Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2012
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Home Page


Advances in Sustainable Development


This supplement attempts to be a radar screen for recent/emerging/forthcoming advances in sustainable development. In selecting items for this supplementary page, priority is given to information about publications and tools with an educational and human-centric focus. This update includes the following reminders that sustainable development has a human face:

1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action
2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences
3. Advances in Sustainable Development
4. Advances in Integral Human Development
5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development
6. Sustainability Games, Databases, and Knowledgebases
7. Sustainable Development Measures and Indicators
8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation
9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community
Note: Items in this page are updated as information is received and as time permits. If the reader knows about new pubs/tools that should be announced in this page, please write to the Editor.

1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action




Love cannot be silenced.
It never has.
It never will.
Let justice roll like a river from the oceans to the hills.

Rise up, Sisters. Rise up.
And stand with you your heads held high.
We are faithful, loving, and wise.
Dancing along side by side.
With a Gospel vision to lead us,
And Holy Fire in our eyes.

Sr. Kathy Sherman, CSJ
Ministry of the Arts



UN Conference on Sustainable Development
20-22 June 2012

A preliminary analysis of the Rio+20 agreement is offered here. Below are links to some substantive reviews published after the end of the conference:

  • Summany of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (13-22 June 2012), ENB-IISD, 25 June 2012.
  • A first reading of The Future We Want, Jose Ignacio Garcia, EcoJesuit, 25 June 2012.
  • Rio+20: Tim Jackson on how fear led world leaders to betray green economy, Jo Confino, The Guardian, 25 June 2012.
  • Rio+20 - Red Cross Red Crescent Urges Investment in Resilience and Women, IFRCRCS, AllAfrica, 25 June 2012.
  • Rio+20: Who owns the 'Green Economy'?, Matthew Rimmer, SBS, 25 June 2012.
  • Women’s Major Group “Disappointed and Outraged” at the Rio+20 Outcomes, Seyyada Burney, Nourishing the Planet, 25 June 2012.
  • Rio+20: On the Same Planet, But Not the Same Page, Murray Griffin, Bloomberg News, 26 June 2012.
  • BacktoOurCommonFuture.png
    Sustainable Development in the 21st Century
    UN SD21 Project, September 2012

    This summary presents selected findings from the SD21 study reports.

  • Food and agriculture: the challenge of sustainability
  • Assessment of implementation of Agenda 21
  • Assessment of implementation of the Rio Principles
  • Challenges and ways forward in the urban sector
  • Building a sustainable and desirable Economy-in-Society-in-Nature
  • Perspectives on sustainable energy systems for the 21st century
  • Lessons learned from sustainable development scenarios
  • Sustainable land management for the 21st century
  • All the reports are accessible at here




    Imagine All the People: Advancing a Planetary Movement
    Contact: Uchita de Zoysa


    United Nations Volunteers
    Contact: Jordi Llopart

    2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences



    Energy and Climate News

    BURN Energy Journal

    Environmental News Network

    Planet Ark
    World Environmental News

    World News Network

    Mother Earth News

    Climate Action News

    World Technology News

    Sustainable Development Media

    World Pulse


    Environmental Science & Technology



    WiserEarth News

    New Internationalist

    The Global Journal

    Trade & Environment Nexus

    Yes! Magazine

    Human Development News

    Science Daily
    Earth & Climate News
    Sustainability News
    Science & Society News

    International Institute for
    Sustainable Development (IISD)
    Reporting Services

    Policy-Strategy Coverage

    Sustainable Development Policy & Practice
    Sustainable Development - Small Islands
    Biodiversity Policy & Practice
    Climate Change Policy & Practice
    Energy Policy Issues
    Multilateral Environmental Agreements
    Earth Negotiations Bulletin

    Theme Coverage

    Sustainable Development
    Biodiveristy & Wildlife
    Chemicals Management
    Climate & Atmosphere
    Forests - Deserts - Land
    Human Development
    Intergovernmental Organizations
    Trade & Investment
    Water - Oceand - Wetlands

    Regional Coverage

    Lating America & Caribbean
    Near East
    North America
    South West Pacific

    Rio+20 Coverage

    Sustainable Development Conference
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    4-6 June 2012

    United Nations News Service
    Rio+20: Making it Happen
    UN Sustainable Development News
    UN Gender Equality News

    Value News Network

    Catholic News Service

    Anglican Communion News Service

    Ekklesia Christian News Bulletin

    Religion News Service

    LiveScience News

    Inter Press Service (PSI)

