It is a privilege to welcome you to the Palais des Nations for the 7th Earth Dialogues.

The United Nations Office at Geneva is pleased to host this important event in support of a sustainable future for all.

It is very appropriate that this edition of the Earth Dialogues takes place here in International Geneva, which is home to so many of the key stakeholders in the global response to our sustainability challenges.

Geneva owes its leading role in sustainability to the continued support of our host country at all levels. I am therefore particularly pleased to share this podium with distinguished representatives of our host country and thank them for their valuable contributions to the United Nations and our partners.

It is also a pleasure to congratulate Green Cross on their 20th anniversary. Over the past 20 years, Green Cross has shown the importance of strong and consistent civil society voices, voices that highlight our common environmental challenges, although when some may find this uncomfortable to hear, voices that call us to action.

With President Gorbachev in the lead, Green Cross has been an early and eloquent advocate for sustainability, before the term entered mainstream political discussion. The United Nations values the close cooperation that has been established with Green Cross, and we look forward to building on this in the years to come.

The need for action is even more urgent today than it was when Green Cross was founded, and the initiative to convene the Earth Dialogues could not be more timely. Environmental sustainability is threatened by unsustainable consumption and production patterns. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, while we are losing  forests, species and fish stocks at a rapid rate.

This is why the Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, has made sustainable development a key priority for his second term. The Earth Dialogues represents a critical opportunity to generate support for a strong post-2015 development framework, and it is my hope that today’s discussion can feed into this global debate.

This year we mark the International Year of Water Cooperation, and as we meet the world celebrates World Water Week. There can be no doubt that water is a subject that touches us all. 148 countries include territory within one or more river basins that is shared with other countries. The potential for instability and insecurity if we do not share water resources adequately and fairly is clear.

Continued population growth and urbanization, coupled with the effects of climate change, is placing our water resources under strain. Globally, 783 million people lack access or relatively safe water. Two-and-a-half-billion people do not have access to toilets. It is estimated that 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities in the next 8 years, and as the rate of urbanization continues to grow, the need for action on water increases.

Green Cross has been leading the way in drawing attention to these challenges and I am pleased that water features prominently on today’s agenda.

In conclusion, let me share with you three points which I believe need to be taken into account for a sustainable future, as they cut across the different agenda items before us.

First, we need to chart a way forward that places both poverty eradication and sustainable development at its core. These are not contradictory but complementary and mutually reinforcing objectives.

Second, we need to address sustainability in a comprehensive manner. Environmental imperatives cannot be addressed in isolation. We need action that integrates the economic, social, environmental and security dimensions of sustainability, anchored in the concepts of dignity and equity. Peace and security are the foundations of a sustainable future and must be included in our parameters for sustainability. This is not an easy task, but we must not shy away from these discussions simply because it is complex.

Third, we need to forge more meaningful partnerships for sustainability. Across the globe we have the knowledge and ideas that are needed for successful and sustainable development, whether it is in information, communication, transportation or medicine, we have the technologies to leapfrog to new levels of sustainability, but we need to get better at putting together these capacities. We need cooperation among all stakeholders, governments, civil society, science, business and foundations to move the sustainability agenda ahead.

I therefore especially appreciate that representatives of all these communities are present here today. We must build on this commitment to working together better. As this title of our meeting today highlights, we need a dialogue about our common future. A transparent and inclusive global conversation where all stakeholders can speak and where there is an opportunity to hear the different points of view. But the exchange is not an end in and of itself, it has to be the first step on the road to action. Let us take that first step together today with an action-based roadmap that tackles the issues of sustainability, security and development for the future for all.

I thank you for your attention.