Global deal for sustainable development

Review of OECD Forum 2001

Danish environment and energy minister, Svend Auken, called for a global deal on sustainable development between North and South at the start of the second annual OECD Forum in May. This challenge kicked off two days of debate on the theme “Sustainable Development and the New Economy” which attracted more than 1 500 participants from 80 countries.

Mr Auken carried the results of their debates back to a special session on sustainable development at the OECD annual ministerial meeting (see above) immediately after the Forum.

The gathering at La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris from 14-16 May enabled representatives from government, business, labour and civil society to debate with high-level speakers like Donald Evans, US Secretary of Commerce, Mike Moore, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Thierry Demarest, Chairman of TotalFinaElf, Govindasamy Rajasekaran, Secretary-General of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Ricardo Navarro, Chairman of Friends of the Earth and David Ignatius of the International Herald Tribune. Participants included more than 20 ministers, as well as international CEOs, labour leaders, NGOs and media personalities. Christine Ockrent of France Télévision, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times and Daniel Franklin of The Economist Group moderated public discussions on the social and economic challenges facing societies in achieving sustainable development. In a riveting presentation on “The Future of Life”, Harvard entomologist, Professor E.O. Wilson, warned Forum participants that the radical reduction of the world’s biodiversity has already wrought irreversible damage in the form of the complete elimination of many species.

The Forum created a platform for debating three major OECD reports, on the “new economy”, sustainable development and the OECD Environment Strategy for the 21 st century. These discussions helped shape the three OECD ministerial meetings which took place that week involving economic, trade, environment and energy ministers. The OECD sees partnerships between government and all branches of society as an essential part of building sustainable societies. And through the Forum, the OECD has lifted its co-operative activities with civil society to the highest level, effectively becoming the OECD’s “civil society summit” and an integral part of the ministerial process. At their annual council, OECD ministers “welcomed OECD Forum 2001 as an effective multi-stakeholder dialogue providing a valuable input into our work”. Next year’s Forum is already being planned for May 2002 in Paris, with the theme “Partnerships for Sustainable Societies”.

©OECD Observer No 228, September 2001

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