    Triple Bottom Line
    CSR News

    The Progress Report

    Global Health News

    Kosmos Journal


    Eldis Development Newsfeeds

    General - all subjects

    Newsfeeds by Subject

    Ageing populations
    Aid and debt
    Children and young people
    Climate Change
    Climate adaptation
    Corporate responsibility
    Finance policy
    Food security
    HIV and AIDS
    Health systems
    ICT for development
    Influencing policy
    Jobs, Events and Announcements
    Manuals and toolkits
    Trade policy

    Newsfeeds by Region

    East Asia and Pacific
    Latin America and Caribbean
    Middle East and North Africa
    South Asia



    Beyond 2012:
    The Future We Want “To Create”

    UN CSD Education Caucus
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    June 2012

    Back to Our Common Future
    UN, SD21 Project, September 2012

    Feeding a Thirsty World:
    Challenges and Opportunities
    for a Water and Food Secure Future

    Stockholm International Water Institute, 2012

    Climate Action Book 2011-2012, Climate Action/UNEP, 2012

    Early Warning Systems
    UNEP, 2012

    2012 World Population Data Sheet
    Population Reference Bureau, 20 July 2012

    Trends in Global CO2 Emissions:
    2012 Report

    PBL Netherlands, 18 July 2012

    Pervasive Gloom About the World Economy
    Pew Research Center, 12 July 2012

    Inside Stories on
    Climate Compatible Development

    CDKN, July 2012

    Inclusive Wealth Report 2012
    UN IHDP, June 2012

    The Future We Want
    UNCSD, 22 June 2012

    Renewables 2012 Global Status Report
    REN21, 11 June 2012

    Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5)
    UNEP, 6 June 2012

    Inclusive Green Growth:
    the Pathway to Sustainable Development

    World Bank, May 2012

    Inclusive Green Growth
    in Latin America & the Caribbean

    World Bank, May 2012

    Ending the Suffering of Millions of Women
    UnCUT Voices Press, May 2012

    Country Reports
    on Human Rights Practices for 2011

    US Dept of State, May 2012

    International Economic Trends
    FRB St. Louis, May 2012

    World of Work Report 2012:
    Better Jobs for a Better Economy

    ILO, May 2012

    Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas
    IEA, May 2012

    Ecosystem Services:
    Charting a Path to Sustainability

    NAS, May 2012

    Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development
    ISFD Brochure, ISDB, May 2012

    Global Integrity Report 2011
    Global Integrity, 7 April 2012

    World Development Indicators 2012
    World Bank, April 2012

    Tracking Clean Energy Progress
    IEA, 25 April 2012

    Global Monitoring Report 2012:
    Food Prices, Nutrition, and the
    Millennium Development Goals

    Peggy Garvin, World Bank, April 2012

    Measuring Financial Inclusion:
    The Global Findex Database

    Heather Negley, World Bank, April 2012

    2012 Global Cities Index
    and Emerging Cities Outlook

    Peggy Garvin, World Bank, April 2012

    GLAAS 2012 Report:
    UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment
    of Sanitation and Drinking-Water

    Adrian Janes, WHO, 15 April 2012

    Global Report for Research
    on Infectious Diseases of Poverty

    TDR WHO, April 2012

    A strategy for restoring confidence
    and economic growth through green
    investment and innovation

    Dimitri Zenghelis
    Grantham Research Institute
    in Climate Change and the Environment
    London School of Economics, April 2012.

    World Happiness Report 2012
    Earth Institute, April 2012

    The human factor in the
    global environmental debate

    IHDP UNU, Spring 2012

    Map of the Global Transition
    to a New Economy

    GTNE, 17 March 2012

    World Atlas of
    Gender Equality in Education

    UNESCO, 8 March 2012

    Electricity from Renewables
    ECLAREON, Berlin, 13 March 2012

    Themed Edition on
    The Geography of Sustainabilty
    Journal of Sustainability Education, March 2012

    Role of Policy and Institutions
    in Local Adaptation to Climate Change

    ICIMOD, March 2012

    Global Outlook on Sustainable
    Consumption and Production (SCP) Policies

    UNEP, March 2012

    Sustainable Insight:
    Expect the Unexpected

    KPMG, February 2012

    State of the World’s Children 2012:
    Children in an Urban World

    UNICEF, 27 February 2012

    Greening Development:
    Enhancing Capacity for Environmental
    Management and Governance
    OECD, 10 February 2012

    World Development Report 2012:
    Gender Equality and Development
    The World Bank, 2012

    Development without Carbon as Climate Policy,
    Elizabeth A. Stanton, Stockholm Environment Institute, January 2012

    Sustainable Energy for All:
    A Framework for Action
    The Secretary-General’s High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All, January 2012

    Green Energy for a Billion Poor,
    Nancy Wimmer, World Council of Renewable Energy, 2012

    (Responses to Environmental & Societal
    Challenges for our Unstable Earth)
    Synthesis Report
    European Science Foundation,
    Brussels, 16 February 2012

