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Chapter One: Global Perspectives

Conclusions

We live in a world of accelerating global change, where internationally-coordinated environmental stewardship is lagging behind economic and social development. It is a world where environmental gains through new technology and policies are overtaken by the pace and scale of population growth and economic development. The globalization of the economy and society is accompanied by the globalization of resource management and environmental problems but the institutional response to this is lagging behind.

It is clear that environmental management cannot be separated from the improved management of human society. The global human ecosystem is threatened by grave imbalances in productivity and in the distribution of goods and services. A significant proportion of humanity still lives in dire poverty, and projected trends are for increasing discrepancies between those that benefit from economic and technological development, and those that do not. This unsustainable progression of extremes of wealth and poverty threatens the stability of the whole human system, and with it the global environment.

Environmental governance at all levels requires a new partnership between governments and civic society that can foster the eradication of poverty and an equitable distribution of environmental costs and benefits. Signs of such new partnerships and the development of regionally-conducive frameworks - such as in the European Union - are emerging but too often remain restricted to wealthier regions and to multinationals which are under public scrutiny from pressure groups in the developed world.

The environment cannot be separated from the human condition but is one essential complement of sustainable human development. The processes of globalization that are so strongly influencing the evolution of society need to be directed towards resolving rather than aggravating the serious imbalances that divide the world today. All the partners involved - governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, the scientific community, NGOs and other major groups - need to work together to resolve this complex and interacting set of economic, social and environmental challenges in the interests of a more sustainable future for the planet and human society.


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