The world is currently plagued by increasing poverty and continually
widening divisions between the haves and the have-nots. These divisions
- the environmental divide, the policy divide, the vulnerability gap and
the lifestyle divide - all threaten sustainable development. They must
be addressed urgently, and with greater success than has often been the
case in the past. Certain key areas of attention have been identified
for global action at all levels to ensure the success of sustainable development.
Prime among them are alleviating poverty for the world's have-nots, reducing
excessive consumption among the more affluent, reducing the debt burden
of developing countries, and ensuring adequate governance structures and
funding for the environment.
Underlying this action, however, must be the greater provision of and
access to information in all its forms as the fundamental basis of successful
planning and decision-making. The information revolution holds the possibility
of providing cheap and reliable information in appropriate forms to all
stakeholders in the environment - decision makers, local communities,
the general public - thus enabling them to participate more meaningfully
in decisions and actions that determine the courses of their daily lives
and of those of succeeding generations.
Time is running out. Planning for the future
UNEP, Pramkaew, Still Pictures
The final section of GEO-3 presents possible
policy options for the future based on UNEP experience, the GEO-3 assessment
and wide consultations at different levels. The suggestions are intended
as a check-list from which to make appropriate selections for action.
The overriding need in policy development is for a balanced approach towards
sustainable development. From the environment perspective, this means
bringing the environment in from the margins to the heart of development.
The fields where action is suggested cover the need to:
- Rethink environmental institutions because they need to adapt to new
roles and partnerships to fulfil present obligations and confront emerging
- Strengthen the policy cycle so that it becomes more rigorous, systematic,
integrated and able to develop policies that are better attuned to specific
localities and situations.
- Provide an enhanced international policy framework to overcome the
fragmentation and duplication inherent in the present system.
- Use trade more effectively for the benefit of sustainable development
to capitalize on the new opportunities provided by trade liberalization.
- Harness technology for the environment and manage the associated risks
to maximize the potential of new technologies to deliver substantial
environmental and social gains.
- Adjust and coordinate policy instruments, including various legal
frameworks, and measures such as valuing environmental goods and services,
ensuring that markets work for sustainable development and promoting
voluntary initiatives, to develop appropriate packages that work more
effectively for the environment.
- Monitor policy performance with the aim of improving levels of implementation,
enforcement and compliance.
- Re-define and share roles and responsibilities between local, regional
and global levels to provide efficient solutions to managing complex
and varied situations at a variety of scales.