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Sustainable Development must be nature based

Submitted by on 17 Apr 2015 – 16:30

 Luc Bas and Cyriaque Sendashonga from IUCN argue that sustainable development requires an holistic approach.

Photo: Jonathan Leung

Photo: Jonathan Leung

At IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature – we aim to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to value and conserve nature, to ensure its effective, sustainable and equitable governance, and to deploy nature-based solutions to challenges including climate change, food-security and equal development.

The year 2015 provides a number of unique opportunities for our Union to be involved in international negotiations that – we hope – will bring the world a step closer to our vision of “a just world that values and conserves nature”. One of these opportunities is the current discussions on the Post-2015 Development Agenda – a UN-led process to define the future global development framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This will culminate in the adoption of the Agenda at the United Nations Summit in September, and include a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are to be universal, i.e. applicable to both developed and developing countries, and transformative. The SDGs will aim at guiding sustainable development over the next fifteen years (2015-2030), so this year’s negotiations are of key importance.

Sustainable development is widely considered to be based on three dimensions: economic, social and environmental, and they need to be reflected in an interconnected manner in the SDGs. IUCN advocates that environmental protection should be understood and considered as the foundation on which social and economic development can thrive, rather than only a stand-alone ambition. In particular, IUCN promotes the use of nature-based solutions and the effective governance of natural resources to ensure that the SDGs truly embrace a strong environmental dimension.

The EU is strongly committed to the SDGs and has taken on the role of one of the “driving forces behind mobilizing action internally and worldwide”. IUCN welcomes the EU Council Conclusions on a Transformative Post-2015 Agenda (December 2014), which reflect many of IUCN’s own priorities, especially the acknowledgment that environmental sustainability is the backbone of prosperity and well-being for societies throughout the world.

We also support the EU Council’s view that GDP is a flawed measure of progress – indeed, agreed indicators will have to include social, human and natural capital to ensure that human well-being and sustainable livelihoods are captured in the way we measure “growth”.

However, despite the EU Council’s recent announcement to collectively pledge 0.7% of its GNI to official development assistance by 2015, we are concerned about the EU’s and its Member States’ actual implementation of these commitments.

On 5 February, the European Commission published a Communication entitled “Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015”. This document sets out principles and main components required for the implementation of the Post-2015 Agenda – both financial and non-financial. It emphasizes the EU’s willingness to positively engage in the global debate on the “means of implementation” for the future SDGs and will provide the basis for an EU common position in the intergovernmental negotiations.

It is clear that if we are to achieve genuine sustainable development all around the world, all available resources – public and private, domestic and international – must be mobilized and used complementarily.

IUCN welcomes this Communication, and we hope that the EU Council Conclusions (to be adopted in the spring) will be as ambitious as the EU’s position we have seen so far. We believe that the EU has the potential to be a leader of transformation in this crucial year and wish that it will maintain its high level of ambition.

Luc Bas is Director at IUCN EU Representative Office and Cyriaque Sendashonga is Global Director at the IUCN Policy Group. @IUCN