Press Releases

    Commission on Sustainable Development
    Acting as the Preparatory Committee for
    World Summit on Sustainable Development
    2nd Meeting (PM)

    ENV/DEV/609
    29 January 2002

    PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR SUSTAINABLE
    DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE HEARS PRESENTATIONS
    ON REGIONAL PREPARATIONS

    NEW YORK, 28 January (UN Headquarters) -- Representatives of various regional groups of States outlined preparations made for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, as the Summit’s Preparatory Committee continued its second session this afternoon.

    The Commission on Sustainable Development, established in 1993 to follow up on the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, is acting as the Preparatory Committee for the Summit, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September.

    Representing the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Cambodia’s delegate presented the outcome of the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Committee Meeting, held in Phnom Penh from 27 to 29 November 2001 on behalf of Cambodia's Environment Minister, Mok Mareth. He said that, despite significant achievements, the region’s environment continued to deteriorate and the number of poor countries continued to increase.

    He said that the Phnom Penh Regional Platform on Sustainable Development for Asia and the Pacific recognized the multi-sectoral and cross-cutting nature of such key issues and priorities as: chronic and persistent poverty; unsustainable consumption patterns; natural disasters; threats to biodiversity; freshwater resources; and adverse climate change. Initiatives put forth might include strengthening networks of civil society organizations, promoting awareness of sustainable development and developing skills in integrating sustainable development into planning, implementation and assessment.

    Zambia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, presenting the outcome of the African preparatory conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 17 and 18 October, expressed concern that the international community had not fulfilled commitments made in Rio de Janeiro with regard to the means of implementing Agenda 21. The Johannesburg Summit should result in concrete programmes of action with time-bound measures and specific funding sources to implement them.

    Emphasizing that human resources development and capacity-building were crucial, he said Africa recognized that participation by young people in sustainable development programmes was the foundation of success in combating poverty. However, they suffered from insufficient education, training, health protection and meaningful employment. In addition, Africa called for the coherent mobilization of all resources, including new and additional resources for financing of development, including domestic resources, foreign direct investment, debt relief and official development assistance (ODA).

    Singapore's representative, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), presented the outcome of the AOSIS Interregional Preparatory Meeting, held in Singapore from 7 to 11 January. He said the Barbados Programme of Action, which was a concrete expression of Agenda 21, was often at the centre of discussions. The Singapore Declaration drew attention to the necessity of fully implementing the Programme of Action as a matter of urgency. It would seek from the Summit process a decision for a comprehensive review conference on the Barbados Programme of Action in 2004.

    Also making presentations were Yemen's Minister for Tourism and Environment, who presented the outcome of the West Asia/Arab region preparatory process; the representative of Brazil, who presented on behalf of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); and the observer for Switzerland, who presented the results of the European Regional Preparatory Meeting.

    At the 1992 "Earth Summit" in Rio, the international community adopted Agenda 21, an unprecedented global plan of action for sustainable development. The Johannesburg Summit will bring together heads of State and government, national delegates and leaders from non-governmental organizations, businesses and other major groups, to focus the world’s attention on actions to achieve sustainable development.

    This afternoon's meeting also heard remarks by representatives of Japan, Spain (on behalf of the European Union) and Suriname.

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 29 January, to hear contributions from executive heads of United Nations agencies, financial institutions and convention secretariats.

    Background

    The Commission on Sustainable Development acting as the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September, met this afternoon to hear presentations of reports of regional preparatory meetings.

    The Johannesburg Summit is expected to adopt concrete steps and identify targets for better implementing Agenda 21, the Programme of Action adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro.

    (For further background on the two-week session, see Press Release ENV/DEV/606 issued this morning.)

    Statements

    SERGE CHAPPATTE, Observer for Switzerland, presented the outcome of the European Regional Preparatory Committee Meeting, held in Geneva on 24 and 25 September 2001. The Meeting had presented an opportunity to reaffirm the responsibility of European leaders to the achievement of sustainable development. They not only confirmed their Rio commitments, but also agreed to additional commitments to deal with the three pillars of sustainable development.

    The Meeting identified five common objectives, he said. First, leaders committed themselves to support countries with economies in transition. Second, they stressed the social dimension of sustainable development. Third, they declared their determination to work towards economic growth with environmental protection. Fourth, they agreed to set environmental goals and ensure that those goals were integrated into plans and policies. Fifth, they recognized the need to respect regional and subregional agreements on environment and development and to share their experience with other regions.

    The leaders expect the Summit to make progress in achieving the overall goals of poverty eradication and economic and social development, he said. Collective global action was needed in several areas, including the conservation of natural resources and making globalization work for sustainable development. They urged the Summit to promote better integration between policies for poverty eradication, environmental protection and economic growth.

    Also, he continued, they recognized the primary role of domestic resources, as well as foreign direct investment, in generating resources for poverty eradication. In addition, they would explore additional resources with the private sector. The ministers agreed that the downward trend in official development assistance (ODA) must be reversed and expected the upcoming United Nations Conference on Financing for Development to produce clear strategies in that regard.