    Research and Education:
    Drivers of Transformation
    German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), Berlin, February 2012

    Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5), UNEP, 6 June 2012"> Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5),
    Summary for Policy Makers,
    UNEP, 20 February 2012

    The State of Renewable Energies in Europe,
    Adrian Janes, EurObserv'ER, 20 February 2012

    21 Issues for the 21st Century:
    UNEP Foresight Report
    Peggy Garvin, United Nations, 20 February 2012

    2012 Environmental Performance Index
    EPI, Yale University, 26 January 2012

    Resolving the Food Crisis:
    Assessing Global Policy Reforms
    Since 2007

    ITAP, 25 January 2012

    Human Rights Watch World Report 2012
    HRW, 24 January 2012

    Global Employment Trends 2012:
    Preventing a deeper jobs crisis

    ILO, 24 January 2012

    ASEAN in the Global Economy:
    An Enhanced Economic and Political Role

    ERIA, 23 January 2012

    Global Go-To Think Tanks Report 2011
    TTCSP, 19 January 2011

    Global Economic Prospects 2012
    World Bank, 18 January 2012

    World Economic Situation and Prospects 2012
    United Nations, 18 January 2012

    Ecumenical Women Advocacy Guide
    Ecumenical Women, 10 January 2012

    Human Rights Report 2011
    Odhikar, Bangladesh, 7 January 2012

    Global Risks 2012
    World Economic Forum, January 2012

    Poor People's Energy Outlook 2012:
    Energy for earning a living

    Practical Action, January 2012

    Climate Change and Development Strategy
    U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), January 2012
    One Pager ~ Full Report



    Long Range Energy Alternatives
    Planning System (LEAP)

    SEI Energy Community, 29 July 2012

    Industrial Efficiency Policy Database
    IETD, July 2012

    Technology Cost Database for Renewables
    NREL, July 2012

    Mapping the Global Transition
    to a New Economy

    New Economics Institute
    July 2012

    Open Source Software for
    Crowdsourcing for Energy Analysis

    UNIDO, June 2012

    Planet under Pressure 2012
    Debate Graph

    Adaptation Support Tool

    Nitrogen Footprint Calculator

    Terra Populus:
    Integrated Data on
    Population and Environment

    NSF & University of Minnesota
    March 2012

    2012 Environmental Performance Index
    Interactive Map & Database

    EPI, Yale University, January 2012

    Environmental Data Explorer

    Clean Energy Information Portal

    Mapping the Impacts of Climate Change

    Eye on Earth
    Global Mapping

    EEA, December 2011

    Database of Actions on Adaptation
    to Climate Change

    UNFCCC, December 2011

    Climate Scoreboard
    Climate Interactive, 2011

    REN21 Renewables Interactive Map
    REN21, 2011

    Calculator of the
    Carbon Footprint of Nations

    NTNU, 2011

    Geospatial Toolkit (GsT) for
    Integrated Resource Assessment

    NREL, November 2011

    Climate Impact Equity Lens (CIEL)
    Stockholm Environment Institute
    November 2011

    Global Adaptation Index
    Global Adaptation Institute
    Fall 2011

    Gridded Population of the World
    CIESIN, Columbia University, 2011

    The New eAtlas of Gender
    World Bank, 2011

    Statistics and Tools
    for Gender Analysis

    World Bank, 2011

    Gender Statistics Database
    World Bank, 2011

    Live World Data
    The Venus Project, 2011

    Clean Energy Analysis Software

    RETScreen International, 2011

    IGES CDM Methodology Parameter Data
    IGES, 2011

    IGES Emission Reductions Calculation Sheet
    IGES, 2011

    OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit
    OECD, 2011

    OECD Family Database

    OECD Social Expenditure Database

    Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services
    and Tradeoffs (InVEST)

    Version 2.1, Natural Capital Project, 2011

    Interactive Map and Rankings for the 2011 Failed States Index
    Foreign Policy and Fund for Peace, August 2011

    Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)
    NASA & Columbia University

    IGES GHG Database

    Emission Factors Database

    Renewables Interactive Map

    Forestry Industry Carbon Assessment Tool
    Green Resources, Tanzania

    Agent-based Computational Economics
    of the Global Energy System

    Climate Hot Map
    Union of Concerned Scientists

    Solar Thermal Barometer


    Forest Monitoring for Action

    Water Evaluation And Planning System

    Global Land Tool Network

    UN-Energy Knowledge Network
    Multi-dimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI)
    and Energy Development Index (EDI)

    Measuring Energy Poverty
    Visualization Platform


    United Nations Data
    UN Statistics Database
    UN MDG Indicators
    UN Human Development Index (HDI)

