Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/614
    1 February 2002

    POVERTY ERADICATION, ISLAND STATE VULNERABILITY AMONG ISSUES DISCUSSED, AS PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR JOHANNESBURG SUMMIT BEGINS GENERAL DEBATE

    NEW YORK, 31 January (UN Headquarters) -- As the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development began its general debate this afternoon, delegations highlighted issues of national and regional priority to be included in the preparations for the Summit, as well as in the Summit itself.

    The Commission on Sustainable Development is acting as the preparatory body for the Summit, which is to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September. The Summit will bring together world leaders to identify concrete steps to further implement Agenda 21, the action programme adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    It was important to reaffirm in Johannesburg that poverty eradication was an indispensable requirement for sustainable development and that efforts conform to the principle of common, but differentiated responsibilities, stated the representative of Egypt. The Summit should proceed from the fact that it was the South that was suffering the most from environmental degradation and that it was the North which -- due to its unsustainable production and consumption patterns -- bore the primary responsibility for such degradation.

    Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Spain’s representative said the "Global Deal" to be negotiated for the Summit should be a package that balanced the interests of developed and developing countries, while also reflecting the three pillars of sustainable development -- economic growth, social development and environmental protection. The priority issues for the Union included accelerating implementation of Agenda 21, reaching solutions to North-South issues, contributing to poverty eradication and achieving sustainable patterns of production and consumption.

    The representative of Nauru, on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said that while some progress had been made under Agenda 21, the isolation and vulnerability of the Pacific islands continued to be intractable and environmental problems had intensified. Overcoming the vulnerability of the Pacific islands to the effects of global climate change and sea level rise, natural disasters, environmental damage and global economic shocks was fundamental to the region's sustainable development. Thus, he expected the Summit’s outcome to adequately reflect the global challenges faced by developing countries, particularly the small island developing States.

    Addressing the concerns of the Rio Group, the representative of Costa Rica emphasized that the Summit should not renegotiate the agreed principles and commitments undertaken in Agenda 21. On the contrary, it must insist on their implementation, giving priority to the cross-sectional issues of financing, science and technology, capacity-building and reduction of vulnerability.

    Statements were also made by the representatives of Venezuela (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Ghana, United Kingdom, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, Iran, Indonesia, India, Mexico, Turkey, Australia, Argentina and Chile, as well as the observer of Switzerland.

    In addition, the representatives of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) also spoke.

    The Committee will continue its general debate at 10 a.m. Friday, 1 February.

    Background

    The Commission on Sustainable Development, acting as the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, met this afternoon to begin its general debate. During the Summit, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September, world leaders are expected to identify concrete steps to further implement Agenda 21, the action programme adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    (For further background on the Committee’s second session, see Press Release ENV/DEV/606 issued 28 January.)

    Statements

    MILOS ALCALAY (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that the Group intended to consolidate its contribution in a preliminary paper, which would act as a guideline to how the Group would proceed on the path to Johannesburg. Following the presentation of the results of the various regional preparatory meetings, one thing was clear: the developing countries were dealing with similar difficulties in implementing Agenda 21. Many commitments regarding the provision of implementation tools had not materialized. Regional conflicts, economic sanctions and the absence of peace and stability had stood in the way of developing countries achieving economic and social development.

    The Summit must focus on taking specific time-bound action, he continued. The principles of Rio and Agenda 21 must be given fresh life. The Summit must have a clear-cut definition on how to achieve sustainable development and should not just be another exercise. Among the topics he proposed for consideration were: globalization for sustainable development, poverty eradication, replacing existing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption; the conservation and sustainable management of resources for development; means for implementation; and initiatives for the sustainable development of Africa.

    MARIA JESUS FRAILE (Spain) speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the Summit should serve as a major accelerator to implementing Agenda 21. Though progress on making development sustainable had been uneven, it was a primary objective for Union members in both their domestic policies and in internationally cooperative ones. Key areas for focus at the Summit included poverty eradication, the harnessing of globalization to benefit sustainable development, creating sustainable patterns of production and consumption, protecting the natural resource base, strengthening governance for sustainability at all levels and developing an implementation scheme for proposed actions.

