The United Nations has named economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and special adviser to the UN Secretary General on the Millennium Development Goals, to lead a new project that will bring together public and private research centers to address some of the urgent social, environmental and economic problems raised during the recent Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network will work with corporations, government, UN agencies and other international groups to identify and share sustainable development solutions.
The new project will start immediately and operate closely with the High‐level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post‐2015 Development Agenda announced by the UN last week. “The post‐2015 objectives will help the world to focus on the vital challenges of sustainable development,” said UN Secretary‐General Ban Ki‐moon, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network will be an innovative way to draw upon worldwide expertise in the campuses, universities, scientific research centers and business technology divisions around the world.”
The fight to end extreme poverty continues. In 2000, the UN set eight targets for reducing extreme poverty by 2015 under its Millennium Development Goals, yet more than one billion people continue to live in desperate conditions. Inequality and social exclusion are widening in most countries, while human impact on the environment, with a population now at seven billion and a global GDP of $70 trillion, has reached dangerous levels. With global population expected to grow to nine billion by 2050, and global GDP to rise to more than $250 trillion, the world urgently needs a framework for sustainable development that will address extreme poverty, improve social inclusion and protect the planet.
Yet, the reality is that politics too often focus on short‐term issues while governments often lack the timely information needed for long‐term sustainable development strategies. It is essential that scientists and technology experts outside of government support the development of long‐term analyses, demonstration programs and development pathways. This will be an unprecedented challenge, requiring a new generation of problem solving that will address local, national and regional objectives and strategies around the complex issues facing humanity in the 21st century.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network can meet the challenge. Under the UN Secretary‐General, the network will provide an independent, open and inclusive process to support and scale up problem solving at local, national and global levels. “In the 20 years since the first Rio Earth Summit, the world has largely failed to address some of the most serious environmental and social problems pressing in on us,” Sachs said. “We can’t afford business as usual. We need to engage the academic and scientific community, and tap into worldwide technological know‐how in the private sector and civil society, in order to develop and implement practical solutions.”
Ted Turner, global business leader, philanthropist and founder of CNN and the United Nations Foundation, will work with other leaders in sustainable development to guide and advise the network. “We need development solutions based in science, and we need them now. The future of the planet and its people is at stake. The new Sustainable Development Solutions Network aims to promote smart and effective action ‐‐ before it’s too late,” said Turner.
The project will emphasize collaboration among countries, to analyze common problems and share solutions. The global network will accelerate joint learning and use an integrated “systems” approach to addressing the complex economic, social and environmental challenges confronting governments. Through the network, businesses, particularly those operating with cutting‐edge technologies, will work with scientists, policy analysts and community leaders to understand and anticipate new technological opportunities to address economic, social and environmental constraints.