The United Nations in the Age of Sustainable Development


  • Vuk Jeremić President, United Nations General Assembly
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs The Earth Institute at Columbia University


United Nations, sustainable development


Achieving sustainable development will be the over-riding challenge of this century. Throughout most of history, the challenges of integrating economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability were local or regional. In the 21st century, however, they are indisputably global. Only through global cooperation can individual nations overcome the interconnected crises of extreme poverty, economic instability, social inequality, and environmental degradation. In the Age of Sustainable Development, the United Nations will be more essential than ever. As foreseen in the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is the world’s meeting ground for global cooperation, and UN agencies have specialised knowledge of essential global importance. Yet the UN will have to be organised to succeed in this unprecedented challenge, to ensure much higher levels of accountability, timeliness, efficiency, and political commitment of the Member States and the UN itself. The proposal made at the 2012 Rio+20 Summit for a new High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) led by Heads of State and Government to oversee the UN’s new mandate in sustainable development is, in this regard, a critical starting point.