    Humanity's Footprint Data
    Ecological Footprint
    Footprint for Nations
    Footprint for Cities
    Footprint for Business
    Carbon Footprint
    Personal Footprint
    Footprint & Biodiversity
    Footprint & Human Development

    Earth Policy Institute Data Sets
    Population, Health, and Society
    Natural Systems
    Climate Change
    Energy Resources
    Transportation Systems
    Food and Agriculture
    Economics & Development

    World Bank
    World Development Indicators (WDI)

    Data for the Social Sciences

    STAR Database Beta-Test Now in Process
    Invitation to Participate

    Links Government Investment,
    Science, Technology,
    Firms, and Employment

    Sustainable Society Index
    Interactive Map

    Interactive Mapping of
    Population and Climate Change

    Population Action International

    Global Advocates Toolbox
    Population Action International

    Teaching and Learning
    for a Sustainable Future:
    Dissemination and Training Toolbox

    UNESCO Education for
    Sustainable Development

    Economic Input-Output
    Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA)

    Green Design Institute
    Carnegie Mellon University



    Conference Alerts
    Find Conferences Worldwide
    by Topic, Country, or Keywords.

    Calls for Papers
    Find Calls for Papers Worldwide
    by Specialization, Country, or Keywords.

    Journal Articles
    The latest Tables of Contents
    from thousands of scholarly journals
    Search by journal title, ISNN, or keywords


    Metadata for Meeting Global Challenges
    DCMI International Conference
    Kuching, Malaysia, 3-7 September 2012

    International Conference on
    Culture, Politics, & Climate Change

    Boulder, Colorado, USA
    13-15 September 2012

    Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) Congress
    Munich, Germany
    14-16 September 2012

    3rd International Conference on
    Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability
    and Social Equity

    Venice, Italy, 19-23 September 2012

    World Clean Technology Summit (WCTS)
    Kampala, Uganda
    26-28 September 2012

    Evidence for Sustainable Development
    Berlin, Germany, 5-6 October 2012

    CLIMATE 2012 / KLIMA 2012
    The World's CO2-friendly Scientific
    On-line Climate Conference
    "Climate Change, Island States
    and Sustainable Technologies"
    Hamburg, Germany, 5-9 November 2012

    IADIS International Conference on
    Sustainability, Technology and Education

    Perth, Australia, 28-30 November 2012

    Ninth International Conference on
    Environmental, Cultural, Economic
    and Social Sustainability

    Hiroshima, Japan, January 23-25, 2013

    Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference
    UNU, Tokyo, Japan
    28-31 January 2013

    Decisions that Work:
    Linking Sustainability, Environmental Responsibility
    and Human Well-being

    Society for Human Ecology
    Canberra, Australia, 5-8 February 2013

    International Conference on
    Trade, Markets and Sustainability
    , Symbiosis Institute of International Business (SIIB)
    Pune, India, 22-23 February, 2013

    Twelfth North American
    Basic income Guarantee Congress

    NABIG, 8-10 May 2013

    European And Latin American Conference
    On Climate Change Management

    Antigua, Guatemala, Central America
    29-30 August 2013

    3. Advances in Sustainable Development

    Summany of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13-22 June 2012
    Earth Negotiations Bulletin
    International Institute for Sustainable Development
    25 June 2012

    "The third and final meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), Pre-Conference Informal Consultations Facilitated by the Host Country, and the UNCSD convened back-to-back in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 13-22 June 2012. During their ten days in Rio, government delegations concluded the negotiations on the Rio outcome document, titled “The Future We Want.” Representatives from 191 UN member states and observers, including 79 Heads of State or Government, addressed the general debate, and approximately 44,000 badges were issued for official meetings, a Rio+20 Partnerships Forum, Sustainable Development Dialogues, SD-Learning and an estimated 500 side events in RioCentro, the venue for the Conference itself.

    "In closing the Conference, UNCSD President Dilma Rousseff (Brazil) stressed that Rio+20 was the most participatory conference in history and was a “global expression of democracy.” Taking place in parallel to the official events, approximately 3,000 unofficial events were organized throughout Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Governments and the Rio Conventions organized Pavilions showcasing their experiences and best practices, and the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development, a Global Town Hall, a People’s Summit, the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability and spontaneous street actions were just a few of the many events around the historic city of Rio de Janeiro, discussing the Rio+20 themes and the broader requirements for sustainable development implementation."

