UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES NEED TO LINK
NEW YORK, 13 November (UN Headquarters) -- The international community must effectively link the targets, timetables and commitments on resources and technology set forth at the World Summit on Sustainable Development with country-specific programmes to ensure that Agenda 21 and the goals of Johannesburg became a reality, Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said this morning as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) discussed environment and sustainable development.
Introducing the report of the World Summit, he said that significant advances had been made in the Secretary-General’s five key priority areas for action: water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity protection, including expansion of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to water and desertification projects. The April 2003 session of the Commission on Sustainable Development must be a planning session for their implementation, he added.
He went on to remind the Committee that the World Summit served not only to mobilize sustainable development resources and technology for developing countries, but also to hold developed nations to sustainable production and consumption goals. Member States must exert political pressure to ensure that such issues as the protection of marine ecosystems and chemical safety remained under consideration, he emphasized.
Venezuela's representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the international community had reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable development at Johannesburg, unsustainable development patterns continued to be based on production and consumption patterns that had economic, social and environmental consequences on a global scale, particularly in developing countries. Greater coordination was needed in the work of all organs involved in managing sustainable development, he said, stressing that the Commission on Sustainable Development must work more efficiently in accordance with its role of policy guidance.
Denmark's representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, pointed to partnerships between governments, civil society and business as tools that could foster sustainable development, citing the European Union’s Initiative on Water and Sanitation and Energy for Sustainable Development Initiative. United Nations economic commissions and other relevant regional bodies could also play their part, she said, urging the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) to promote the implementation of the Johannesburg outcome during its upcoming conference in Kiev.
Egypt's representative lamented the absence of financing strategies and commitments, as well as targets for technology transfer and capacity-building in the World Summit outcome. Emphasizing that implementation was the real challenge ahead, he urged the Commission on Sustainable Development to focus on time-bound measures for financing and carrying out existing agreements, particularly with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
A representative of the World Tourism Organization noted that while the Rio Agenda contained not a single reference to tourism, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation included several explicit references and the Brussels Programme of Action a whole section on sustainable tourism. While eco-tourism was ideally suited to balancing development with conservation, unguided and opportunistic tourism development could have negative social and environmental impacts, he warned, underscoring the importance of an appropriate regulatory framework, efficient planning, sound management and clear sustainable development guidelines.
The Chief of the Water, Natural Resources and Small Islands States Branch in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs introduced for the Committee's consideration, a report on Preparations for the Year of Freshwater, 2003.
Other speakers in this morning's discussion were the representatives of South Africa, Norway, Russian Federation, China, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Rio Group), India, Cuba, Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Ecuador, Thailand, Japan and Switzerland.
Also making a statement was the Director of the International Labour Organization's New York Office.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today, when it is expected to take action on a draft resolution relating to the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to consider environment and sustainable development, as well as implementation of Agenda 21 and the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21.
International Year of Freshwater
Before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on Activities undertaken in preparation for the International Year of Freshwater, 2003 (document A/57/132), which describes activities, initiatives and networking at the local, national and international levels to prepare for the Year.
At the international level, the report states, the World Water Assessment Programme is evaluating the sustainable development, management, protection and use of freshwater for a global report on potential water problems. It also notes that a major international conference dedicated to freshwater -- the Third World Water Forum -- will be organized by the World Water Council and hosted by the Government of Japan.
Regional commissions are organizing workshops and seminars to train and raise the awareness of politicians, legislative bodies and other governmental institutions, the report says. In addition, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has published Water Conservation: A Guide to Promoting Public Awareness, and the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) will be adopting a long-term water strategy at the end of the Year.
Nationally, United Nations information centres will be distributing information materials to raise awareness about water resources management, according to the reports. Among other activities, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) plans to launch a new initiative on the role and operations of national hydrological services.
The report states that to publicize the Year, the Communications Group Task Force is developing a communications plan with the Departments of Economic and Social Affairs and Public Information, which will include a travelling exhibit, a web site, educational materials and a global public relations campaign. The feature will also feature information and press kits, brochures, education materials for school curricula, videos, radio and TV documentaries and special events.
According to the report, partnership initiatives include a campaign -- WASH: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for all -- recently launched by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council to mobilize political support and action worldwide for the more than 2.4 billion people without adequate sanitation, and the 1.1 billion lacking safe or affordable water. In addition, the Gender and Water Alliance plans to use a range of products and services focusing on the vital role of women and children in the sustainable management of water and sanitation.
The report recommends that Member States set up national committees to promote activities of the Year at the local and national levels. It also encourages interested stakeholders, such as international, regional organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to link their water-related activities to the Year.
A note by the Secretary-General transmits the Report of the Joint Inspection Unit entitled "Extension of water-related technical cooperation project to end-beneficiaries: bridging the gap between the normative and the operation in the United Nations system (case studies in two African countries)" (document A/57/497).
Commission for Sustainable Development
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General (document A/57/460), by which he informs the General Assembly that a report is being prepared on the work programme and practical working modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development with a view to facilitating its consideration of those matters at its next session.
