Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway, visited Ohio State on Monday to deliver a speech about global sustainability to students and faculty at the Mershon Auditorium. The event was presented as part of the Provost’s Discovery Themes Lecture Series.
Throughout her presentation, Brundtland drew on her career and experience in public service and international advocacy. She served three terms as the prime minister of Norway, spent five years as the director-general of the World Health Organization, and currently serves as the United Nations special envoy for climate change.
“Today, I see 2015 as a year of hope,” Brundtland said. “Finally, after nearly 30 years, countries all over the world have been able to overcome often very deep differences of opinion and priorities, and define common sustainable development goals, that apply to all countries, not just to the developing world.”
The sustainable development goals that Brundtland referenced are a series of targets for international development agreed upon by the United Nations Conference in New York on Sept. 27. The SDGs are a multinational attempt to outline and achieve meaningful change concerning issues of development, such as eradicating poverty, ensuring environmental sustainability, and achieving universal education.
The SDGs are meant to replace the Millennium Development Goals, a similar series of targets adopted in 2000, that will expire at the end of this year. Brundtland spoke about her involvement with these targets during her tenure as director-general of the World Health Organization.
“Indeed great strides have been fought, since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000,” Brundtland said. “We have dramatically reduced the amount of people living in extreme poverty, more people have access to safe drinking water, fewer children are dying in infancy, and fewer mothers (are dying) when giving birth.”
Brundtland said that despite some of the world experiencing unprecedented levels of prosperity, the gap between rich and poor is widening, “environmental degradation” is ongoing, and climate change is threatening the world’s most vulnerable populations and ecosystems.
“This is why the new sustainability goals will be so important,” she said.
The Ohio State Center for Ethics and Human Values’ COMPAS program will hold its fall conference, “Sustainability: Visions & Values,” later this week, on Thursday and Friday. The conference, which will be held on the 11th floor of Thompson Library will focus heavily on the same topics of global sustainability that Brundtland discussed. It will feature a variety of accomplished speakers from Princeton, Yale, the U.S. Department of State and many of Ohio State’s own faculty.
Cinnamon Carlarne, a professor at Moritz College of Law specializing in environmental and climate change law, who will speak at the event said, “It’s about thinking critically and trying to find new, creative solutions to these problems in a way that’s optimistic.”
Carlarne added “It’s coming at a really exciting time after the adoption of the sustainable development goals and the papal encyclical, and right before the Paris Climate Conference this December.”
Brundtland’s speech and the COMPAS conference come just after the conclusion of the UN Sustainable Development Summit, where the SDGs were adopted in New York City on Sunday.