    To keep reading this comprehensive summary report, click SUMMARY
    For coverage on worlwide energy access issues, click ENERGY
    For coverage on world justice, governance, and environmental law issues, click JUSTICE
    For day by day coverage of the conference proceedings, click DAY BY DAY

    4. Advances in Integral Human Development

    Human Development Report 2011
    Sustainability and Equity:
    A Better Future for All
    UNDP, November 2011

    "This Report explores the integral links between environmental sustainability and equity and shows that these are critical to expanding human freedoms for people today and in generations to come. The point of departure is that the remarkable progress in human development over recent decades that the Human Development Report has documented cannot continue without bold global steps to reduce environmental risks and inequality. We identify pathways for people, communities, countries and the international community to promote environmental sustainability and equity in mutually reinforcing ways.

    "The cover diagram symbolizes how different policies can have different implications for sustainability and equity. Whenever available, we should prefer solutions that are good for the environment while also promoting equity and human development. Pursuing sustainability and equity jointly does not require that they be mutually reinforcing. In many instances they will not be. Sometimes the most feasible alternative involves trade-offs between sustainability and equity and requires explicit and careful consideration. No trade-off is isolated from a society’s structural and institutional conditions, and so we must address the underlying constraints and identify positive synergies between sustainability and equity. This Report is aimed not only at finding positive synergies but also at identifying ways to build them."

    On RIO+20 and integral human development:

    5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development

    The latest from James Gustave Speth:

    The latest from Yale University:

    Summer Symposium on
    Religion and Environmental Stewardship
    5-7 June 2012.

    Go to PDF with LARGE IMAGE

    Source: Yale Religion & Ecology Forum


    What was the real message of "Limits to Growth"?

    Source: Club of Rome Videos and YouTube

    Source: Growing within Limits: A Report to the Global Assembly 2009 of the Club of Rome
    Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), 2009

    See the webcast of the symposium on
    Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet
    Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 1 March 2012

    The Influence of Donella Meadows and the Limits to Growth
    Rob Dietz, The Daly News, 30 March 2012

    MIT Predicts Half of Humanity to Be Culled in Post-Industrial Crash
    Aaron Dykes, Real News Reporter, 10 April 2012

    Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?
    Madhusree Mukerjee, Scientific American, 23 May 2012

    2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years
    A Report to the Club of Rome
    Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of The Limits to Growth
    by Jorgen Randers, Chelsea Green, July 2012

    6. Sustainability Games, Databases, and Knowledgebases

    The Global Transition to a New Economy (GTNE) world map and database:

    GTNE Map and Database by the New Economics Institute & International Partners

    The Earth Charter Game is now available in two languages (English and Portuguese):

    Earth Charter Game from Instituto Harmonia na Terra on Vimeo.

    7. Sustainable Development Measures and Indicators

    2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
    Switzerland Ranks at Top of the 2012 EPI
    and Latvia Takes #1 Spot in New Trend EPI Rankings
    Ysella Yoder, Yale University, 26 January 2012


    The Summary for Policymakers provides a quick look at the EPI framework and methodology,
    and summarizes the overall EPI and Pilot Trend EPI rankings, results, and conclusions.

    FORTHCOMING: New Global Green Economy Index, Dual Citizen Inc (September 2012)

    8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation

    The graph below is a simple simulation of
    world population, gross production/consumption, and energy availability trends:

    As of EOY 2011, World Population = 7 Billion, World GDP = 61 Trillion PPP Dollars,
    World Energy Use = 0.5 Zeta Joules (or approx 82 billion barrels of oil), and
    Average Consumption per Capita = 9000 Dollars

    The simulation tipping points would seem to approximate current trends. If the supply of usable energy from fossil fuels peaks and declines as shown by the green curve, how much energy would have to be generated from other sources to support the current GDP output? Even for the sake of social solidarity and ecological sustainability, would most people in the "developed" nations be able/willing to "survive" with $9000/year?

    The past cannot be changed, and the future is unknown, but there is empirical evidence to the effect that:

    1. Fossil fuel resources are high in energy content but are not infinite.
    2. Fossil fuel emissions are environmentally detrimental and/or potentially unsafe.
    3. Currently known clean energy alternatives offer relatively low energy content.
    Given that fossil fuels are being depleted, pollution levels are damaging the environment, and clean energy alternatives may not provide enough energy to sustain industrial economies, is it wise to just continue doing "business as usual" and trusting that some earthshaking technological breakthrough will come to pass soon enough? Is it fair for people in the "developed" nations to keep indulging in energy consumption and waste while approx. one billion people must subsist on $2 per day or less?

    9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community

    UN launches
    Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)
    to help find solutions to global problems

    The scale of the global sustainable development challenge is unprecedented. The fight against extreme poverty has made great progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but more than 1 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty. Inequality and social exclusion are widening within most countries. With the world at 7 billion people and current annual GDP of US$70 trillion, human impacts on the environment have already reached dangerous levels. As the world population is estimated to rise to 9 billion by 2050
    and global GDP to more than US$200 trillion, the world urgently needs a framework for sustainable development that addresses the challenges of ending poverty, increasing social inclusion, and sustaining the planet.