    She said the idea of a "Global Deal" should be adopted as a framework for the outcome to promote in a pragmatic way the double aim of implementing Agenda 21 and meeting the Millennium development goals. The Deal would be a package that balanced the interests of developed and developing countries, while also reflecting the three pillars of sustainable development. For the Union, the priority issues for the Deal would centre on accelerating implementation of Agenda 21, reaching solutions to North-South issues, contributing to poverty eradication and achieving sustainable patterns of production and consumption. The Union would also be seeking new partnerships.

    Elaborating on those priorities, she said it was important for the Summit to work out developmental targets aimed for the year 2015. The maintenance of biodiversity was critical, meaning that the Summit must look at ways to halt the presently ongoing biodiversity loss. Targets on sanitation must be set and strong commitments secured from both governments and stakeholders on managing freshwater resources. The issues of finance and technology transfer must be considered in context of their truly cross-cutting character and a time frame must be devised for Member States to achieve the

    0.7 per cent official development assistance. Cooperation must be increased for bridging the digital divide and special attention must be given to Africa’s needs.

    Finally, she said, the Summit should make a renewed and time-bound commitment to elaborating and implementing national sustainable development strategies for all countries, encouraging the United Nations to assist developing countries and those with economies in transition. Sustainable development indicators should be formulated to monitor progress in implementing the Summit outcome.

    E.O. NSENKYIRE (Ghana) said that a supportive international environment in the areas of macroeconomic policy making, market access, debt relief and conditions for leveraging private capital flows, capacity-building and human development was critical if developing countries were to achieve economic growth in a manner conducive to sustainable development. In the case of Africa, it was clear that unless agricultural productivity was enhanced and food security ensured, economic performance on the continent would continue to be precarious. The current institutional structures governing sustainable development would need to be restructured in the context of Johannesburg to effectively realize the interdependent and mutually reinforcing characteristic of sustainable development.

    He recommended that a key objective of the Summit should be to reinvigorate international commitment to formulating and implementing strategies for sustainable development by noting the outcomes of the International Forum on National Sustainable Development Strategies, held in Accra from 7 to 9 November 2001, and agreeing on specific institutional and support decisions to achieve that objective. It was clear, the Forum found, that to be effective, a national sustainable development strategy should be integrative, participatory, nationally owned, built on existing knowledge and processes and focus on outcomes. To achieve that, national capacities needed to be utilized and strengthened. Adequate and regular financial resources were also essential to implement such strategies.

    ADRIAN DAVIS (United Kingdom) presented the report of the International Forum on National Sustainable Development Strategies, held in Accra from 7 to 9 November 2001. Sharing experiences about what had and had not worked had enabled a growing consensus to emerge on how to develop and implement effective national strategies. The millennium development goal on ensuring environmental sustainability reflected the importance of the integration of the principles of sustainable development into all country policies and programmes. The underlying principles included broad-based stakeholder participation and partnerships, strong national ownership, development of capacity and an enabling environment and a focus on outcomes and means of implementation.

    The challenge, he said, was to broaden: the commitment to effective strategic processes for sustainable development; the recognition of the key principles characterizing those strategies; and the international endorsement of the underpinning principles and characteristics. Broader international endorsement of the principles should be included on the agenda for the Summit, and commitment to implementing those principles in a timely manner should be an important outcome.

    IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt) expected the Summit to give special consideration to supporting the sustainable development efforts of African countries, including through mobilizing the necessary political and financial support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It should result in a global deal for the full implementation of the outcomes of Rio and Johannesburg, through a renewed partnership between the governments of the North and the South, as well as between governments and major groups. Achieving sustainable development was a joint responsibility between the North and the South. It required the achievement of good governance at both the national and international levels. It also required coherence and consistency between the policies of the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization, so that they did not run counter to each other.