The Committee also had before it the Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August-4 September) (document A/CONF.199/20) and the section of the Report of the Economic and Social Council (document A/57/3) (Part I) on the work of the Commission for Sustainable Development acting as the preparatory committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
United Nations Environment Programme
The Committee also had before it the Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)(document A/57/25).
United Nations Forum on Forests
Another document before the Committee was the section of the Report of the Economic and Social Council (document A/57/3) (Part II) on the work of the United Nations Forum on Forests at its second session.
Introduction of Reports
NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, saying that the Johannesburg event had made significant progress in setting targets, timetables, and commitments on resources and technology in five key priority areas set by the Secretary-General: water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity protection. Some 60,000 attendees had networked and collaborated on strategies to translate Agenda 21 into concrete programmes.
He said advances had been made in water and sanitation; agriculture in relation to desertification, including expansion of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to water and desertification projects; as well as in oceans and natural disaster litigation. Public-sector and private-sector partnerships were needed, particularly in energy, he said, stressing the need to study their role in implementing environmental and sustainable development. The challenge ahead was also to re-examine the links between goals and timetables set at Johannesburg and country-level coordination processes.
The Johannesburg outcome was not just an agenda for providing resources and technology to developing countries, but also for sustainable production and consumption in developed nations, he said. Political pressure must ensure that issues addressed, including marine ecosystems and chemical safety, remained in view and under consideration, he said, adding that the April 2003 session of the Commission on Sustainable Development must be a planning session for the implementation of Agenda 21.
MANUEL DENGO, Chief of the Water, Natural Resources and Small Island States Branch in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report on Preparations for the Year of Freshwater, 2003. He said the Year would be launched on 12 December at New York Headquarters, with participation by governments, civil society and United Nations agencies. Events would include a panel discussion, which would be webcast, a press conference, and a musical programme.
He said the year was ideally timed to follow the International
Year of the Mountains and the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and preceded the World Water Forum that would take place in Japan in 2003. Also in 2003, the United Nations would be launching the World Water Development Report, which was a joint effort by various agencies.
The international community should not lose the momentum set in 2002 towards sustainable development, which had brought water to the top of the political agenda, he said. Next year was one for action and implementation. Noting that the Johannesburg Summit had set high stakes for the water agenda, he stressed that the full commitment of all stakeholders was needed to accomplish the goals and targets that had been set. The Year of Freshwater would need collaborative efforts from all interested parties.
VICENTE VALLENILLA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development had marked the birth of a new relationship between environment and development as well as a new vision of sustainable development. The international community had taken a step forward in consolidating a true spirit of solidarity in favour of development by adopting Agenda 21 -- a group of visionary principles and a plan of action without precedent in the history of the United Nations.
There was no doubt that progress had been made at the Rio Conference, he said. Nevertheless, the world’s development problems were still there and challenges for present and future generations had continued to grow. Unsustainable development patterns had continued to reign, based on production and consumption patterns that had economic, social and environmental consequences on a global scale, particularly in developing countries. At the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the international community had reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable development by adopting an Implementation Plan and it should make a joint effort to comply with the commitments established at Johannesburg.
He called for a coordination of policies within the work of all organs involved in the management of sustainable development to promote more integrated visions of its economic, social and environmental aspects. The Commission on Sustainable Development must work more efficiently in accordance with its role of policy guidance, under a realistic working programme. More action was also needed from UNEP, which could encourage and promote the activities of the environment sphere within the United Nations system.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, welcomed the Johannesburg agreements on new targets, timetables, objectives and specific work programmes. Those commitments -- in water and access to sanitation, fish stocks, oceans, chemicals, biodiversity and access to energy, including renewable energy, sustainable patterns of production and consumption and sustainable development strategies -- were important addendums to Agenda 21. The European Union also welcomed decisions by several countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
Noting that partnership initiatives could foster sustainable development action by governments, civil society and businesses, she said the European Union was doing its part through the Initiative on Water and Sanitation and the Energy for Sustainable Development Initiative. The Johannesburg Declaration set clear and ambitious time-bound national targets for increasing renewable energy production and use, she added.
The Commission on Sustainable Development must also be strengthened and must focus more closely on the implementation of the Johannesburg Plan, she said. The European Union sought to strengthen the role of the United Nations economic commissions and other relevant regional bodies in furthering sustainable development and urged the Economic Commission for Europe to promote the implementation of the Johannesburg outcome during its coming conference in Kiev.
JEANETTE NDHLOVU (South Africa) said the Johannesburg Summit had provided the international community with the most progressive outcome on sustainable development that it could achieve in the current global political environment. Reaffirming the importance of Agenda 21, the Rio Principles and the Millennium Development Goals, it had also stressed that poverty eradication, changing consumption and production patterns and managing natural resources were the overarching objectives and essential requirements for sustainable development. The Summit had focused on some obstacles to sustainable development, including the unfair global economic and trading systems and the inadequate transfer of technology. It had also shifted the focus of world leaders from policy debates to the real task of implementation, and showed the importance of integration and coordination in the follow-up to major meetings.
