UN word-salad of the day: sustainable development will end poverty

Hot off the UN generated Future We [don’t need or] Want department’s fully dressed word-salad of the day (pdf) press:


The Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Word counts strongly suggest that this HLP is just not into “resilience”:

Sustainab* 219
climate change 29
resilien* 13

The introductory letter from Co-Chairs (one of whom is U.K. PM, David Cameron) to Ban Ki-Moon (Secretary General who “appointed” panel) dated May 30, 2013 includes:

a transformation to end poverty through sustainable development is possible within our generation. We outline five transformational shifts, applicable to both developed and developing countries alike, including a new Global Partnership as the basis for a single, universal post-2015 agenda that will deliver this vision for the sake of humanity.

Our report provides an example of how new goals and measurable targets could be framed in the wake of these transformative shifts. This list is illustrative rather than prescriptive.

Not sure if any “sherpas” were involved in the production of this document. But the “Lead Author and Executive Secretary of the Secretariat supporting the High Level Panel”, Homi Kharas, has a 26-year history of employment with the World Bank.

Not sure where Kharas might have developed his “expertise” but it seems that in his current (and presumably non-UN) capacity he:

“studies policies and trends influencing … global governance and the G-20”.

I haven’t read the whole thing yet (or even the entire Executive Summary); but the “key” messages seem to be (“headings” bolded in original, others added by me, along with extra para breaks for ease of reading -hro):

1. Leave no one behind. We must keep faith with the original promise of the MDGs, and now finish the job. After 2015 we should move from reducing to ending extreme poverty, in all its forms. […]

2. Put sustainable development at the core. For twenty years, the international community has aspired to integrate the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability, but no country has yet achieved this.

[obligatory scary stories, must act now alert -hro]

We must act now to halt the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation, which pose unprecedented threats to humanity. We must bring about more social inclusion. […]

3. Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth. We call for a quantum leap forward in economic opportunities and a profound economic transformation to end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods.

This means a rapid shift to sustainable patterns of consumption and production–harnessing innovation, technology, and the potential of private business to create more value and drive sustainable and inclusive growth. […]

4. Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all. Freedom from fear, conflict and violence is the most fundamental human right, and the essential foundation for building peaceful and prosperous societies.

At the same time, people the world over expect their governments to be honest, accountable, and responsive to their needs. We are calling for a fundamental shift – to recognize peace and good governance as core elements of wellbeing, not optional extras. […]

5. Forge a new global partnership. Perhaps the most important transformative shift is towards a new spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual accountability that must underpin the post-2015 agenda.

A new partnership should be based on a common understanding of our shared humanity, underpinning mutual respect and mutual benefit in a shrinking world.

This partnership should involve governments but also include others: people living in poverty, those with disabilities, women, civil society and indigenous and local communities, traditionally marginalised groups, multilateral institutions, local and national government, the business community, academia and private philanthropy.[…]

Isn’t it amazing how powerful and positively transformative a still-undefined term (sustainable development) can be, eh?


9 thoughts on “UN word-salad of the day: sustainable development will end poverty

  1. Always wondered who you were- well, I wonder that about most people who post to WUWT, JoNova, et al :P

    Added to my climate-change folder, thanks for being there!
    (will also be adding your page to my climate-change resource page, for skeptics on the site I post my arguments to).

  2. Many many moons ago I was introduced to the concept of a “fog index” in writing. As I recall it is the ratio of words with more than three syllables in a story/report to the total number of words. Quite a low fog index cause most folk to turn off within the first few paragraphs. I must see if Google can refresh my memory on the subject. It would seem to be apposite here.

    • Thanks for reminding me of this. Just for the fun of it, I decided to run the full text of their points 2 and 3 above through the Gunning Fog Index. Bearing in mind the explanation

      The fog index is commonly used to confirm that text can be read easily by the intended audience. Texts for a wide audience generally need a fog index less than 12. Texts requiring near-universal understanding generally need an index less than 8.

      … scores are as follows:

      “2. Put sustainable development at the core” = 18.11

      “3. Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth” = 15.36

      All of which reminds me that two of my earliest posts on this blog (here and here) were inspired by the “fog” I had found in that which I’d read!

      And this was long before I began plumbing the depths of any UN generated word salads;-)

    • Thanks for that Hilary. Must run some of my own recent writing through it!

