Ladies and Gentlemen,
Two months ago, Sweden organized the Stockholm +40 — Partnership Forum for Sustainable Development. The event was a way to alert that it is 40 years ago since the first UN Conference on the Human Environment took place, in Stockholm. I participated in the 1972 conference and was pleased to be able to attend again and address the audience and to share my personal reflections on the development since.
The Stockholm Conference in 1972 was a historical meeting. It was a starting point for putting global environmental and sustainability problems at the top of the political agenda. The Conference was followed by other global conferences on the same issues, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and Johannesburg in 2002. Now 40 years later we are back here in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
The recent Stockholm Conference gathered people from all parts of society. Researchers, civil society, business leaders, decision makers and not least the younger generation met to discuss issues that are vital to our future. The importance of the participation and engagement of the next generation cannot be overstated. As a leader and active member of the international scout movement, I have seen the great difference that committed young people can make.
Representatives from 74 countries came to Stockholm+40. Participants engaged in dialogues, discussions and round-tables connected to the three themes of the conference; sustainable innovations, sustainable production and sustainable living. Everyone shared their knowledge and experiences and many good examples were highlighted. All in all, it was a very successful meeting. It gave me great hope for an equally successful Rio+20.
The outcome from Stockholm +40 is called "the Stockholm Call for Action". It stresses the need for a broad engagement in Sustainable Development and the benefits of action. Democratic governance and human rights lay the foundation for sustainable development and economic incentives.
Since 1972, many countries including Sweden have started to solve the most urgent local problems. Air quality in cities and the quality of many rivers has improved. Today it is possible both to swim and fish in the center of Stockholm. The global society has also been able to successfully deal with the threat of a diminishing ozone layer. Since emissions of carbon dioxide are still growing globally, it is an indicator that we have not done enough to address that actual problem. On the other hand, the use of solar energy is now growing fast and the cost of solar cells have dropped rapidly.
Many challenges remain. For instance: How do we supply energy and food to a growing population in the world? How do we deal with threats to biodiversity? How do we tackle and handle climate change and its adverse effects? It's easy to despair, but I remain optimistic and I encourage you to do the same. Mankind has a way of turning problems into opportunities, and challenges into progress. We must trust in ourselves and in our ability to change.
International perspectives and cooperation are necessary to achieve global sustainable development. I also believe a development that is environmentally sustainable will in the long term always be economically sustainable. Working towards these goals, in partnership, should be the essence of our work here at Rio+20.
I would like to conclude by making a quote from the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, agreed in Stockholm in 1972:
"In our time, man's capability to transform his surroundings, if used wisely, can bring to all people the benefits of development and the opportunity to enhance the quality of life."
This is my belief and I am convinced that you all agree with me.
Finally, I hope that the continued discussions today, during this side-event on the "Stockholm Call for Action" will be a success. Hopefully the discussions will be inspiring and enlightening and will reflect the good discussions from the Stockholm+40 Conference. Let this event as well as the Rio+20 Conference encourage us to create a pathway towards sustainable development to the benefit of present and future generations.