The Rio +20 outcome document, paragraph 85(k), calls for a Global Sustainable Development Report GSDR, in order to bring together dispersed information and existing assessments and to strengthen the science-policy interface at the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF). The United Nations Secretary-General tasked the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs with elaborating a first prototype report. A first prototype report has been published this year. It is a rich and open cluster of approaches and contents, with an open structure, inviting discussion and further elaboration about methods and content. “It focuses on global sustainable development in terms of issues, impacts, institutions and technology. It maps sustainable development assessments and related processes and highlights emerging issues identified by scientists; assesses sustainable development progress; tells the “Stories” of future pathways toward sustainable development based on the literature and discusses investment and technology needs; assesses various approaches to measuring sustainable development progress; identifies lessons learnt from national, regional and global case studies of the climate-land-energy-waterdevelopment nexus; presents illustrative science digests for decision-makers; and suggests a number of issues for consideration.”
Thinking of the forthcoming SDGs, the starting work of the HLPF, the UN-Conferences and Special Programmes on different subjects that are crucial for a global sustainable development as well as of the many national and international efforts to advance it, the usefulness of a GSDR seems quite evident. It would provide a worldwide overview about the state of the process, key issues, key players, best practices, special difficulties and long-term perspectives. So all persons and institutions involved would be in position to acquire useful information, the necessary orientation, and be able to determine more precisely where and how to concentrate their efforts and whom to collaborate with. But as soon as one starts to discuss more precisely the structure, contents, range and methods of such a report, the enormous challenge of composing it becomes obvious: The more generally and globally the perspective chosen, the less it says about the specific situation or development in a determined region or subject. What political or geographical borders should structure the report? Should it be structured by them at all? What range of time should be covered – past, present and the future, and to what degree? How to determine key issues? – Should the seventeen SDG be taken as a basis of the report? Or should they be further reduced to its five roots of assuring basic human needs, basic human rights, good house-holding, good governance and political coherence? It seems to be by far easier to formulate difficult questions than to find good answers.
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The insight that modern democracy, its procedures and decision-making are rather short-term guided, is not new.
When Alexis de Tocqueville travelled through the United States of America in the first half of the 19th century, he made an honest effort to understand what American democracy was and how it worked. He thought American democracy – and democracy as he came to understand it in general – hardly able to deal with long-term issues and to work steadily and effectively for long-term goals. The short time until the next elections, its influence on the behaviour of the elected politicians, the fast changing emotions of the people, the many possibilities to manipulate them and the readiness among influential members of the society to do so for particular interests – all these were and still are good reasons for serious doubt in this matter.
Because of the enormous growth of our economical, technical and organizational possibilities to change the world’s outlook within a few years’ time and the racing speed of the development of our societies, the issue of shorttermism and ways to reform and develop our political decision-making institutionally in order to allow a sustainable, long-term shaping of our future have become more and more urgent. By now, they are crucial for our efforts to guide communities, countries and the whole world away from actual nofuture paths towards sustainable, long-term pathways of development.
The Future Council Foundation, founded in 1997, has since tried to initiate the creation of future councils to complement the work of governments and parliaments systematically and institutionally with a long-term dimension and to make it politically arguable and convincing. Within the last years quite a few institutions of that kind have been created – not very strong ones, but already quite tenacious. By creating the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and by establishing global sustainable development goals, within the United Nations a kind of a World Future Council is being created these months.
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The recent rate, spate and global dimension of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) is quite alarming and presents the human race with abundant challenges, including the need to propose proportionate research, responses, strategies and policies. An understanding of the multifaceted social and ecological settings in which infectious diseases occur is also desirable. Over the years, the human race has been confronted with EIDs including Nipah virus, West Nile virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and dengue hemorrhagic fever (Weiss, 2008). In July 2003, the World Health Organization declared that the global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) had been contained; less than six months later, in December of 2003, an even greater threat–the avian influenza H5N1 virus–emerged (WHO, 2005). Recently came Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS), which has spread quite rapidly from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Lebanon, Qatar, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait and Iran) to North Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria), Asia (Malaysia, Philippines), and Europe (United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Greece, and Italy). The first case was diagnosed in the United States on May 2nd 2014 (Adeyemo, O.K. 2014). The ongoing Ebola virus disease which was first detected in March in West Africa is the latest in the epidemic of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
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