      I recall Stephen J Gould’s dictum, “Science self-selects for bad writing”.

      Individuals trained in science who can expresse themsleves lucidly AND SUCCICNTLY are few and far between. I speak from experience. I was blessed with a great mentor. I still recall going to his office one day to discuss the latest chapter of my PhD thesis. As I came in he picked it off his desk and dropped in his is WPB.

      In few other areas of science is there such a paucity of poor communicators as climate change. It is a very simple concept but any debate is drowned in a welter of words that ensure the focus is often obfuscated before the end of the first paragraph. [There’s a good fog word.]

      I find that on all too many climatic blogs I turn-off when I see the names of specific contributors. I know if I perserve my eyes will glaze over and I will miss whatever point the author was trying to make. With others I just skim lightly over the top. Usually those are the ones who run past 300 words. I suspect the identities of some of those about whom I speak are obvious but others perhaps less so.

  3. You can watch and listen to some of the Eminent Persons of the High-Level Panel here (embedded video on right-hand side of web page):

    These people speak very much in the same manner as they write their reports. An example – there’s a Q and A session and at about the 25:11 mark a journalist in the audience asks a question about GM food – whether there is a specific strategy in the post-2015 development agenda to tackle agri-businesses “mutating our foods and, of course, harming people” (not a fan of GM food, this lady!)

    Then listen to the response of Mexican diplomat Patricia Espinosa, who takes 2 minutes 45 seconds to say, basically, “No, there isn’t.”

    • Thanks, Alex.

      Not only did I watch the Press Conference, but I also watched (at least to the extent that I could keep my eyes from glazing over) the “Handover Ceremony” and the (longer) “Launch Event” on this (yet another in UN-speak) “historic” occasion.

      Buzzwords of the month (apart from “sustainable” and “transformative/transformational”, of course) seem to be “inclusive and transparent”. Clearly IPCC chair, Rajendra Pachauri was way ahead of the jargon-curve when he shifted his depiction of IPCC authors from “world’s leading experts” to “objective, transparent, inclusive talent”. But I digress …

      Yes, Espinosa certainly has talent when it comes to loquacious circumlocutions [Sorry, Dr. Rodgers, I couldn’t resist ;-)] But I found John Podesta’s performances in this press conference even more interesting!

      Podesta was the US “eminent person” on this High Level Panel. The HLP site indicates that:

      Mr. Podesta is Chair of the Center for American Progress [CAP]. He previously served as Co-Chair of the Obama-Biden Transition and as White House Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton. He served in the president’s cabinet and as a principal on the National Security Council.

      Setting aside the fact that Podesta actually founded the CAP in 2003, and that it claims to be a “non-partisan” think-tank (which, combined with his public service, suggests that Podesta may be a US equivalent of the U.K.’s John <the U.K. Met Office is a jewel in the crown> Ashton!) … compare his performance at this press conference with the (scripted and teleprompted?!) performance on the CAP site

    • Definitely a teleprompter with the CAP speech, I think – here Mr Podesta comes across as focussed and concise!

      And kudos, by the way, for sitting through the other videos – after the press conference, I just couldn’t face the prospect and found some urgent household chores that needed doing…

    • Well, I should have probably attended to some urgent household chores rather than chasing down further words of scripted wisdom from Podesta. Here are some excerpts from a Reuters blogpost of May 30:

      President Barack Obama believes it. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia believes it. I believe it, too: By 2030, we can eradicate extreme poverty.

      This is not a hollow platitude. […]


      Eradicating extreme poverty will also require more difficult measures, such as achieving broad, sustainable economic growth that sees more women, young people and people with disabilities in formal employment around the globe. […]

      [and here comes the linkage -hro]

      We know, too, that any progress can be easily offset by environmental degradation and climate change. So the post-2015 agenda must move beyond the framework of the MDGs by fully integrating sustainability into the development agenda. All countries — including the United States — must engage in responsible stewardship of their natural resources, alter their consumption habits and increase use of renewable energy sources. [emphasis added -hro]

      If you are so inclined, there’s more at:


    • It’s curious, isn’t it, how all these grand goals ultimately require “all countries” (meaning “all the people that happen to live in these countries”, e.g., you and me) to “alter their consumption habits” (meaning “change the way we live our lives.”)

      In ancient days, they used to say “all roads lead to Rome”. These days it’s more like “all roads lead to mandatory behaviour change”!

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