• Arendalsuka: Changing the conversation on environment | Olav Kjorven

    21 Aug 2013

    Arendalsuka. Does it ring a bell? Probably not, unless you are Norwegian.  Arendalsuka is an interesting Norwegian creation: an annual open forum where stakeholders in politics and industry meet with citizens to debate public policies and policy development. I had the pleasure of attending and introducing our perspective on integrating environmental sustainability into the next global agenda that will follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    As we approach the MDG target date of 2015, the United Nations is leading an unprecedented public outreach effort that has so far given voice to almost 1.3 million people in 194 countries on their expectations for the next development goals. This new approach is re-shaping multilateral decision-making by empowering citizens to come together, discuss and take concrete action on pathways to a more sustainable future. Their voices are being heard by Member States and feeding into the process to deliver the next set of development goals.

    This “global conversation” has revealed that people believe overwhelmingly that sustainable development needs to be approached in an integrated way – addressing the economic, social and environmental aspects simultaneously. An analysis of responses from thematic consultations in 60 countries placed food security and sustainable agriculture as top priorities. National consultations stress the importance of accountability and greater involvement of civil society in decisions about the use of natural resources.  

    The outcomes of the consultations and the ongoing MyWorld survey on people’s expectations for the future demonstrate that environmental sustainability is in the hearts and minds of people around the globe. This is encouraging for all of us working in development. As we look forward to a bold, yet practical post-2015 agenda, it is clear that we need more than government action to advance sustainability. We need engaged citizens playing an active role to ensure governments take bolder action to address the world’s most urgent challenge of eradicating poverty and protecting the planet’s limited resources. Citizens’ participation will be fundamental if the new agenda is to reflect more deeply the value of the environment, and how it relates to current human development challenges.

    The main message I took away from Arendalsuka reinforced my own beliefs that enabling citizens’ participation and creating platforms for citizens to share their expectations for the future are fundamental steps for any development agenda. The UN has helped begin that global conversation, and the narrative on environmental sustainability is evolving. The conversation is shifting to environmental sustainability as a pre-requisite to human development.

    Have your say! Why do you think environmental sustainability matters to human development?