme poverty, and to keep our growing population from consuming the planet’s natural resources at an unsustainable rate.
Perhaps even more important will be all the interactions going on around the formal talks – meetings of business and civil society groups, non-governmental organizations, local government representatives and others. They will exchange ideas and policies, make their own commitments to move ahead, and forge new and productive partnerships.
In an article published today in The Lancet, Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs outlined his own ideas for sustainable development goals – the SDGs. He writes about how these goals can build on the Millennium Development Goals, the UN’s set of targets that aim to reduce extreme poverty and boost social well-being in many other ways by 2015.
“The SDGs are an important idea, and could help finally to move the world to a sustainable trajectory. The detailed content of the SDGs, if indeed they do emerge in upcoming diplomatic processes, is very much up for discussion and debate,” Sachs writes. “Their content, I believe, should focus on two considerations: global priorities that need active worldwide public participation, political focus, and quantitative measurement; and lessons from the MDGs, especially the reasons for their successes, and corrections of some of their most important shortcomings.”