    Under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, and in line with the recently launched High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was announced on August 9, 2012 and will provide global, open and inclusive support to sustainable-development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. The SDSN will work together with United Nations agencies, other international organizations, and the multilateral funding institutions including the World Bank and regional development banks, to mobilize scientific and technical expertise to scale up the magnitude and quality of local, national and global problem solving, helping to identify solutions and highlighting best practices in the design of long-term development pathways.

    The Sustainable Development Solutions Network: Mobilizing scientific and technical expertise for local, national, and global problem solving

    Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General on the MDGs, will direct the project with the core aim of creating an open, inclusive, and world-class global network of expertise and problem solving. The network will comprise mainly universities and scientific research institutes, but will also tap technical expertise within technology companies, science foundations and academies of sciences and engineering. Columbia University's Earth Institute will serve as the Secretariat for the Network.

    The global network will accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated approaches to the interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting the world.

    The network should therefore spawn a new kind of sustained problem solving, in which experts, leaders, and citizens in all parts of the world work together to identify, demonstrate, and implement the most promising paths to sustainable development.

    PRESS RELEASE: View the full text of the press release

    OPERATIONAL LAUNCH: The SDSN website will launch September 1, 2012.

    POINT OF CONTACT: Erin Trowbridge,

    The UN at 67
    Georgios Kostakos


    The United Nations is celebrating its 67th birthday on 24 October 2012. A lot can be said about its many achievements, but also its numerous shortcomings. Without going into the historical details, I try in this piece to identify the UN’s strengths and weaknesses, as they relate to today’s world. I conclude by making seven suggestions for improvement, namely:

    1. Less talk and more focus on problem-solving;
    2. More involvement of regional organizations to rationalize the number of negotiating parties;
    3. Organic connection to limited-membership intergovernmental bodies that matter, notably the G20;
    4. Better use of the broad expertise available in the entire UN system;
    5. Bringing together all relevant stakeholders into joint projects focusing on implementation;
    6. “Quantitative easing” at a global scale, to kick start economic activity in developing countries, and fulfill various financing-for-development promises;
    7. Bringing the UN closer to the average individual and making them feel that it is their United Nations.

    Those familiar with the UN’s good deeds may want to skip the first long section on strengths and go to the second, more critical part, or go straight to the final section, where I analyze the seven suggestions for improvement.


    The UN and the system of multilateral agencies that revolve around it[i] have some clear strengths, namely:

    +      Near-universal membership of countries, especially in the UN General Assembly, and therefore moral authority and legitimacy in representing “the World”. This is particularly exemplified in the “global village” gathering of national leaders each September in New York, but also on special occasions for global challenges like food security (Rome, 2009), climate change (Copenhagen, 2009) and sustainable development (Rio de Janeiro, 2012).

    +      Norm and standard setting in areas related to human rights, including women’s and children’s rights, workers rights, refugee rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, disabled people’s rights, etc., all of which serve as a guide for action, and to judge the actions of, governments around the world.

    +      Creation or guarantee of principles that regulate behaviour among states, such as the peaceful resolution of disputes, the “common but differentiated responsibilities” for addressing climate change and other global challenges, the interconnection of the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social, environmental), etc.

    +      Efforts at conflict prevention and peace-making by the UN Secretary-General and his various special envoys may have varying degrees of success but are often the only ones accepted by all parties in a conflict. And when the peaceful settlement of disputes fails, there is also peacekeeping and peace enforcement, under an increasingly unrepresentative but still legally empowered and potentially effective Security Council.

    +      Concrete goals and mechanisms for advancing the wellbeing of humanity, especially its less privileged parts, notably through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    +      Technical standards for safe operation and cooperation in various areas of human activity, from safe travel by air and sea, to telecommunications, postal services, health, keeping the environment clean, safely operating nuclear plants, recognizing the world’s cultural heritage, etc. through organizations like ICAO, IMO, ITU, UPU, WHO, UNEP, IAEA, UNESCO, etc.

    +      Warning systems based on scientific evidence about imminent threats, from diseases and environmental degradation to all-encompassing climate change, food crises and even financial crises, through agencies like WHO, UNEP, IPCC, FAO, UN-DESA, UNCTAD, IMF, World Bank,[ii] etc.

    +      Humanitarian assistance, from feeding, vaccinating and schooling poor children through UNICEF, to providing for the victims of drought and hunger through WFP, to taking care of the needs of refugees through UNHCR, etc.

    +      Development assistance, including expert knowledge, capacity building and funding, through UNDP, the World Bank, IFAD, GEF, etc.


