Speech for the International Conference "Sustainable Development Goals for Ukraine"

27 Jun 2013

Your Excellencies, Mr. Chairman, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen!

It is my pleasure to be with you today and open this conference on sustainable development goals for Ukraine. I am looking forward to our discussion on sustainable development, green growth, climate change, and other important things that are on the conference agenda. I hope that at the end of the conference we will be able to answer one fundamental question: “How do we make sure that Ukraine develops in a sustainable way ensuring growth for us today and at the same time protecting future generations’ ability to do the same?”

Sustainable development is the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This concept rests on two pillars: firstly, equity both between and within generations and, secondly, the equal status of social, economic and environmental goals. This means that it must be possible for the needs of all people to be met both now and in the future. At the same time, the Earth is to be conserved in such a way that life in conditions of dignity and security is possible for all people over the long term. This second pillar is also known as the «three-dimensional» model, as it classifies existing resources into social, economic and environmental dimensions. Ukraine’s environmental challenges are significant and present one of the most complex areas for the country to address given the pressures of continues economic growth and social transition. The only feasible response to these challenges is transition to sustainable development.

Many countries, in both the south and the north, have designed and implemented policies and strategies that are making sustainable development happen. Ukraine has not yet prepared its official Strategy of Sustainable Development. However, thousands of Ukrainians have already expressed their opinions about future sustainable development goals for Ukraine by voting for the World They Want after 2015, a global consultation process launched right after “Rio+20.” I have just looked at the priorities that Ukrainians ranked highest. These are: better healthcare, good education, clean water and sanitation, and more job opportunities. In other words, these are priorities of a development that is sustainable in the long run. During the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly in September last year, President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych further confirmed that “UN sustainable development efforts will remain Ukraine's unchanging priority.” It is now high time to follow up on this commitment with an intensive phase of implementation.

We would like to call for the highest level political support for the development of the national strategy for sustainable development and are ready to support Ukraine in this process. I am proud to say that we work together with the national counterparts on a project which will provide assistance for developing a national sustainability strategy of Ukraine and I would like to use this opportunity to invite all of you to join these efforts. Sustainable development is a process of partnership that depends on the involvement of all forces in society. The public sector at all levels, as well as the population – not to mention organizations and companies – are therefore called upon to take the initiative. Policies must create the right framework conditions for this to happen, and must support private efforts.

Many opportunities exist to create a future that is economically viable, environmentally friendly and socially just. 1. Governance is the glue that will bind together the three strands of social, economic, and environmental development, both in policy and in practice. Governments should create policies and tools that promote sustainable development, eliminate harmful subsidies, create incentives for the private sector to use sustainable production patters, and foster responsible attitudes and behaviours of its citizens. 2. Business and industry. Most people around the world count on the business sector for their employment and livelihood, whether self-employed, entrepreneurs, farmers, or employees. A number of Ukrainian businesses have started walking the path of reducing their environmental impacts, increasing energy, water and resource use efficiency; recovering used materials. They should be praised for these steps and promoted as good examples. Public-private partnerships can become key drivers of change.

UNDP has a significant experience of building such partnerships. In Ukraine, we have successfully implemented a number of projects which prove the efficiency of this approach (project on improving district heating system in Rivne, Lugansk Project on reconstruction of the landfill to capture the methane emitted from the waste). 3. Education, science and innovation. Knowledge and innovation are powerful drivers of development. Ukrainian universities should actively work towards producing a cadre of professionals equipped with competencies and tools necessary for a transition to a sustainable development paradigm, while primary and secondary schools need to become more inclusive so that children become effective, productive and responsible member of society. 4. Society. Civil society in Ukraine is at the forefront of environmental protection and discussions on environmental and social issues. We, at UNDP, work very closely with numerous civil society organizations to support their voice in bringing important issues on the table for discussion and further action. We have supported the creation of the Ukrainian Association of Protected Areas, encouraged participation of CSOs in the Rio+20 Conference, etc. 5. International organizations. UNDP as a part of the UN system worldwide globally takes the lead in promoting and supporting sustainable development. It was in 1987 that the current definition of sustainable development was born and we have provided support to countries worldwide ever since by bringing in knowledge and expertise and exposing best practices to help them in their transition. I would like to welcome representatives of the government, civil society, business and academia to call on UNDP in Ukraine as a trusted partner.

We are here to support you. The more we postpone the transformation, the higher will be the cost. In the medium and long term, new lifestyles, production and consumption patterns will emerge by necessity. It is therefore wise for Ukraine to accelerate the transformation to sustainable development and make its economy ‘green’ now. I encourage you to have an open and constructive dialogue and would like to say again that we need to act now, we need to act strong and we need to act together! Thank you and good luck!