Sustainable development is a recurring theme at Davos as global leaders in business, government and civil society meet atop a Swiss mountain to improve the state of the world. But this year the tenor of the debate was different with the recognition that the old model cannot and must not survive. There was a palpable collective will to make 2015 the start of a new era of sustainable development. In the one to one conversations I had with fellow delegates and the panel sessions and meetings I joined, I continually felt the rising tide of a new movement which gives me confidence that this year brings real hope for sustainable development.
I believe this year is a historic and defining moment that will call upon leaders in business, civil society and government to work in partnership and put the world on a course of recovery. I believe this year is a landmark year for the debate on sustainable development; the fight against poverty and our last chance to stop catastrophic human induced climate change. I believe this year is a year of dignity and decision; for the poorest most displaced people, promises must become outcomes.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a defining set of 17 ambitious goals covering a broad range of critical impact issues, including ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests, are set to become reality in September building on the work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals, these statements of ambition that have been discussed and debated over since the Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012, will provide a foundation that can lift over 1.2billion people out of entrenched poverty and create a new low-carbon economy.
The MDGs have achieved a lot of what they set out to do, most notably they have helped to more than half the number of people living in absolute poverty, giving hope to over 700 million men, women and children. The SDGs will build on this work, but will be fundamentally different. The SDGs will require us to reshape the global economy with responsible capitalism as the bedrock of this process.
Finance for Development
According to The IMF's World Economic Outlook, Global GDP is approaching USD80 trillion. In short, there is enough money in the world to meet the USD2.5 trillion additional monies needed annually to help economies transition to sustainable development. The challenge is, channelling world financial flows away from armed conflict, unfair tax agreements and bribery and corruption and towards priorities such as health, education, job creation and low-carbon energy.
In July 2015, world leaders will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at UNCTAD's Finance for Development conference to discuss the reshaping of global financial systems. The conference will focus on all financial flows, including how aid money, foreign direct investment, trade and remittances can be effectively used to achieve development outcomes.
A Generation's Obligation
According to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, "Ours is the first generation that can end poverty, and the last that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change". If the world can create momentum in Ethiopia and solidify commitment to the SDGs in September, then maybe the world can garner the political will in Paris in December to support a global agreement that will keep human induced global warming to less than 2oC.
In many respects, 2015 gives me hope; and so it should. I look, however, at the recent UNFCCC COP in Lima and the annual circus that occurred there and in Warsaw, Doha, Durban and others before it and hope fades a little. But I still have hope and faith in the human beings that make up our political system; the human beings that lead our businesses; and the human beings that campaign tirelessly for a fairer and more environmentally sustainable world that we will do the right thing. After all, "the arc of human history bends towards justice".
I believe that 2015 can be a moment in history and am reminded of other defining moments that have shaped nations and the world we live in. I am reminded of the faith and hope of the civil rights leaders in 1960's America and most notably Martin Luther King - "With...faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope".
2015 gives me hope, but we need faith in the political system, in businesses, in civil society and in the people running them to ensure that the promise of the SDGs is fulfilled and the global economy works for all communities, now and in the future.
This is my hope, but as a leader in business, as a member of the House of Lords and as a charity trustee, what about what I can do? I will continue to use my influence, and that of the business I work for and the organisations I am a part of, to ensure the message of change and the opportunity this represents for communities living in poverty and the world facing dangerous climate change, is made. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that we help to shape the debate and provide the solutions our clients need to meet and lead this change. I will also work towards making sure the impact we have inspires a foundation of confidence so change can be empowering for the communities we work for.
2015 is a year of hope for sustainable development!