Response to the Draft of the UN HLPF Ministerial Declaration

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Response to the Draft of the UN HLPF Ministerial Declaration

Photo: Kathmandu, Nepal, Terry Boynton

This brief position statement is supported by the Potsdam Memorandum written by the Nobel Laureates who participated in the 2007 Global Sustainability – Nobel Cause Interdisciplinary Symposium in Potsdam, Germany, in which the Nobel Laureates state:

Humanity is standing at a moment in history when a Great Transformation is needed to respond to the immense threat to our planet. This transformation mus begin immediately … 

Eleven years later, when the idea that our children might already be endlings has been widely expressed, no great transformations have taken place to protect the health and well-being of all our children world-wide, whose lives are increasingly in jeopardy because of adverse weather events, ecological disasters, and other human emergencies.

The dilemma for UN member states is that global leaders lack the will to act. They are stymied by regional conflicts which have instilled in them silos mentalities that perpetuate hostilities between states and that override the moral and ethical responsibility to act as stewards of the planet who are committed to sustaining the environment and protecting Earth’s limited resources, for our children both now and in the future whose lives are in peril because of the great acceleration of ecological changes to the planet.

The first Question of Questions (QoQ) for UN member states is:

How can timely actions be undertaken at unprecedented and multiple geographical and geopolitical scales, where the nature and scale of the issues involved means that the actors have widely differing—and—disconnected values, ethics, emotions, spiritual beliefs, levels of trust, interests and power?

In addressing the QoQ it is important to remember that no UN member state holds the high ground on truth, and that meaning making is both non-linear and dynamic, requiring emotion as well as reason. The epistemic pluralism of all positions makes it imperative that member states do not fight when they disagree or overarch and feign superiority, for in such circumstances life and death issues are reduced to triviality, demeaning both the delegate and their countries.

The task then is to find commonality in those aspects of sustainable development on which all UN member states can agree.  It could be argued successfully that few representatives of member states would disagree with the idea that the principle unit of all human life on the planet is the family. Holding onto this fact provides hope and possibility.

For example, in countries such as Afghanistan, Nepal, and in regions such as Sub Saharan Africa, there are already village based family literacy programs, which seek to develop literacy in the context of community needs such as health, employment and family planning. In some countries family literacy initiatives are designed to reduce gender inequality and family violence, and address the dire need families have for clean water, while in other countries family literacy programs focus on the amelioration of psychological and emotional traumas resulting from armed conflict, as well as the support of family members physically disabled by war.

What is evident in the lead up to the UN HLPF is that the common threads to sustainable development on which UN member states can all agree are being presented to them by the participating NGOs and advocacy groups who are actively engaged in responding to the draft of the Ministerial Declaration on which these groups are attempting to advise. For example, many insights can be gained and actions agreed upon based on the accounts of the positive transformations in the lives of 25 million families by Water Aid, and by the lessons learned and success stories of the forest-based transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies to be presented at HLPF.

The extraordinary opportunity the participation of people-in-the-field creates for those who are constructing the Ministerial Declaration cannot be exaggerated. The limited time for NGO major groups and other stakeholders to consult with the members of the UN delegations is disappointing, and there is deep concern that the low level of expectations expressed in the Ministerial Declaration draft will not result in the great transformations that are needed.

Thus, we ask the UN member states to abandon your silos and to seek greater consultation with the major non-governmental groups. We encourage all representatives who are at the ministerial level, to imagine the lives of your children struggling to survive on a much hotter planet, subject to extreme weather events, ecological disasters and public health emergencies, which are intertwined in systemic complexity and frequently result in regional armed conflicts and possibly global wars – for this is the future of all our children if great transformations are not undertaken immediately.

We ask you to seek common understandings knowing that the conditions just described are an unnecessary nightmare – if you have the will to act. We charge you now with the achievable task of doing everything you can to make sure that the children alive today in every country in the world are not the last generation of this great human family to have the opportunity to live comfortably within sustainable planetary boundaries, because you lacked the will and could not find it in your hearts to reach consensus on the sustainability goals to ensure their future lives on Earth.

In the final analysis the second QoQ that urgently needs to be addressed is:

How can UN member states reframe the set of power relations between governments, corporations and civil society in a globalized world that keep us on unsustainable pathways? How can we transform these relations before it is too late?

Denny Taylor