November 29, 2012, NEW YORK – The Leadership Council of the new Sustainable Development Solutions Network gathered at Columbia University to chart new pathways to global sustainable development. The Solutions Network operates under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More than 70 top scientists, business leaders, politicians and civil society leaders from around the world attended.
At the meeting, Eni, the Italian energy company, announced it would establish a major new Solutions Network initiative on “Energy for All in sub-Saharan Africa.” The Novartis Foundation of the Swiss-based global pharmaceutical company announced its support for a Solutions Network Initiative to train and deploy 1 million community health workers across Africa.
In speaking to the group’s closing session, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the critical role that sustainable development plays in the UN’s global agenda and commended the participants for their leadership in helping to spur innovations and solutions.
“We are at a critical turning point. Imperfect industrial processes and competing priorities on the international agenda make the world’s trajectory unsustainable,” said UN Secretary-General Ban. "Innovative science-based solutions will provide the answer to many of the complex and interlinked challenges that the world faces today. The perspectives offered by the academic and scientific community are paramount to the post-2015 development agenda. The SDSN will provide clarity about what solutions science and technology can offer to today’s problems on a global scale.”
The Solutions Network mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem-solving at local, national and global scales. Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, and special advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, directs the Solutions Network. Laurence Tubiana, director of IDDRI and professor at SciencePo (France), and Xue Lan, professor and dean of the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University in China, co-chair the Leadership Council. The Earth Institute hosts the secretariat of the network. The Solutions Network will work closely with United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions and other international organizations, and will provide technical support to the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
“Over the course of the last two days, the Solutions Network addressed the great global challenges — climate change, poverty, hunger, loss of biodiversity — with realism but also great optimism, knowing that new and powerful solutions can be found even for the toughest of problems,” said Professor Sachs. “These knowledge leaders will help to promote innovative solutions, spur local problem-solving around the world, and support the UN Secretary-General and the international community as they work to establish the post-2015 global goals and milestones for sustainable development.”
Ted Turner, global business leader, philanthropist and founder of CNN and the United Nations Foundation, a founding member of the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, joined for the two-day event and will be working with other leaders in sustainable development to help guide and advise the network going forward.
The network has established thematic groups to support global problem solving in critical areas such as poverty eradication, gender equality, universal access to healthcare, the transition to low carbon energy, and more resilient cities. Over the coming months, the Solutions Network will hold a series of regional meetings with heads of state, business leaders, scientists, researchers and academic experts in Nairobi, Paris, Berlin, Malaysia and Beijing. The full Leadership Council will gather again in New York next April to finalize its report to the UN Secretary-General on the post-2015 agenda.