Dear Mr. Ambassador,
It is a pleasure to welcome you all today – at the momentous document-signing ceremony between the United Nations Development Program office in Baku and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. As you all know, this document envisages IDEA’s full cooperation with the UNDP in order to secure coordinated support from the United Nations system to the preparatory process for the Rio+20 UN Global Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.
RIO + 20 will mark the 20th anniversary of the historic 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which was also held in Rio de Janeiro. Focusing on the most topical themes of our time – the environment, sustainable development and the poverty eradication, this conference will once again bring government leaders, decision-makers, and environmental activists from across the world to address new and emerging challenges and ensure renewed political commitment from the member states.
20 years ago in Rio, experts came to a common definition that sustainable development is a balanced consideration of three mutually-reinforcing pillars – social, economic and environmental goals and objectives in both public and private decision-making. Environmental governance, thus, constitutes the third and the most important pillar of a sustainable development in any country. Principle 4 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development stipulates that “In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it”. Given the already booming social and economic life in Azerbaijan, the adjustment of country’s environmental performance to a better level deems to be a crucial step in attaining the sustainable development in our country. IDEA, as a campaign also committed to improving the role of youth in environmental governance and supporting international dialogue, embarked on a new long journey of “RIO – before and after”.
It was earlier this year that the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said young people needed to be included in national delegations to UN meetings, including the Rio+20 conference. The Secretary General’s clarion call that “young people can and must play a central role in bringing dynamic new ideas, fresh thinking and energy to the Rio+20 process” motivated us to harness the power of youth. There are 1.8 billion people aged 15-24 in the world, which creates a wonderful opportunity to put sustainable development at the heart of policy making for governments all over the world. This figure reaches almost three million only in Azerbaijan. If properly directed, this power can shift our world into a greener future.
Unfortunately, despite the advances and measures taken after the 1992 Rio conference, the state of the environment continued to decline and the divide between developed and developing countries continued to expand. The experience of the recent years demonstrated that in spite of the formation of new ecological institutions, they were unable to halt environmental challenges. This decline further reinstates the fact that environmental challenges need to be addressed through a further strengthening of international and environmental governance. Rather than adding new institutions, enhancing coordinated dialogue and strengthened cooperation should be at the focus of all global activities. To enhance and strengthen environmental dialogue and cooperation, IDEA is bringing together one hundred environmental activists from close and distant countries in late November to Gabala to sit together and brainstorm on ways to eliminate the ecological mismanagement in and around the region through coordinated efforts.
One of the most important topics of the Gabala camp, as well as the upcoming Rio+20 conference is green economy – a subject that we focus on widely. At the panels, we will address green economy as a mean to help lift the living standards and eradicate poverty – a key aim of Rio+20. Green economy is intricately interwoven with poverty eradication. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment shows that there is a direct relationship between the health of the environment and economic and social welfare. Unfortunately, while the global economy continues to struggle, it is all too common for policymakers to pull out from an agenda driven by sustainable policies. On that account, IDEA campaign members are committed to putting green economy in the center of the region’s development.
We announced November the month of ecology in Azerbaijan. In connection with this initiative, IDEA has also planned wide-ranging activities for everyone aspiring to build environmental-friendly region: community clean-up projects, mass tree planting, park restorations, installation of bird-houses around the city, re-introduction of endangered animals to the nature, remediation of contaminated soils, promotion of safe household water storage in the suburbs. We have started a campaign “Young tree for Young Spirit” – according to which, we estimate to plant three million trees until the Rio Conference, corresponding to three million young people residing in Azerbaijan. We went as far as planning a joint activity with the Azerbaijan Mountaineering Federation to organize an expedition to one of the highest peaks of the Caucasus Range and clean the slopes.
With this groundbreaking cooperation agreement and with the support and expertise of the UN, we – the IDEA campaign – aim to work on multiple fronts, from local and regional outreach to tapping into other spheres, like education, economy, agriculture, eco-tourism, energy, technology, youth, health, and etc. In order to raise awareness among the younger layers of our society, we will go to schools and universities; we will knock on every door; we will talk to every environmental activist; and we will make sure that those who are unaware of the ecological downturn of our century get enlightened and acknowledged. We will provide information to those in distant rural regions, educate those who care, create the synergy between those who want to make a green change in their lives. We will take our share of responsibility in creating – One Earth, one future!