    The Summit, he continued, should develop specific initiatives on freshwater, sanitation, oceans and seas, coastal zones, mountains, land use, forests, biodiversity, energy, minerals and metals, and health and environment. For all countries in the region, good governance formed a part of the necessary foundation for sustainable development. While that was primarily a government responsibility, he expected that the Summit would initiate new efforts to improve partnerships with civil society, business and industry. Many countries in the region wished to achieve a "global deal on sustainable development" in Johannesburg.

    The differences between the countries and regions of the world were much greater than those within a single region, he concluded. Therefore, the road to Johannesburg would be rough, with the occasional bump or pothole. However, if it was possible for the countries of his region to overcome their differences, he was confident that the obstacles encountered in the global preparatory process could also be overcome.

    KATELE KALUMBA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zambia, presenting the outcome of the African preparatory conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 17 and 18 October, said it was a great concern that very little had been achieved in implementing Agenda 21, largely because the international community had not fulfilled commitments made in Rio with regard to the means of implementation. The Johannesburg Summit should result in concrete programmes of action with time-bound measures and specific funding sources to implement them.

    While Africa was an indispensable resource base providing for all humanity, its poverty stood in stark contrast to the prosperity of the developed world, he pointed out. Globalization had further marginalized the continent, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development called for a reversal of that abnormal situation by changing the relationship underpinning it.

    He said that would require the removal of obstacles preventing developing-country exports to markets in the developed countries; debt-reduction or cancellation; review of Bretton Woods conditionalities; promotion of industrial growth; affordable access to energy sources; promotion of micro-finance; enhanced access to basic health services; sustainable rural development; agricultural development and food security; reduction of vulnerability to natural disasters and environmental risks; as well as access to and improved standards of education at all levels.

    Africa's already narrow industrial base was sliding into a de-industrialization phase at a time when the continent needed expansion, he said. The continent's considerable resources had not been processed in a beneficial way, which constituted a lost opportunity. The emergence of small- and medium-sized enterprises was designed to address that, but a lack of finance, supervision and organization prevented them from playing their proper role.

    Human resources development and capacity-building were crucial, he said, emphasizing the need for clear policies on training, education and research. In addition, Africa recognized that participation by young people in sustainable development programmes was the foundation of success in combating poverty. However, that category of actors suffered from insufficient education, training, health protection and meaningful employment.

    He expressed concern that implementation of Agenda 21 had been limited by lack of the necessary means of implementation, particularly the inadequate flow of financial commitments made in Rio. Africa called for the coherent mobilization of all resources, including new and additional resources for financing of development, including domestic resources, foreign direct investment, debt relief and ODA.

    Representing the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), LONG RITHIRAK (Cambodia) presented the outcome of the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Committee Meeting, held in Phnom Penh from 27 to 29 November 2001, on behalf of Environment Minister Mok Mareth. The key outcome of the meeting was the Phnom Penh Regional Platform on Sustainable Development for Asia and the Pacific. It was noted that, despite significant sustainable development achievements, the region’s environment continued to deteriorate and the number of poor countries continued to increase. Challenges included widespread poverty, inadequate financial resources, and isolation and vulnerability of small island developing States.

    The Platform, he continued, recognized that the key issues and priorities for sustainable development in the region were multi-sectoral and cross-cutting, embracing the environmental, economic and social spheres. Among the key economic and social issues were chronic and persistent poverty, unsustainable consumption patterns and natural disasters. Some of the key environmental issues included threats to biodiversity, freshwater resources and adverse climate change. Capacity-building, technology transfer, and promoting participation of and partnership with major groups were among the cross-cutting issues.

    He said that the Platform put forth several initiatives in several areas. In the area of capacity-building, for example, initiatives might include strengthening networks of civil society organizations, promoting awareness of sustainable development and developing skills in integrating sustainable development into planning, implementation and assessment. Also, the Platform supported the development and early implementation of an initiative on oceans, coastal and marine resources and sustainable development of small island developing States, including measures to address island vulnerability.

    The section on financing sustainable development recognized the importance of mobilizing all available resources for financing sustainable development, including access to markets and private financial flows, as well as the need for developed countries to reach the agreed ODA target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP). It also highlighted civil society as an important partner in improving environmental management and accountability.

    ABDULMALIK AL-ERYANI, Minister for Tourism and Environment of Yemen, presented a statement on the preparatory process in the West Asia/Arab Region. He cited a thematic round table held in Beirut from 9 to 13 April; a non-governmental organization forum held in Bahrain on 8 September; an industry forum in Bahrain on 22 September; a stakeholder round table in Bahrain from 23 to 25 September; a ministerial preparatory committee on 24 October; and a parliamentarians' forum in Beirut on 15 and 16 November.

    He said that ministers, building on the conclusions of those meetings, and taking into account the Jeddah Declaration of 2001 and the Abu Dhabi Declaration of 2002, had developed and endorsed a regional report to the World Summit and the Arab Declaration to be presented to an Arab summit in March 2002.

    Escalating poverty and population growth rates had been identified as key issues that must be addressed at the World Summit, he said. The effects of globalization must also be taken into account. There must be equal opportunities for developing countries to marshal their resources. The international community should encourage a situation where developing countries could harness their resources and implement appropriate policies.

