3 May 2012, Kyiv – Over 70 civic leaders from Ukraine – youth activists, public officials, progressive village council heads, and academia gathered in the capital to discuss Ukraine’s progress in implementing UN Declaration on Sustainable Development and the role of local communities in reaching a balance between economic, social, and environmental development. The venue for the Civic Leaders Forum “From Local Initiatives to Global Changes” in light of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development “Rio +20” was chosen for a reason. Hosted in the Kyiv Botanical Garden, it was supposed to symbolize a balance, the recipe for which the global community will attempt to invent during the global summit in Brazil this June.Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where countries adopted two historic documents - “Agenda 21”, a blue print to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection and “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development” - the UN is again bringing together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources. This is the time for the global community to reflect on progress made, to celebrate the achievements and to call for further change and actions.
According to Ms. Ricarda Rieger, United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine Country Director, over the last 20 years the world economy has tripled, in real terms, fuelled by consumption of natural resources. The world’s population is likely to reach 9 billion by 2050. Yet, the natural capital that underpins our livelihoods is diminishing. We are, in many terms, moving away from, not towards, sustainable development.
Not least revealing and shocking came the arguments of Mr. Nicolo Wojewoda, “Road to Rio +20” International Programme Director, who in his video address to the Forum participants elaborated on the “paradise almost lost”, while speaking of the country, which is doomed to find a new place on Earth as a result of adversarial environmental changes. He spoke of the Maldives, an island nation, who started looking for a new homeland in India, by scouting some possible re-allocation areas, as their current territories face vanishing in some 20-30 years from now. This is not only about the quality of life or means for existence, but it’s about being able to live on this planet in the not-so distant future, which is already the case for the Maldives.
Yet, according to Wojewoda, this crisis is not the only or isolated phenomenon. There are multiple crises which the humankind faces daily. Apart from environmental crisis, it’s the food crisis, when food prices are increasing all over the world, as well as financial and unemployment crises. All these crises are connected and are not isolated incidents. They are symptoms and patterns of root causes having a much profound impact on the way we live on this planet. All this complex system and linkages between the element of the system is what “Rio +20” is all about.
Hence, the UNDP Country Director maintains that the success of development in any country depends on both a robust state and an active civil society with healthy levels of civic engagement. Promoting civic engagement is integral to the work of UNDP in Ukraine, while the participation and leadership of the civic sector is crucial as governments alone cannot achieve sustainability. There is a need for the broadest possible alliance and the need for leaders. “Whether it is in combating climate change, preserving our rich natural heritages, advancing social equity and economic development, we need you as partners and as leaders.
It is high time to regain balance and pursue a sustainable path, renewing our commitments to sustainable development, summarized Ms. Rieger.
As a result of debate and discussion, the participants adopted a list of Voluntary Commitments which will feed the Resolution of the “From Local Initiatives to Global Changes” Civic Leaders Forum. The draft list of Voluntary Commitments could be viewed here .