September 24, 2012, NEW YORK – A diverse group of international leaders in science, business, policy, the United Nations, and civil society gathered at Columbia University on September 22 to launch the new Sustainable Development Solutions Network under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. As a first step, the network will establish 10 global expert groups to support global problem solving in ten critical areas, on challenges including economic growth, jobs, poverty reduction, gender equality, universal access to healthcare, and the transition to low carbon energy and more resilient cities.
The Solutions Network will be led by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute, Columbia University, and the Earth Institute will host the Secretariat of the network. The network will mobilize scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem-solving at local, national and global scales. The Solutions Network will work closely with United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions and other international organizations, and will provide technical support to the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
“This meeting brought together leaders from around the world who care deeply about sustainable development. They understand the urgency of the challenge,” Sachs said. “The strength of the network results from our ability to tap cutting-edge expertise, the private sector, academia, and public agencies. That’s the kind of collaboration we will need to solve our most pressing and complicated problems.”
Ted Turner, global business leader, philanthropist and founder of CNN and the United Nations Foundation, is a founding member of the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and will work together with other leaders in sustainable development to help guide and advise the network.
“We need development solutions based in science, and we need them now. The future of the planet and its people is at stake. The new Sustainable Development Solutions Network aims to promote smart and effective action—before it’s too late,” said Turner when the network was launched by the UN Secretary-General.
The 10 new working groups announced Saturday will be composed of leading scientists and practitioners from academia, civil society, and business. They will be solution-oriented rather than research-oriented, with the goal being to spur governments and the public toward practical solutions to the greatest challenges of sustainable development. The working groups will be organized around the following action areas:
At the event the network also announced that Guido Schmidt-Traub will hold the position of Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Schmidt-Traub will manage the network’s secretariat from his base at the Columbia University Global Center in Paris. Schmidt-Traub's global team will be supported by Columbia University's eight Global Centers around the world. The Secretariat will be responsible for mobilizing scientific, technological and civil society leadership for practical problem-solving. The Secretariat will oversee the establishment of the 10 thematic working groups as well as special initiatives to be launched under the umbrella of the network.