Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sweden has a longstanding commitment to sustainable development. 40 years ago, in 1972, world leaders met in Stockholm for the first UN Conference on the Human Environment. 113 countries and more than 400 organisations gathered under the banner "Only One Earth". The theme indicated a milestone event. It was the first truly international recognition of the interdependence between human and nature, and the need for a change of the international development agenda was expressed.
The strength and continuity of the Stockholm agenda turned out to be a fantastic global cooperation. The concept of sustainable development with its three dimensions — social, economic and environmental — is established. Other UN conferences on the theme followed. In Rio de Janeiro 1992 the Agenda 21 provided a detailed path for our common international and national actions. In Johannesburg 2002, a comprehensive framework was finally established.
Since 1972 the world has changed considerably. Economic growth has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Democracy has become the predominant form of government in the world. Advances in science have given us a better understanding of the state of our ecosystems. It has also increased the knowledge how we can use our limited natural resources in a sustainable manner.
At the same time, we are facing many challenges and crises such as persistent poverty in many parts of the world. We can see remaining differences between and within countries, between women and men and severe human rights abuses. By failing to act upon scientific findings on climate change, chemical pollution and malfunctioning ecosystems, we risk tipping points with consequences for human communities and ecological systems.
Today, 40 years after the first UN Conference in Stockholm and 20 years after the Rio Conference, world leaders and stakeholders meet again. The UN Conference here in Rio will be an opportunity to renew and reinforce our commitment to work together. We have to act for a sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations.
Hopefully the Rio+20 Conference will focus on solutions and ways forward. We must accept reality as a starting point, but be smart and turn problems into possibilities. I believe that a development that is socially and environmentally sustainable will always be economically sustainable.
We have done the impossible before. The world succeeded to come together and decide upon the removal of Freon. People were willing to make the effort. In the beginning it seemed to be a hard and impossible task, but all the pessimists were proven wrong. If there is a will, there is a way!
My hope is that we during these conference days can inspire each other so that the next generations can look towards the future with faith and trust.