    Stressing the need for greater efforts in developing strategies for strengthening health care and establishing security in the Arab world, he said sustainable development programmes should be financed through the contribution of ODA to the poor countries. Foreign direct investment should be encouraged to consolidate the private sector investment. He called for monitoring mechanisms and systems for regular evaluation of sustainable development programmes, assessment of their effectiveness, as well as the development of coordinated follow-up indicators and criteria.

    GELSON FONSECA, JR. (Brazil), representing the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), presented the report of that region’s Preparatory Conference, held in Rio de Janeiro on 23 and 24 October 2001. The Conference adopted the Rio de Janeiro Platform for Action on the Road to Johannesburg 2002, which incorporated the outcome of four subregional preparatory meetings held in Chile, Cuba, Ecuador and El Salvador. It also consolidated the principles, commitments and proposals for action in the region regarding sustainable development.

    The Platform, he said, called for a more effective integration of economic and social development and environmental protection strategies within the sustainable development framework. It presented an assessment of the implementation of commitments, obstacles and lessons learned. While recognizing that significant progress had been made in some areas, the document stressed that conditions for sustainable development had not improved. With regard to obstacles, concern was expressed at the negative impact of globalization, the lack of technology transfer and the inadequate flow of resources. The ministers recognized that 10 years after UNCED, the foundation must be laid for a new ethic that would serve as the cornerstone of sustainable development.

    In terms of future commitments, the document highlights the importance of strengthening institutions at the local, national and regional levels, aimed at intensifying the exchange of experiences, best practices and knowledge within and among countries. With regard to finance, the Platform highlighted the importance of meeting ODA targets, the need for fiscal and economic incentives to encourage private sector participation, the need for debt alleviation and the need to ensure that the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) could count on additional resources.

    In addition, the ministers suggested that the agenda for the Summit accord high priority to the cross-sectoral issues of finance, science and technology, capacity-building and vulnerability. They called for concrete steps to be taken in Johannesburg to foster technology transfer. The Platform called on the international community to reaffirm its commitment to sustainable development, so that effective action could be taken at all levels to ensure the full implementation of existing arrangements. The countries of the region proposed that the central theme for the Summit be "Towards a new globalization which ensures that development is sustainable, equitable and inclusive".

    KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore), on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), presented the outcome of the AOSIS Interregional Preparatory Meeting, held in Singapore from 7 to 11 January. The Meeting resulted in the adoption of the Singapore Declaration. Among the topics covered by the Meeting were: presentations of the outcomes of regional meetings; common themes for small island developing States as viewed by the regional organizations, capacity-building needs; the role of civil society; land degradation and freshwater; climate change; oceans; trade and sustainable development; and financing for development.

    The Meeting, he said, allowed for a very frank and open exchange of views, and contributed to capacity-building among delegates. Predictably, the Barbados Programme of Action, which was a concrete expression of Agenda 21, was often at the centre of discussions. The Singapore Declaration drew attention to the necessity to fully implement the Programme of Action as a matter of urgency. It would seek from the Summit process a decision for a comprehensive review conference on the Barbados Programme of Action in 2004.

    Comments

    MIGUEL BENZO (Spain), on behalf of the European Union, said that the main area of challenge and concern that had emerged from all regions was that of poverty eradication. The Union’s priorities in the run-up to the Summit were as follows: pursuing poverty eradication and sustainable livelihoods; making globalization work for sustainable development; protecting the natural resource base of economic and social development; achieving sustainable production and consumption patterns; and strengthening governance on sustainable development at all levels. In all of those, finance and partnerships were crucial conditions to fulfil commitments.

    Financing sustainable development was an essential cross-cutting issue, he continued. A primary role should be given to domestic resources, as well as trade and private financial flows, which needed a stable environment. In that regard, the Union welcomed the Monterrey Consensus, which it would thoroughly analyse.

    The international community should strive towards making globalization work for sustainable development, he said. It was necessary to integrate all people into the global economy, taking into account challenges to social integration, environmental quality and cultural diversity. Further efforts were needed to eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies and promote market access for developing countries. Johannesburg should encourage environmentally and socially responsible investments, particularly in the least developed countries.

    Mr. UKITA (Japan) said that the Asia-Pacific Meeting had mentioned action plans with regard to nine areas. Among those areas were energy conservation and recycling, sustainable agriculture and food security, sustainable forest management, environmental education, and poverty reduction. Those elements would contribute to the success of the Summit and should be duly reflected in the Summit’s final outcome.

    A representative of ESCAP expressed gratitude to Cambodia for hosting that region’s preparatory meeting and to Japan for all its help. Noteworthy, he said, was the role played by representatives of non-governmental organizations and other major groups. On follow-up actions, the initiatives outlined by Japan and Cambodia had been translated into benchmark projects and should receive due consideration in the Summit. He felt that his regional Platform provided a snapshot of the global situation.

    IRMA E. LOEMBAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname) provided some information on her country in the area of sustainable development. Despite its achievements, her country still faced many challenges in the area of sustainable development. Many processes needed to be institutionalized and several obstacles to the implementation of environmental policies must be overcome.

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