Creating ‘Green’ Employment to Rebalance Unsustainable Economies

19 Sep

Amidst all the buzz of the impending opening of the UN General Assembly, an interesting meeting was held in the North Lawn building early on Wednesday entitled “Rio+20: From outcome to action, partnering for action on green economy.”  The event was co-organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).  As was noted by more than one presenter, this kind of collaborative enterprise is becoming more common in UN circles, though it is still not as common as it needs to be, especially where issues of climate health and global sustainability are concerned.

The meeting was devoted in large measure to an update on the multi-agency initiative entitled “Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE).”  PAGE, which is supported by the Republic of Korea as well as Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, will “build enabling conditions in participating countries by shifting investment and policies towards the creation of a new generation of assets, such as clean technologies, resource efficient infrastructure, well-functioning ecosystems, green skilled labour and good governance.” (http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/PAGE/tabid/105854/language/en-US/Default.aspx)

There was much helpful analysis offered by presenters and participants including reminders that we must simultaneously focus on the development of green jobs, green industries and green economies.  Moreover, in terms of business infrastructure, we must commit both to “greening existing industries and to creating new green industries.” And there was an important reminder of the vital role that agricultural workers continue to play within the total spectrum of employment, even though it was acknowledged that, in many parts of the world, such workers suffer disproportionately from malnutrition and other manifestations of acute poverty.  They also face numerous and often unique security challenges in remote rural settings, especially within states struggling with armed groups and the proliferation of illicit weapons.

As with the speakers and organizers, GAPW remains vitally interested in the security challenges resulting from degraded ecologies and grave challenges to climate health.   We seek to promote greater respect for green employment that both sustains families and helps restore our ecological balance.  And we encourage investors and businesses to consider more tangible investments in Lesser Developed States and to help ensure that governments in those States honor basic obligations to their populations for security, development, transparency and human rights – all elements essential to the maintenance of a healthy and sustainable business climate, not to mention a sustainable environment.

We acknowledge the degree to which ‘green’ still represents a category with more sentimental attraction than conceptual clarity.  And we understand the vast gaps that often separate hopeful programs from tangible, climate-friendly outcomes.   These are but two of the growth edges moving forward.

Our policy priorities and interests in this work are underscored by several key organizational relationships from which we learn much and benefit greatly, including the for-profit CGSG Corporation (http://www.cgsgcorp.com/) and the non-profit Green Map System (www.greenmap.org).  In addition, the 1200 or so civil society organizations that have signed up to attend a major UN event, “Advancing Regional Recommendations on Post-2015,” organized by our friends at the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (http://www.un-ngls.org/spip.php?page=sommaire), continue to give us hope that strategic and urgent care can overcome the development, security and other crises associated with planetary decay.

The message lying beneath the more obvious messaging of this event was a sober one:  We are simply running out of time to pivot on unsustainable patterns of consumption and governance.  PAGE is one of the vehicles through which governments can find the skills and incentives needed to help their societies respond to the immediate danger posed by a planet under siege.

Dr. Robert Zuber

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