Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/612
    31 January 2002

    Progress in Key Areas of Sustainable Development Assessed in Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue of Summit Preparatory Committee

    NEW YORK, 30 January (UN Headquarters) -- Unless the World Summit on Sustainable Development focused on specific key areas in tackling its priority goal of eradicating poverty, it would be unable to achieve any of its objectives, a session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development was told today during one of two parallel multi-stakeholder sessions.

    The Commission for Sustainable Development, which is acting as the Summit's Preparatory Committee, scheduled for Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September, heard a representative of the business and industry sector emphasize the lead role of governments in the area of water consumption. They must own and control water to ensure access for the poor and sustainable consumption for all, he said.

    Governments must form broad partnerships, not only with business, which could only operate in a framework involving all stakeholders, he emphasized. Governments must create an enabling environment at every level, which would in turn encourage business to establish the necessary infrastructure.

    Within such an enabling framework, he said, regulatory mechanisms could be established to ensure that promises of delivery were fulfilled, while businesses that failed to deliver were permanently excluded. On the other hand, when business invested time and money, it must be assured of a fair return, he added.

    Emphasizing the need for an integrated approach to freshwater research, a science and technology representative told the session that the scientific community was pursuing inter-disciplinary activities, including a World Water Assessment Programme undertaken with United Nations agencies. The scientific community was also very interested in working with indigenous peoples and would hold a workshop on traditional knowledge in two weeks, the results of which would be available to the Johannesburg Summit.

    Representing the farmers' group, another participant said the farming sector had a direct investment in the sustainability of the earth. Priorities for farmers included the need for regulatory frameworks, secure resources, ownership of research results, market power and strong horizontal partnerships with others in the food chain, as well as with legislators. Improvements were needed in the areas of growth, responsibility and accountability.

    A representative of the non-governmental organization (NGOs) sector said that social, environmental and ecological concerns had so far not been included in industrial agendas. Decision-making about the environment remained in the domain of the rich, who were also consumers of unsustainable products, made by unsustainable means in parts of the world where they did not live. Partnerships were key in exerting pressure on governments to institute changes.

    Another NGO representative said non-governmental organizations had long called for subsidies underpinning unsustainable development to be redirected to sustainable development. Studies had shown that the highest dollar amounts of current subsidies supported wealthy corporations or middle- and upper-income groups in the energy, transport, agriculture, mining, water and other sectors.

    A women's representative called for increased access to resources; women's health insurance and security; and secure empowerment and rights. Governments must develop the instruments to measure women's needs and the impact of their contributions. Representing indigenous peoples, another participant said partnership could only be built where there was consultation. Imposed development could never be sustainable.

    A speaker for the local authorities sector described local actions as the bottom line of every element of sustainable development. "Think globally and act locally", was the watchword for every area from land use decisions and waste disposal concerns to energy management. There were now 6,000 local Agenda 21 programmes on every continent, he said, calling on national governments to include local representatives in their delegations to Johannesburg.

    Representatives of the youth group called attention to the International Labour Organization (ILO) programme for youth employment as the roadmap for governments, industry and international organizations to ensure the employment of young people. They called for the implementation of programmes to safeguard the world for youth, and for the curbing of activities harmful to them, including through legislation to protect young people from the pressures of excessive consumerism.

    Another participant described the three-fold role of trade unions in promoting sustainable development through actions relative to the workplace; affecting policies at the national and local levels; and by addressing the concerns of local unions in relation to the impact of international economic factors.

    Representatives of Sweden, Samoa, Austria, Brazil, Nigeria, Finland, Netherlands, Indonesia, Germany, South Africa, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, as well as the ILO participated.

    The Committee will hold its final multi-stakeholder dialogue at 10 a.m. Thursday, 31 January.

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