Welcome to the sustainability lab


© GIZ/photothek. Jeffrey D. Sachs, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, at the Bonn Conference for Global Transformation.

‘We don’t need to ask ourselves ‘Can it be done?’ We need to ask ourselves ‘How can it be done?!’’ Speaking at the first Bonn Conference for Global Transformation, Jeffrey D. Sachs, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, got straight to the point: ‘Especially in times of climate disaster, famine and war, taking sustainable action is the only viable option. There is an urgent need for international dialogue so we can learn from one another and push ahead with putting our sustainable plans into practice.’ This is precisely what the 700 delegates from 70 countries did at the two-day conference as they shared their effective ideas and approaches, expanded their global networks and took inspiration from sustainability experts.

In order to ensure that future generations can live in a healthy and fair world, we need ideas from the likes of Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy from India, who uses sign language to train women from poor rural regions as solar technicians. Or from the Kenyan Su Kahumbu Stephanou, who sends text messages about livestock breeding to organic farmers. Or from Penhleak ‘Pinkie’ Chan, who collects information on Cambodian development and government projects, and makes it available to the population through the ‘Open Development Cambodia’ online portal. By preparing the information in a clear way, the common citizen can understand it and take action when necessary.

How can global transformation towards sustainability succeed? ‘The most important thing is that we feel responsibility towards one another,’ says Vandana Shiva, Alternative Nobel Prize winner, at the Bonn Conference. ‘Equality and justice are the foundation for a sustainable future.’

In 2015 the UN will decide on the new sustainable development goals. These will also apply to industrialised countries. At the conference, Claudia Roth, Vice President of the German Bundestag, highlighted the key role that Germany has to play in promoting effective global sustainability: ‘So many countries look to us to see whether and how sustainability can be achieved, and not only in the energy and business sectors. They quite plainly say that if Germany can do it, then they will attempt it too.’

The participants will take home with them the unusual perspectives from the ‘sustainability lab’, as a Moroccan delegate called the Bonn Conference for Global Transformation. In 2017 they plan to meet again in Bonn – bringing with them new experiences and ideas.