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4 ways to save Rio+20 summit on sustainable development

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But the more we learn, the more we understand the gravity of the challenge. And we have not yet seen the necessary courage or political will to turn good intentions into effective, collective action. That political will and that courage is the common responsibility of the world’s citizens – only through us can it become the will of governments.

Until then, the results of our inaction are all around us. Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption are still imposing excessive demands on resources such as water. We continue to alter our climate by polluting our atmosphere.

Economic inequality between countries, and within them, is growing. The financial crisis and high food prices add to the challenge, and 1 in 7 of the world’s population won’t have enough to eat today.

Extreme poverty increases the degradation of the environment. It is hard to focus on the long-term when you face a daily struggle to feed your family.

The Rio summit gives international leaders the chance to come together to tackle these challenges and accelerate the progress of the last two decades. The agenda is broad, but we believe there are several areas where attention should be focused.

First, summit participants must learn from the success of the UN millennium goals. Agreed targets drive collective action. These efforts must be intensified in the years remaining until the 2015 deadline.

We believe setting “sustainable development goals” that address the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of development in a comprehensive way can galvanize efforts to grow economies and at the same time tackle poverty and inequality and protect the environment. These goals should be universal and have implications for every country, but in different ways.

Second, those attending the summit need to find ways to ensure sustainable development stays at the top of the global agenda. The world does not yet have the right mechanisms to deliver this goal. We believe that the creation of a sustainable development council – with a prominent position in the United Nations, a clear mandate, and the necessary capacity and authority – could make a real difference to developing, monitoring, and implementing policies to advance sustainable development.

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