    The Johannesburg Summit was not a summit on the environment, but a summit on the future of the world, he said. It should have as its starting point the fact that it was the South that was suffering the most from environmental degradation and that it was the North which -- due to its unsustainable production and consumption patterns -- bore the primary responsibility for such degradation. Thus, it was important to reaffirm in Johannesburg that poverty eradication was an indispensable requirement for sustainable development and that efforts conform to the principle of common, but differentiated responsibilities.

    He also stressed the need to consider the means of implementation as an integral part of each priority area for action that would be examined. In addition, the International Conference on Financing for Development must result in the mobilization of finance from all sources, including new and additional resources.

    GILBERT PARENT (Canada) said the linkages between human health and the environment were a key factor in sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Any agenda to alleviate poverty and create the capacity for development must be built upon improving the quality of the environment and human health. Sound chemical management was a priority for Canada's approach to health and environment.

    He said another area of focus was the promotion of an integrated approach to the sustainable development of forests, fisheries, minerals and metals, energy and biodiversity, complemented by the maintenance of a network of protected areas essential to ecosystem integrity. In addition, both developing and developed countries were becoming increasingly concerned about access to freshwater, as well as issues of water quality, waste water management, flooding and drought.

    Turning to cross-cutting themes, he stressed the central role of community-level work in achieving sustainable development, saying it was in local communities that policies and plans took shape to improve both lives and livelihoods. Regarding science, collective and individual efforts would be successful only if ways were found to harness sound science and traditional knowledge as the basis of policy development and implementation.

    He said that if the Johannesburg Summit was to be a success, it needed not only to capture the imagination of the public, but also to mobilize the engagement of all, particularly the private sector. Canada was working on a strategy that would ensure the effective participation of the private sector in Johannesburg. Governments could not deliver the sustainable development agenda on their own. It was important to develop partnerships that drew upon the energy, enthusiasm and innovative potential of the private sector.

    PETER DONIGI (Papua New Guinea) said that the problem with sustainable development was simply a lack of political will. Political will was required to move towards a constructive inter-dependent world. In such a world, his country would no longer stand in the queue for official development assistance (ODA) or concessional loans. Many of the action programmes for sustainable development would, in fact, be initiated by his country through a genuine partnership arrangement. It would elevate his country from a position of entering into a "dependent partnership" arrangement for the implementation of the agreed agenda for sustainable development, to one of concrete and "equal partnership".

    Poverty eradication could be tackled by two different approaches, he said. The first was to identify the weakness of the developing countries, which was the "poverty" of opportunities. That poverty translated into conducting a "needs" assessment of each individual country. That had been and was the current approach under which progress had not been made. The second approach was to identify the strengths of a particular country, region or subregion and to devise constructive programmes of sustainable development, centred on or around those strengths. That approach was dependent on the transfer of technological capacity and capital. He believed that it was the second approach that would drive the engine of sustainable development.

    He said that distributed and fragmented through the ten themes in Part VIII of the Secretary-General’s report were major issues of concern surrounding 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface -- oceans. For Pacific small island developing States, their oceans represented more than 95 per cent of the area under their jurisdiction. He called for a separate theme of "Oceans, Coasts and Islands".

    THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland) said that to close the gap in implementation identified by the Secretary-General, it was necessary to identify clear and achievable development aid goals measured not only in the amount of financial flows, but also in terms of lives saved and improved.

    Sustainable management of the oceans was of central importance for human development and food security, he said. While the right and opportunity of States to utilize living marine resources was of critical importance, the implementation of agreements on the oceans, as well as financial and technological support to the developing countries in that field, were lacking in many cases.

    He said the Secretary-General's focus on oceans could have been stronger. A new cluster of actions on oceans should include strengthened political attention to marine environment protection; effective implementation of the Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem; and partnership to support the developing countries in building capacity for sustainable fisheries management.

    Renewable energy was critically important for decoupling economic growth and environmental degradation, he said. Substituting the current energy supply with renewable energy resources cut emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases and provided substantial health and environmental benefits. A demonstration of political will for a strategy to expand renewable energy in developing countries could be an important outcome for the Johannesburg Summit.

    DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said that his government would be supporting initiatives that held particular relevance for his region. The challenges and sustainable development realities facing many small island developing States must continue to receive urgent and concerted attention. Also, issues to be addressed under the banners of "oceans" and "freshwater" merited close attention. After all, the reliance of all people on freshwater and the dominant place oceans had in the lives of the majority of the planet’s inhabitants suggested that both must be addressed seriously and practically by the Summit. They deserved to be near the top of the list of regional and global priorities and must be addressed substantively.

    Among the areas that his country had already identified as particularly relevant were: increasing and improving marine and coastal protected areas; resolving illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing; and the over-capacity of global fishing fleets. A key challenge would be to translate objectives into practical proposals that could be acted on at the technical level within specific time periods.

    SERGE CHAPPATTE, observer of Switzerland, said that in order to make globalization work for sustainable development, it was necessary to effectively implement environmental and social principles, as well as mutual supportiveness between environmental and trade agreements.

    Regarding poverty eradication, he said Switzerland supported a broader approach than that suggested in the Secretary-General's report. Poverty was inextricably linked with social and economic injustice, gender inequality, lack of good governance, and destruction of the environment.

    He proposed to extend the energy cluster to transport-related issues, which, despite their importance, had received very little mention in the Secretary-General's report. Switzerland was also concerned over the decrease in average ODA flows and had decided to significantly increase its own ODA in the next 10 years. Besides the increase in volume, the enhancement of both the quality and effectiveness of ODA was essential. At the same time, ODA would always need to be complemented by private investment.

    HIDETOSHI UKITA (Japan) proposed several measures to create a society in which people could enjoy the benefits of sustainable development. Among them was a proposal that countries strive to create a society that was energy efficient and based on recycling. Also, he encouraged the full utilization of scientific knowledge and technologies. Innovative technologies would reduce environmental impact, as well as production costs, and would greatly improve the international competitiveness of industries and enterprises. In addition, measures to manage mega-city issues, such as air pollution, traffic jams and the lack of water resources should be strengthened.

    It was also important for the international community to support the efforts of developing countries toward sustainable development, he continued. Japan had been carrying out environmental cooperation based on the "Initiative for Sustainable Development toward the 21st Century" and would continue providing support for technology transfer and capacity building in developing countries. He stressed the importance of regional cooperation and encouraged sharing the experience of Asian countries with African countries. Further, environmental education for future generations was particularly important. Therefore, programmes in schools and in the private sector should be improved.

    PATRICIA CHAVES (Costa Rica), on behalf of the Rio Group, emphasized that the Summit should not renegotiate the agreed principles and commitments undertaken in Agenda 21. On the contrary, it must insist on their implementation, giving priority to the cross-sectional issues of financing, science and technology, capacity-building and reduction of vulnerability.

    She said it was necessary to establish innovative financial instruments to promote multilateral cooperation and support the implementation of sustainable development programmes. External debt and the decline in ODA had limited the capacity of some Latin American countries to attract investment and financing, as well as their ability to implement policies in favour of sustainable development.

    The achievement of sustainable development was threatened by distortions in international trade, capital flows and access to markets, she said. Consequently, achievable sustainable development required an open, stable and predictable international economic system. Additionally, it was indispensable to ensure that the products of developing countries had access to the markets of the developed countries by eliminating subsidies, protectionist barriers and other support that distorted trade.

    She recognized the need for renewed efforts to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters by creating early warning systems and better mechanisms for prevention and mitigation. Efforts must be made to reduce the impact of climate change and vulnerability to its effects. It was necessary to expand regional and international programmes of adaptation, giving priority to the most vulnerable areas. In that regard, all countries that had not yet done so should ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

    HOSSEIN MOEINI MEYBODI (Iran) reiterated that the comprehensive review of the implementation of Agenda 21 should focus on the identification of areas where further efforts were needed. The Summit should aim to remove those obstacles impeding the implementation of Rio commitments and provide the developing world with adequate financial and technological support. He proposed several concrete measures with specific timetables, including an agreement at the Summit to establish a concrete mechanism for ensuring the transfer of environmentally sound technology to developing countries and the realization of the ODA target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product of developed countries by 2005.

