Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, President of Costa Rica, President of ECOSOC, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. The Acceding Country Croatia*, the Candidate Countries Montenegro*, Iceland+ and Serbia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
Europe is a continent with many different traditions and languages, but also with shared values. One striking characteristic of the Lisbon Treaty, is that it puts to the forefront the values on which the European Union is based, human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights.
In an increasingly interdependent world of the 21st century, such values take on increased importance. Promoting these values, as well as peace and the well-being of the Union’s peoples are now the main objectives of the Union. In the Lisbon Treaty, these general objectives are supplemented by a more detailed list, including the promotion of social justice and protection, the fight against social exclusion and discrimination, and the insertion of the objective of, a highly competitive social market economy.
While a majority of the objectives are not new, such as ‘a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment’, ‘the combating of social exclusion and discrimination’, and ‘social progress’, however some are. One could mention for instance ‘full employment’, as well as ‘social justice’, ‘solidarity between generations’ or ‘rights of the child’, which were not mentioned in previous Treaties. The same goes for the objectives of ‘respecting the Union’s rich cultural and linguistic diversity’ and ‘ensuring that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced’.
All this we feel, very much ties in with today’s event for which we are grateful to the Kingdom of Bhutan for organising. The Resolution introduced by Bhutan and adopted by the GA last year on “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development” (65/309) underscored that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption can impede sustainable development, and recognised the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being of all people. We consider that the four dimensions of the discussion this morning- Happiness and Wellbeing, ecological sustainability, fair distribution and efficient use of resources, are key elements to ensure that the citizen feels totally connected with our world. As highlighted these remain at the centre of our objectives as a Union, besides of course the promotion of basic Human Rights, which we consider as a crucial component of human well being.
However, the question springs up how does one monitor progress towards what may be called ‘an inclusive economy’ at the national, let alone at the global level. Such monitoring would require indicators based on internationally comparable data and must be based in a conceptual framework and selected according to well specified criteria. There is agreement that the measurement of progress is essential in the sustainable development context, as well as in a transition towards an inclusive green economy and that a whole range of indicators for the three dimensions exist. However there is much to do to build on these indicators and other data sources before they are suitable to measure welfare and social well-being.
During recent years several initiatives were started to develop new indicators which can be used as measures of societal well-being, as well as measures of economic, environmental, and social sustainability. In 2007, the European Commission, hosted the high-level conference “Beyond GDP”. The objectives were clear, but it was also clear that it is not easy to develop such indicators that are as clear and appealing as GDP, but more inclusive of environmental and social aspects of progress.
There are a number of other initiatives which sought to develop new indicators which can be used as measures of societal well-being, as well as measures of economic, environmental and social sustainability. I am happy to note that within the European Union, work is fully under way as testified by the recent publication of Eurostat’s feasibility study on well-being indicators. In line with the conclusions of the Stiglitz report, the work addresses the many dimensions of well-being; it combines various objective and subjective measures; and it tries to deepen our understanding of the relations between the various Quality-of-Life and well-being dimensions. We are ready to continue cooperating and contributing to work in this area because the need of having adequate indicators to address global challenges such as climate change, poverty, resource depletion, health and quality of life, cannot be questioned.
We are also grateful for the appropriate timing of the organisation of this event, which coincides with ongoing preparations for the Rio+20 Conference. Rio+20 presents an historic opportunity for all of us to renew our political commitment to the sustainable development and poverty eradication agenda and furthermore to initiate a profound, world-wide transition towards a sustainable future. In this regard, the EU and its Member States strongly believe that in Rio we should agree to accelerate and broaden the worldwide transition towards a green economy that promotes sustainable development and contributes to poverty eradication around the world, and we should agree on improved governance for sustainable development, including by strengthening the environmental pillar in this regard.
Our view is that a green economy is one in which policies and innovations enable society to use resources efficiently to enhance human well-being in an inclusive manner, while maintaining the natural systems that sustain us.
Let me conclude by saying that we look forward to continue engaging in a proactive way to ensure that the discussions today are not only reflected in the report of the meeting, but also in the discussions in the coming weeks leading to the Rio+20 Conference. Achieving wellbeing will require a change in our way of doing things and different forms of actions and policy measures implemented at different levels and by different actors. The need for action is clear, what is required is to ensure that all actors are engaged effectively towards an ambitious outcome for the benefit of all.
Thank you very much.
* Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
+ Iceland continues to be a member of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area.