    Inevitably, the UN also has some quite clear weaknesses, which have to be acknowledged and dealt with:

    -      Too much talk and too little action often characterize the UN, not least the General Assembly, where the democratic one-country-one-vote principle looks increasingly irrelevant compared to the powerful influences that shape the real world outside, from state and non-state actors. By the time agreements are reached, often by consensus, among 193 countries, they contain very little that can be actually applied in their convoluted prose.

    -      Country representation mainly by diplomats, in the UN General Assembly and even in the more “specialized” Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), makes tackling global challenges with strong technical elements like climate change, food insecurity or unemployment a virtually impossible task. Instead of problem solving, what all too often happens is negotiating of lowest-common-denominator political texts.

    -      A ritualistic insistence on debates of the past, between North and South, East and West, and related diplomatic point-scoring, with minimal or no connection to today’s world realities and to solving the actual problems facing humanity.

    -      Fragmentation of efforts and lack of coordination between the political centre in New York and the more specialized technical agencies of the UN system that cover from economics and finance to health, education, telecommunications, etc. In addition to bureaucratic infighting, this reflects a lack of coherent guidance by national governments, which are represented in the UN specialized agencies by different line ministries that often take a narrow sectoral approach.

    -      No effective connection to limited participation bodies, like the G20, that powerful countries create to deal with key issues outside the egalitarian “’one country one vote” system of the UN General Assembly.

    -      Reliance on ad hoc arrangements of questionable accountability and effectiveness for engaging powerful non-state actors, like the globalized private sector and civil society, which can nowadays mobilize a lot more resources than small or medium countries can.

    -      For UN Headquarters, too much reliance on and embracing by actors based in New York and the US Northeast, often non-governmental actors, including media, foundations, think tanks and academic institutions, which attempt to monopolize the attention of UN senior staff and diplomats and become “the world” in their eyes, disconnecting them from the realities faced by the actual 7-billion-people-strong worldwide constituency.

    Suggestions for improvement

    From this author’s experience with the UN, in theory but also very much in practice, the following suggestions if implemented could make a positive difference for the UN and the world:

    1. Less talk and more focus on problem-solving, bringing into the discussion experts, from governments and other stakeholders, who actually know in depth the issues and have to deal with them on a daily basis in the real world. Thus each problem-solving debate/conference could be preceded by a mapping of the relevant actors globally, with invitations sent to high-level representatives of such actors to participate. It could all be topped up with an intergovernmental debate to keep official delegates and leaders happy, but once the expert voices have been heard. Timid steps in this direction have been made by the General Assembly, its Main Committees and ECOSOC, but they are completely informal, disconnected from any decision-making and the selection of invited experts is often haphazard. Having permanently stationed at the country missions to the UN, along with the diplomats, experts in the key areas of UN activity, including economic, social and environmental, from the relevant country ministries, would help a lot too.

    2. More involvement of regional organizations to rationalize the number of negotiating parties and reach decisions faster and of a more applicable nature. Arrangements in this direction could be introduced without a (very difficult to achieve) amendment of the UN Charter, by agreeing that regional organizations (real ones, like the AU, ASEAN, CARICOM, EU, League of Arab States, Mercosur – not just geographical groupings) and key individual countries would get together to discuss draft resolutions before formal submission to the General Assembly and other intergovernmental bodies, ideally including the Security Council too. How each organization would be represented, by the country that chairs it during that period or through a supranational body as in the case of the European Union, it would be up to the countries covered by the respective organization to decide. This way the one-country-one-vote system would be maintained for final approval, while allowing initial consultations and action planning in smaller groups. Of course, a lot would depend on the degree of integration and effectiveness of the regions, which is far from homogeneous, but would probably have the positive side effect of expediting regional integration.

    3. Organic connection to limited-membership intergovernmental bodies that matter, notably the G20. In fact, actual decision-making or at least decision-preparation in the UN context on the basis of regional representation and involving only major countries individually would obviate the need for the establishment of ad hoc bodies outside the UN.  While such bodies may be useful for crisis management, eventually they suffer from the lack of legitimacy or succumb to broader participation rituals and proceduralism over time.  Interesting to note in this respect the current General Assembly President’s stated intention to connect the UN and the G20, or the “G193” and G20. It remains to be seen how he will attempt to do that and how successful he will be where others failed.

    4. Better use of the broad expertise available in the entire UN system, bringing together into a coherent whole the now scattered organizations, and providing central leadership, vision and direction. This would mean upgrading and making more substantive the existing system-wide mechanism, the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), which is chaired by the UN Secretary-General and attended by the executive heads of UN specialized agencies, funds and programmes. The CEB in its current state, with its two meetings per year and with minimal high-level attention in-between, cannot realize its potential and is led adrift by petty competition between agencies for predominance and access to limited resources. Stronger leadership by the UN Secretary-General and his Deputy, coupled with appropriately coordinated guidance by UN member states, who are represented in the assemblies and governing bodies of each UN system entity but are often incoherent themselves, would make the UN system much better value for money for the global taxpayer.