    It was imperative, he said, to evaluate and define the role and programme of work of the Commission on Sustainable Development. In addition to its existing mandate, new functions of coordination and implementation, including the mobilization of resources and transfer of technology, should be assigned to the Commission. Turning to the Summit, he said that it should set the road map towards achieving the poverty reduction goals of the Millennium Declaration. That would include: enhancing access to basic health services; sustainable rural development; agricultural development and food security; greater access to safe water and sanitation, reducing the vulnerability to natural disasters and environmental risks; and combating desertification.

    MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) stressed the need to focus on developing practical, concrete and time-bound measures to effectively overcome a number of constraints and to strengthen the implementation of Agenda 21. It was also necessary to reinvigorate political commitment at the highest political level to achieve common goals. The implementation of the outcomes of Rio had been severely hampered by a number of constraints, particularly those of widespread poverty and the lack of financial resources. Those constraints had worsened over the past few years due to a number of developments, including the 1997 financial crisis, the debt burden of many developing countries and inadequate institutional and technical capacities.

    The structure of the Summit’s final document should be practical, simple, concrete, applicable and, most of all, user-friendly, he said. That would enable all stakeholders to fully use it as a practical guide for the execution of their respective responsibilities and mandates in pursuing the common goals of sustainable development. It was important to strengthen the institutional framework for effectively moving sustainable development forward, as that would go a long way in ensuring effective implementation at the field level. Also, sustainable development governance at both the regional and global levels was necessary to ensure coherence in the implementation of the three pillars of sustainable development.

    VINCI CLODUMAR (Nauru), on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said that the Bahamas Plan of Action and the outcome of the twenty-second special session of the General Assembly embodied principles and actions agreed upon by the international community to advance the sustainable development of the small island developing States, taking account of their unique characteristics and circumstances.

    While recognizing that some progress had been made under Agenda 21, he said the Pacific Islands Forum Group was concerned that many fundamental issues remained unresolved. The isolation and vulnerability of the Pacific islands continued to be intractable, while environmental problems had intensified. Overcoming the vulnerability of the Pacific islands to the effects of global climate change and sea level rise, natural disasters, environmental damage and global economic shocks was fundamental to the region's sustainable development.

    The Pacific Islands Forum Group expected the outcomes of the Summit to adequately reflect the global challenges faced by developing countries, particularly the small island developing States, he said. To sustainably manage the vast ocean resources would require an effective global response, making the very best use of existing financial, human and institutional resources. That response must, above all, help to make a difference at the national level.

    RAJEEV KHER (India) said that the developed countries had agreed to provide new and additional financial resources and transfer technology to developing countries on concessional terms. In Agenda 21, a certain level of assistance from ODA and other sources was postulated for implementing sustainable development activities. Unfortunately, those commitments remained unfulfilled. He noted that the universally accepted principle of common but differentiated responsibility, an essential part of Agenda 21, had not been adequately addressed in the Secretary-General’s report.

    The highest priority for the world today should be overcoming underdevelopment -- the eradication of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease, he said. While globalization had been expected to generate resources for fighting underdevelopment, that had not happened. It was now imperative for the international community to identify the necessary sources of financing for sustainable development. Also, conspicuous consumption patterns, mainly in developed countries, put a further strain on limited resources. He strongly believed that the prevailing pattern of production and consumption, especially of the industrialized countries, was unsustainable and should be changed, since it threatened the very survival of the planet.

    Ms. OVEDA (Mexico) stressed that achieving sustainable development would entail exploiting the benefits of globalizations with greater equity. To attain that goal would require the replacement of sectoral, vertical-control policies with integrated systemic policies at all levels, greater transparency, market mechanisms, the transfer of new technologies and a flow of resources to regions that had not benefited from globalization.

