Connecting poverty eradication and environmental sustainability is the "make or break" for the world's future, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). In this realm, small countries such as Costa Rica can rise to be world leaders.

"Small countries can pick up new ideas for sustainable development more quickly than large countries. Costa Rica is a good example of the path to be followed for the world we want," said Helen Clark, UNDP administrator.

The UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone, states the organization's website. Operating in 177 countries and territories, they offer global perspective and local insight to help "empower lives and build resilient nations".

World sustainability model by WikipediaMs. Clark was in San Jose, Costa Rica in March 2013 along with the Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, Nicolas Hulot, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Achim Steiner, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, Carlos Roverssi, for a conference on the role of environmental sustainability in the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after 2015. Co-sponsored by the Governments of Costa Rica and France, and organized by UNDP and UNEP, the high-profile meeting brought together more than 100 participants from all over the world to explore how environmental issues can be integrated into the global development framework that is referred to as the "Post-2015 Development Agenda."

In 2000, 189 countries of the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration to free people from extreme poverty and improve basic health, education and rights. This pledge turned into the eight Millennium Development Goals to be accomplished by 2015.

Millennium Development Goals

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

The UNDP and UNEP now are working to integrate environmental sustainability with economic and social progress, with an eye to the future after 2015.

"The imperative now is to move from a discourse focused on trade-offs between growth, poverty, and environment, to one which looks at how to advance the three strands of sustainable development together," said Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand. "The world will not be able to sustain economic and social progress if the environment is wrecked. Unfortunately there has not always been sufficient political will to address these vital issues. Environmental protection is often seen as an obstacle to economic growth. Yet economic growth which strips out the planet's ecosystems is not sustainable."

Costa Rica is a world leader in environmental sustainability

Costa Rica in 2011 was highlighted by the UNDP for being a good performer on environmental sustainability. "Costa Rica, itself is well-known for pursuing environmentally sustainable approaches to development. Through its ecotourism, reforestation, an innovative system of payments for environmental services, and its drive to rely 100% on renewable sources of energy, Costa Rica has been putting the green economy into practice in ways which benefit people and the environment," Clark said in her opening remarks at the March conference. "The world has much to learn from Costa Rica and others who share its commitment to sustainable development."

The UNDP is working with Costa Rica for sustainable pineapple cultivationClark stated that Costa Rica is a leader in environmental sustainability, but still has a long way to go. "One of the most exciting initiatives that the UNDP has worked on in Costa Rica is on a sustainable platform in pineapple, since Costa Rica has become the largest exporter of pineapple without being particularly friendly with the environment," she said, adding that sustainability should be repeated in other sectors, such as coffee.

"Traditional development patterns have pushed our planet toward its natural boundaries. Environmental sustainability is essential for safeguarding the world's ecosystems and for building a peaceful and equitable world," expounded Clark.

The actions needed to move the world onto a sustainable path will require commitments from governments, the private sector, and civil society alike. In her discourse, Clark quoted Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla: "As global citizens, we need to face the future together … there are no passengers on this planet; we are all crew members."

United Nations' The World We Want program logo

Contribute your own ideas as to how you want the world to be in the future. The UNDP launched an unprecedented global conversation on their website through which people everywhere in the world can help shape the future development agenda after 2015. Include your ideas on the World We Want 2015 website; then vote for 6 out of 16 priorities for the Post-2015 agenda through the MY World survey.

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By Shannon Farley

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