In Memoriam: Maurice Strong






Maurice Strong

Last night my friend, mentor and colleague Maurice Strong passed away. He was simply an extraordinary human being who dedicated himself to sustainable development. He has done more than most to lead us towards the Paris Climate Summit. He was amongst other things, the first Executive Director of UNEP - the UN Environment Program, the Secretary General of the 1972 Stockholm Environment Conference and the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and its Agenda 21 framework, as well as holding dozens of high level government and academic awards.

I met him in 1991 when I was President of WTTC and he was preparing for Rio. We started a friendship based on a shared belief that if only the Travel & Tourism sector could make sustainability a core ethic and not just a second level buzzword, to balance the growth realities we could play a big part in a better future.

We never stopped trying – he was a guide for 20 years in WTTC and UNWTO where we worked on Agenda 21 for Travel & Tourism, Green Globe Certification and the ST-EP Program to link Sustainable Tourism with the Elimination of Poverty. He was a guide for our Davos Climate Framework. We were together at Rio+ 20 when he received the first copy of our book – dedicated to him - on Green Growth & Travelism. We shared a common love of China and Africa – where we tried unsuccessfully to launch projects that were too ambitious and too early. He was always ready to speak up about the industry's potential and to push it for more concrete action. He had an eye for the big picture and an interest in the smallest community initiative.

Most recently he has been the inspiration for SUN - the Strong Universal Network - to help communities move down a Green Growth path, using Travelism (Travel & Tourism) as a vector. SUN will be a system of solar powered research hubs, assembled from containers and linked through the internet cloud. They will provide dedicated postgraduate support for communities and their travel stakeholders to keep their Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Targets on track. Our last meeting was a few weeks ago in Ottawa where we talked about the potential that community led green growth could have if it were really supported by an engaged Travelism sector,

Maurice had that unique skill of inspiration and an incredible willingness to listen and counsel – which he had learned as a young man living amongst Canada's Innuit people. He had held countless audiences with Monarchs, Heads of State and Industry Moguls....80 Sustainable Development pioneers were assembled by IUCN for his 80th birthday while 2 former Canadian Prime Ministers and a Governor General attended his small 85th celebration – he got a lunchtime call from Klaus Schwab, Executive Chair of the World Economic Forum.... yet I remember him best joking with a small Chinese child in a humble café in Beijing where we would go for simple evening meals. Maurice loved joking and he really loved China.

I have no doubt that there will be a STRONG deal in Paris it is what Copenhagen should have done 5 years earlier with a lot more substance and clout – and with the US and China leading the charge. The UN system and Christiana Figueres have done an amazing job.

Then the Travelism sector has to step up to the plate to deliver increasingly tough Green Growth action for the next 30 years. Maurice would have liked that.

Professor Geoffrey Lipman
President ICTP
Curator SUN


Geoffrey Lipman, SUNx Co-founder


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