    She said it must be recognized that the limited attainment of Agenda 21 targets was due to the lack of implementation mechanisms. New instruments were needed to monitor and better coordinate the various initiatives from inside and outside the United Nations. Goals and targets must also be linked to actions and Agenda 21 must be linked to action plans from other conferences.

    New information technologies had provided Mexico with databases that had helped in analysing possible new reasons for environmental degradation, she said. While progress had been made on the environment, however, there still existed much inequity, poverty and deprivation in the country. New formulae and indicators were needed to provide holistic, qualitative, quantitative and balanced assessments of what was being done.

    She said there was a growing interconnection in the world, in addition to increasing production and consumption. Human activities were making ever-greater impacts. But while progress had been made since Rio, there was still a need to ensure an ethical approach, proper use of water and ocean resources as well as protection of biodiversity, all of which would benefit from the achievements of globalization.

    ASIM ARAR (Turkey) said that "Rio + 10" should have a strategically focused agenda, targeting comprehensive concerns and themes of sustainable development through which national and regional priorities could be set up involving sub-sectoral measures. The development of new economic and social approaches to foster the implementation of sustainable development objectives, and the establishment of an appropriate financial strategy to realize sustainable development aims, might be some of those comprehensive concerns. Also, an integrated governance approach might be needed to replace separate economic, social and environmental policies. What might also be needed was the development of a balanced strategy to implement the decoupling of environmental degradation from economic growth.

    He said that the importance of local initiatives in achieving the aims of sustainable development could not be underestimated. Turkey had a successful record in applying its local Agenda 21 programme, which attracted a high degree of interest and collaboration by municipalities and local authorities. Its success had led Turkey to be selected as the "best practice country" at the Johannesburg Summit. The importance of collaboration, participation and partnerships had also been demonstrated in Turkey during the recovery period from the earthquakes, which hit the country two years ago, in which local authorities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, media and academia collaborated closely with the Government.

    HOWARD BRAMLEY (Australia) stressed that while oceans were critical to all, their continued productivity was vital for the cultural, social and economic well-being of the Pacific small island developing States. But, ocean management had seldom been paid the attention it deserved, even though the enormous current and potential economic benefits from the efficient management of oceans were directly related to biodiversity conservation, food security, poverty alleviation and economic growth.

    He expressed the strong belief that, to secure those benefits, urgent priority must be attached to the improved management of ocean and coastal ecosystems through application of the principles and practice of sustainable development. Australia regarded the fragmentation and lack of coordination between and among international programmes and institutions as impediments to sustainable ocean management.

    The future of the small island developing States was dependent on the future of the oceans, he said. While it was for those States to propose where and how, Australia asserted that the importance of dealing with their unique concerns and their particular vulnerability be recognized in the Chairman's text -- just as the special challenges for the African continent were recognized.

    GUSTAVO EDUARDO AINCHIL (Argentina) emphasized the need for new ethics, which would form the foundation for sustainable development. It was also necessary to ensure compliance with international instruments. Taking into account underdevelopment and the lack of equity prevalent today, international cooperation was crucial for improving the living standards of all people. With regard to the Summit’s agenda, he suggested giving priority to inter-sectoral issues. In the area of trade and development, policies that distorted international trade must be rejected and access to the markets of developed countries for the products of developing countries must be ensured.

    He advocated the transparent participation of civil society, including the major groups identified in Agenda 21, in the design, formulation and implementation of further policies and programmes. The Summit should recommend that multinational corporations adopt international standards to ensure accountability. Also, an intergovernmental debate on minerals and metals in the context of sustainable development should be considered.

    JOSE MANUEL OVALLE (Chile), endorsing the statement by Costa Rica on behalf of the Rio Group, said that as a result of their own historical experience, Chileans believed that sustainable development could be achieved only through an integral approach. Such an approach meant that, together with social and economic progress and protection of the environment, the values that were inherent to human dignity were protected with equal vigour, including the building of democracy and full respect for human rights.

