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Opening address by the President at the World Engineering Forum

Ljubljana, 18.9.2012  |  speech

Opening address by Dr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia, at the World Engineering Forum entitled "Sustainable Construction for People"
Ljubljana, 18 September 2012

Dr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia, attended the World Engineering Forum entitled "Sustainable Construction for People", where he delivered an opening address (photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA)Distinguished participants of this World Engineering Forum,
Distinguished guests,
Madam Commissioner of the European Commission,

It is my pleasure and privilege to be the sponsor of this event, the World Engineering Forum, and to have the opportunity to open this important meeting here in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

Your meeting comes at the time when people around the world are asking themselves about new development paradigms. The new paradigms are in fact emerging. They are not emerging as a result of philosophical revelations. They are emerging as a result of needs and practical changes.

I believe that we already can say that those practical changes have led to certain understandings:
  • First, that we need a solid scientific base for whatever change we design;
  • Second, that we need sophisticated and imaginative engineering to develop whatever change we wish to have;
  • Third, we need business acumen and leadership to show the economic way forward;
  • Fourth and very important, we need political leadership and political energy that comes from organised and mobilised civil society and political actors.

These are the kinds of needs that define, in my opinion, the development paradigms which are now emerging before our eyes.

It is not difficult to discern these changes. Let us take a look at the environmental landscape, the global environmental discussion, which has been taking place in the past two decades. This is an important context because the meeting in Ljubljana, your meeting, has been devoted to sustainable construction for people. In other words, it is very intensely linked with the global environmental needs and global environmental changes.

Twenty years ago the world has witnessed an important conference, the Rio Summit, which provided a global framework for cooperation in the field of promotion and development of what was called the "concept of sustainable development". This approach has resulted in important initiatives relating to climate change, biological diversity and other important priority areas. A new body was created, the Commission of Sustainable Development, a body of the United Nations, which has created a hope that synergies will emerge among governments and that as a result of intergovernmental cooperation the world will change and that sustainable development will be ensured.

Dr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia, attended the World Engineering Forum entitled "Sustainable Construction for People", where he delivered an opening address (photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA)Many years later in Copenhagen this approach has demonstrated its limits. That was a time when the world has met again at summit level in Copenhagen to discuss global warming and the needed change at the level of intergovernmental cooperation. The European Commission and the European Union were very active and placed a great deal of hope in that process. But there were limits and other major actors were not willing to go along.

We have discovered that we need more, and we need more diversity, that intergovernmental cooperation alone is only a part of the picture and that perhaps the most important solutions will not come from the intergovernmental cooperation but from somewhere else. This is a hypothesis, which was fully confirmed earlier this year at Rio+20, a conference, which has again demonstrated the limits of intergovernmental cooperation, but at the same time the expanding importance of the business sector, civil society and the variety of initiatives which have flourished and which will continue to flourish in the future.

So we are now at the stage when we understand better than ever before that synergies will not come from intergovernmental cooperation alone, but that we will need scientific base, sophisticated engineering, business leadership and political energy coming from the civil society and political actors.

This is not difficult to discern because this is happening in every area of development nowadays. The era of globalisation has come to the end of its current phase. We have placed a great deal of hope on expansion of trade and what was called, somewhat optimistically, "financial engineering". We now know that financial engineering itself has its limits and produced a serious problem – a financial crisis which has become global and which is very intensely felt in Europe.

We are looking towards other areas where solutions should come from. We need to reignite scientific optimism which has driven development of the world in the past two centuries and which will continue to have that role. We have to support sophisticated and imaginative engineering, which will come not as a result of governmental initiatives but from human genius, which is embedded in engineers, people of knowledge and skills. And this is why your meeting is so important.

For us in Slovenia this meeting is particularly important because we are facing a fundamental transformation in our construction industry. The era when our construction industry was mainly dealing with large infrastructural projects and large building projects is more or less over. We are looking for a new definition. That new definition will certainly include infrastructural projects of the future. But they may not be of the size and importance that we have had in the past two decades.

We shall be looking towards other areas of development, including very importantly all the areas of construction, which fall under the rubric of green economy, green construction, energy-efficient housing, using materials in new, innovative ways, mobilising the spirit of change among the people who are now understanding better than ever before that new approaches to construction of their homes are necessary.

We are at the beginning of this process. We have not come very far. But every long march starts with the first step. And we – I believe – have made a few early steps already. This is why your conference is coming to Slovenia at the time, which is particularly propitious, and we hope to learn from you. We hope to learn from the knowledge that you have, from the experience that you have developed already and we hope that in that way we shall make our own small contribution to the transformation of the world.

This should not sound too ambitious, because transformation often happens in small steps, in small sizes, but then it grows and then it defines the new reality. This is where we are today and this is why we consider your conference so important. I wish you every success in your work. I am sure it will be successful. The question is only if it will be only successful or very successful. But let us be optimistic. Let us look towards a very successful outcome of your conference and very good results. And should you decide to come back to Slovenia you should know you will be welcome again. Thank you very much.
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