    5. Bringing together all relevant stakeholders into joint projects focusing on implementation. International public-private partnerships increasingly promoted by the UN Secretary-General are moving in this broad direction, covering issues of global concern from health to energy and education. However, a lot more needs to be done to ensure accountability, from the selection of the participants to the planning phases, to the actual investment of pledged resources and the achievement of the stated results. Before that happens, such partnerships can be variously seen as social or image-making opportunities for those participating (“bluewashing”), or products of political expediency, or as a way of bypassing UN member state control over substance, process and budgets. It will be interesting to see how the participation of stakeholders other than member states will be organized in the context of the high-level political forum mandated by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro last June and due to meet for the first time in September 2013. Another project mandated by Rio+20, the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), can offer the context for broad mobilization and partnerships, especially as regards sustainable development implementation, in the post-MDG/post-2015 period.

    6. “Quantitative easing” at a global scale, to kick start economic activity in developing countries, and fulfill various financing-for-development promises. Developed countries have been adding liquidity to their systems to help themselves out of the financial crisis by basically printing new money through their central banks. Why not have the world’s “central bank”, the IMF, issue or allocate Special Drawing Rights, which have an exchange rate equivalent to all major currencies, to be used for infrastructure projects in developing countries, especially least developed ones, to give their citizens a chance to get access to electricity, mobile telephony, drinking water, the Internet. SDR allocations for such use can be of the magnitude of the annual Official Development Assistance (ODA), which amounted to about US$129 billion from OECD DAC countries in 2010. ODA commitments are now faltering due to developed country problems, but the use of SDRs should not be instead but should supplement them. Such new liquidity would not destabilize the global financial system, as it is much lower than the new money produced by developed countries, and would in any case partly at least return to developed and emerging economies, from where the hardware, software and know-how will have to come from, providing an additional stimulus for their economies. Such SDRs be issued in annual installments for a certain period, say over 5 years to start with, and can be counted as innovative financing also towards the annual US$100 billion by 2020 agreed at the UNFCCC COPs in Copenhagen and Cancun for climate change action.  Finally, some of this money could be used for large scale microfinancing projects enabling developing country smallholders and entrepreneurs, especially women, to start or expand agricultural and other small businesses, which can create a growth dynamic in their respective economies. A suggestion to use SDRs to mobilize climate change financing was put forward in recent years by IMF staff but was not pursued further; it may be time to revisit it. Of course, honest accounting, good governance, strict guarantees against corruption, transparency and accountability should be key parts of any such project.

    7. Bringing the UN closer to the average individual and making them feel that it is their United Nations, not an external force, even a good one. Beyond political declarations and even money, it is through a broadly shared global conscience that attitudes can change and actions can be generated at such magnitude that will have a positive impact on human societies and the planet. Promising salvation by a UN as an outside force, or making the UN the scapegoat for the lack of leadership and effectiveness of national governments, as is often the case, will not solve any real problem. The UN needs to work a lot more on its public image, on informing the global public about its real nature and capabilities. This requires a lot of honest and eloquent work out there, by headquarters and country teams and other offices – as well as civil society organizations, academics, religious leaders and others who realize the importance of the UN – for the hearts and minds of people.

    So there is a lot that needs to be done, and the UN has to run faster to keep up with developments in the world. But that can wait for one more day, and let this 24 October be dedicated to rejoicing in what the UN has already achieved. Cheers to those who have been in the centre of it all, the UN staff, as well as diplomats and experts from all around the world, who work in New York, Geneva, Bangkok, Santiago, Nairobi, Vienna and so many other offices and missions around the world day in and day out. Congratulations, praise be to you – and sleeves up again as soon as the UN’s birthday party is over!

    Georgios Kostakos

    Ixelles, 24 October 2012

    [i] For the membership of the UN system and the full names of the various organizations see:

    [ii] The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group are also parts of the UN system of agencies, even if they are often mentioned as rivals or alternatives to the UN, especially by finance- and economy-focused critics.

    Sustainable Energy for All

    Three broad objectives to be achieved by 2030:

  • Ensuring universal access to modern energy services
  • Doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  • Sustainable Energy for All: Actions and Commitments

    Sustainable Energy for All

    Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5)
    Summary Report, UNEP, 20 February 2012
    Full Report, UNEP, 6 June 2012

    Three highest priorities:

  • Aligning governance to the challenges of global sustainability
  • Transforming human capabilities for the 21st century
  • Ensuring food safety and food security for 9 billion people

  • GEO5UNEP2012.jpg
    Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5)

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