    At the same time, he said, there existed at the international level a set of values and principles that must be respected if the objective was to be met. Among them was the sovereign right of States to use their natural resources in accordance with their own development policies and environmental standards.

    He stressed the need to avoid a situation in which concern for the environment became yet another argument for restricting trade, access to markets or the investments that the developing world so sorely needed. Chile was concerned at the misinterpretation of the precautionary approach that could result in trade restrictions, as well as the maintenance of subsidies that distorted the international flow of goods and services.

    JOKE WALLER-HUNTER, Director, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Environment Directorate, said that the Organization had begun a three-year project in 1998 that led to recognition by the OECD ministers of several key factors for achieving sustainable development. They included improving coherence in decision-making, harnessing science and technology and managing linkages with the global economy.

    When the OECD ministers of finance and environment met together to discuss sustainable development, she said, they not only declared sustainable development an overarching objective of the OECD, but they also wanted more to be done to make sustainable development operational. They asked the OECD to monitor sustainable development in the context of performance reviews, as well as address obstacles to policy reform. The results of that work would be made available to the Summit and the report would be available at the fourth session of the Preparatory Committee in Indonesia.

    The OECD, she said, was deepening cooperation with non-OECD countries. It would be organizing a meeting on financing sustainable development by the end of April. Given the importance of energy for sustainable development, she drew attention to work of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which would continue to inform the preparations for the Summit.

    G.O.P. OBASI, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization, said that the Summit would be a landmark event that would significantly influence the sustainable development paths chosen by nations. He highlighted several issues, which should be given priority consideration at the Summit. Natural disasters had led to an enormous annual toll of human suffering, loss of lives and property damage. Yet, technical means existed and others were under further development, to reduce losses through improved observation networks, communication facilities, analysis, and forecasting, warning and preparedness systems.

    Also, the global average surface temperature was on the rise, he continued. For governments to have the appropriate advice and assessment to respond to climate change, it was important to have adequate support for the monitoring of the climate system. He added that freshwater shortage was expected to be the most dominant water problem in the current century and one that, along with water

    quality, could jeopardize all other efforts to secure sustainable development, and could even lead to social and political instability, in some cases.

    JACQUES PAUL ECKEBIL, Assistant Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said hunger was the most direct manifestation of poverty. Poor people lacked the means to buy the food they needed, but, conversely, hunger brought about the ill-health, often generated by under-nutrition and low labour productivity, that ultimately translated into more poverty. As such, hunger was both the cause and effect of extreme poverty.

    He said fighting hunger was, therefore, a fundamental part of any serious strategy to eradicate poverty. As long as there was widespread hunger, little progress could be made in other aspects of poverty reduction and there was only a weak foundation for broad-based growth. Moreover, the resources required to end hunger were lower than the human and economic costs of not ending it. Those costs included public expenditures for health and welfare programmes for people suffering from ill-health resulting from poor nutrition, low labour productivity and ultimately lower economic growth.

    VERA WEILL-HALLE, Director, North American Liaison Office, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said natural resource management issues were tremendously diverse across regions. Both the causes and effects of environmental degradation varied widely not only between regions and countries, but also across agro-ecological zones. Likewise, investments varied in accordance with local circumstances, constraints and opportunities.

    In West and Central Africa, she said, desertification posed a significant regional threat. Forest cover was declining as population growth drove up the demand for fuelwood, timber and agriculture. And while the degradation of land and other natural resources was often seen as affecting mainly marginal areas, IFAD's experience in Eastern and Southern Africa had revealed that resource degradation had many less visible forms and was in progress in all the region's agro-ecological zones.

    She said that the main environmental challenges in Asia and the Pacific were land and water resource degradation, sedimentation of watercourses, loss of forest resources and biodiversity and degradation of fisheries. Among Asia's rural poor the people hardest hit by marginalization lived in the uplands. Similarly, the poorest regions in Latin America and the Caribbean were also located at high altitudes, such as in the Andean highlands.

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