Welcome Speech by President Tarja Halonen
Former President of the Republic of Finland
April 5, 2013
It seems like an eternity has passed since the days of the Club of Rome and the Brundtland Commission. During the past decades, our knowledge on the state of the planet and on its future has become more defined. Sustainable development has been included in our daily vocabulary. But has it had an effect on our life style?
The world does not change when we want it to or when we know it needs a new direction. It only changes once we start to implement for it. Last summer at the Rio +20 Conference the results were smaller than we had wished, though bigger than the pessimists had feared. All the participants from member states to NGOs agreed that we need more efficient changes.
Sustainable development does not mean stagnation. Quite the contrary, our challenge is to create more from less. Economic growth is welcome – even necessary – around the world in order to enable development. But not any type of economic growth improves the welfare of people. It needs to happen hand in hand with decent jobs and decent living conditions for all.
Governments still have a central role in advancing sustainable development. In addition, we need the civil society, the business community and individual responsibility. We need global Commitments and regional cooperation. An active, progressive country can achieve a lot, but it can achieve even more with the right partners.
A clean Baltic Sea is the goal of our cooperation. The countries surrounding the Baltic Sea depend on each other, but the catchment area of our Sea reaches quite far away. We therefore need to cooperate with those countries, too. We have many combined efforts besides the protection of nature. Here in Saint Petersburg we have an excellent opportunity to evaluate matters through a wider perspective, which takes into account the benefits and drawbacks of other sectors, like fishery, maritime trade and tourism.
I want to warmly thank all of you, who have advanced this process from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg. Saint Petersburg is a splendid place to gather together. The efficient cleaning of waste water has been a significant reform for the cleanness of the Baltic Sea. The monitoring mechanism of the Baltic Sea Action Group (or BSAG) is a way to report about new success stories.
We have succeeded in many issues, as you will find out during the next days. The biggest challenges still lie ahead of us and concern agriculture and the increasing traffic.
In a few years’ time out whole United Nations family should decide on Sustainable Development Goals for the post 2015 era. The goals should increase the welfare of today’s 7 billion, or tomorrow’s 9 billion, people and at the same time decrease the burden on the environment.
There is vast interest in green economy, but also in seas, or blue economy. Our Baltic Sea cooperation can be an encouraging example of new know-how and a new type of collaboration.
I hope you accept my sincere appreciation and my words of encouragement to you.