Participants at the Fair Ideas conference – hosted by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) – did not shy away from making bold statements about what must happen to ensure development is fair, green and sustainable.
The Fair Ideas conference took place from 16 to 17 June as part of the run-up to the Rio +20 conference.
“IIED drew on its extensive network of partners and allies — built over our 40 years of research into sustainable development — to gather a world-class set of speakers and thinkers at our event in Rio,” says IIED’s director Camilla Toulmin. “Over two days of intense and enlightening debate, the participants at our Fair Ideas conference were able to show that sustainable development is not out of reach, but that solutions exist. The energy and ambition to take this agenda forward exists too, among those governments and businesses that understand that maintaining the status quo is not an option. Where they lead, others will follow or be left behind.”
Here are some excerpts made by attendees:
Ida Auken, Environment Minister, Denmark: “Brown economy has hit the wall and failed… Inclusive green economy is not only a way to go, it is the only way to go. Green economy is not about limiting growth – it is about enabling growth.”
Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP): “If you look at the official negotiations now you get an image of a world that is at a loss for what to do. The summit is like the vortex at the eye of a storm. To come here 20 years after the first Rio summit and see the depressing picture of what’s happened since should shake us out of our complacency. It’s an indictment of those of us who work on these issues: we elect politicians, shape markets, and choose leaders who get away with the kinds of policies we then lament. The summit should be a moment of introspection for the sustainable development community.”
René Castro, Minister of Environment and Energy in Costa Rica: “Initially we protected national parks and wildlife regions, with a ‘don’t take, don’t touch’ approach, but this was unsustainable. And so we shifted from full protection to promoting multiple uses — protection of forest cover is now combined with agroforestry to provide farmers with an extra income to incentivise having more trees.”
Paula Cabellero, Director of Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs, Government of Colombia: “We now have to make very difficult decisions that transcend business-as-usual scenarios. These will be hard. These will be expensive.”
Estebancio Castro Diaz, head of the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests: “Change needs to come from the grassroots, not UN tables.”
Shrashtant Patara, Vice President, Development Alternatives, India: “Social enterprises combine the strengths of business with the objectives of government to address social problems.”
Falguni Guaray, Coordinator, Servicio de Información Mesoamericano Sobre Agricultura Sostenible (SIMAS), Nicaragua: “Informality is not a lack of formality. It’s a strategy on its own.”
Bihunirwa Medius, Head of the Farmer Enterprise Development Unit, Kabarole Research and Resource Centre, Uganda: “The most successful partnerships are made through local leaders who understand the social values of farmers. This process is based on informality. There are no contracts, but there is understanding of local values.”
Pavan Sukhdev, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Green Initiatives for a Smart Tomorrow (GIST) Advisory: “The economy won’t change unless corporations behave differently. And if the economy doesn’t change then we can’t have sustainable development.”
Steve Bass, Group Head, Sustainable Markets Group, IIED: “Markets are a social construct and not a law of physics so we need mechanisms that shape the market to deliver what society wants”
Steven Stone, Chief of Economics and Trade Branch, UNEP: “Markets are what we make them — let us concentrate on fixing them.”
Sekai Catherine Chiremba of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation’s Leadership Council: “A dollar a month saved for a family means nothing; but a dollar a month per family in a whole community suddenly becomes more meaningful.”
Maria Sonia Vicenta Fadrigo, Western Visayas Regional Coordinator, Homeless Peoples Federation, The Philippines: “We should not under estimate the power of communities — communities in informal settlements will not make the economy green if they are excluded.”
Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development, University of Surrey, UK: “Can we really grow forever on a finite planet? This is an appeal, at the end of the day, to human ingenuity: are we clever enough to figure it out?”
Julia Marton-LeFèvre, head of IUCN: “Knowledge is the greatest tool for human progress but it won’t suffice — we also need leadership and determination to work together,” said.
Lidia Brito, Director of Science Policy and Capacity Building, Natural Sciences, UNESCO, Mozambique: “If you have knowledge, you are empowered to choose your options; the wiser we are, the better we can cope with difficult decisions.”
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