Picture to the right, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and South African President Jacob Zuma speak at launch of the report, "Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing", 30 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: UN News and Media

Major breakthrough for resilience theory

New UN report with 56 recommendations on how to put sustainable development into practice

This spring the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability visited Stockholm during the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability. Now the 22-member panel has published its final report.

Entitled 'Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing', the report is clearly influenced by the talks during the symposium and the scientific work behind it.

The report was first launched 30 January in Addis Ababa and later presented in Stockholm by Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation. She also a member of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

The new report is in many respects the counterpart of the landmark 1987 report by the World Commission on Environment and Development, "Our Common Future", better known to as the Brundtland report. Just as its predecessor the new report is a significant contribution to the UN's work on sustainable development, and will be an important contribution to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

Science, policy and planetary boundaries
The High-Level Panel's report repeatedly refers to the Stockholm symposium in and the centre-led research on planetary boundaries, and calls for better interchange between scientists and policymakers.

"We must define, through science, what scientists refer to as 'planetary boundaries', 'environmental thresholds' and 'tipping points'".

Moreover, the long-term vision as described by the Panel is to "eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and make growth inclusive, and production and consumption more sustainable, while combating climate change and respecting a range of other planetary boundaries".

Bring disparated knowledge together
The report, which was published 30 January, makes a total of 56 recommendations and calls for "bold global efforts".

It contains an entire section on "building resilience" and urges governments to develop and implement policies to “manage the economic and social impacts of transition and enhance resilience — in particular through targeted social protection programmes and policies and by scaling up humanitarian capacities to deal with increasing environmental stress and potential shocks".

The Panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity, was co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma.

The panel, including ministers from Australia, Brazil, India and Sweden, also suggests a science advisory board or a chief scientific advisor to the UN Secretary-General.

The report argues that often disparate knowledge on issues such as climate change, development, energy, food and agriculture, health, and water should be brought together in a new regular Global Sustainable Development Outlook.  

Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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