Stressing that Johannesburg had been about implementation, she urged the international community to implement the Summit outcome in a comprehensive and balanced manner. The Summit had agreed that the Commission on Sustainable Development would continue to serve as the high-level forum for follow-up within the United Nations. Building on agreements reached in Johannesburg, the United Nations had a unique opportunity to revitalize the Commission in order to enhance its effectiveness.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) expressed disappointment with the failure of the Johannesburg Summit to meet challenges pertaining to environmental issues and poverty eradication. Nevertheless, given their complexity, the results were far better than Norway had feared and consensus had been reached on ambitious targets in some important areas.
He noted that the Johannesburg Implementation Plan called for closer coordination within the United Nations system as well as between the United Nations and financial institutions during the International Year of Freshwater and beyond to deal with water-related issues. There had also been progress on chemicals and, in that regard, Norway looked forward to discussing the global mercury assessment at the 2003 session of the UNEP Governing Council. Norway was also pleased with the commitments made to reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010. However, some areas left Norway unhappy, including energy, a field in which no agreement had been reached on ambitious targets.
In the long term, he said, fulfilment of the commitments depended on national governmental actions. Ways had to be found to ensure that the partnership initiatives launched at Johannesburg contributed to the realization of targets set in the Plan of Implementation. He suggested that the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary machinery should play primary roles in following up conference outcomes. The Commission on Sustainable Development should be strengthened and become a more relevant forum for political dialogue on sustainable development.
OLEG SHAMANOV (Russian Federation) said his country was creating a modern legislative framework for sustainable development, based on the principles of market economy, environmental safety, environmental education and awareness and cutting-edge technological development. Its goal was to create a sustainable development model for other nations.
This summer, the Russian Government, in collaboration with environmental organizations and businesses, had adopted an environmental doctrine, and the State Duma had recently held special hearings on sustainable development. The lengthy, painstaking task ahead for all nations, he said, was implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan. It was important not to lose the robust momentum created in Johannesburg. He also called for reform of the Commission on Sustainable Development in line with new environmental realities and for the creation of a special group on the five priority areas set by the Secretary-General: water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.
ZHANG XIAO’AN (China), describing Johannesburg as a milestone which demonstrated the international community’s commitment to achieve global sustainable development, said the Summit should guide future work in the environment area. The world should seize the momentum generated by the Summit to implement its outcome.
China had prescribed steps that could be taken to attain the targets set in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. While it was the responsibility of countries to make their own efforts in that respect, international cooperation should be strengthened, as it was critically important to achieving sustainable development, which was the task of the whole world.
She said there should be concrete solutions to ensure the availability of financial resources and technologies to facilitate the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, otherwise sustainable development would remain mere empty talk. Despite promises made 10 years ago that funds would be made available to implement Agenda 21, they were not yet in place. Johannesburg should not suffer the same fate, she warned, adding that without political will, there would be no real action.
Calling for the early establishment of a follow-up mechanism to the Summit, with the Commission on Sustainable Development at its core, she supported the idea that the Commission should continue to serve as the major forum within the United Nations system for discussion and consideration of issues related to sustainable development. China also favoured a session of that body early next year to determine its future methodologies and work plans.
BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the Johannesburg Summit had ended a cycle of conferences that underscored the importance of trade, economic development and environmental protection. It had resulted in many commitments that would force various actors to meet deadlines with quantifiable actions. The Summit’s achievements would strengthen multilateralism and lay down specific actions to fulfil Agenda 21. Whether Johannesburg had made a real difference would only be known once commitments were fulfilled, but it had promoted a new ethic in sustainable development based on common, but differentiated, responsibilities.
Emphasizing that sustainable development required a stable international economic system, he urged developed countries to eliminate all subsides on goods that developing countries produced for export, and to open up their markets to the developing world. He also stressed that at the present time, when international security had become the focal point, the international community should still heed environmental problems. The Rio Group called for the strengthening of Commission on Sustainable Development as the high-level body for implementing Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg agreements, he added.
ABID HUSSAIN (India) said the World Summit had provided an opportunity to assess progress in the implementation of Agenda 21. At Johannesburg, attention had been focused upon concrete action for achieving sustainable development, a focus on implementation that should be translated into concrete projects and actions at all levels, and into enhanced international cooperation.
However, the outcome of the Johannesburg Summit had not fully met the expectations of developing countries, he said. The specific and time-bound commitments for sustainable financial resources and for transferring environmentally sound technology to developing countries were far below the required minimum. However, the centrality of poverty eradication in achieving sustainable development had been reaffirmed and the need to address unsustainable patterns of production and consumption had been agreed upon.
Aware of the importance of conservation, protection and sustainable use of natural resources, he welcomed the establishment of an international regime to share out the benefits of utilizing genetic resources. The immediate task ahead was to structure and reinvigorate the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development because, at the end of the day, the real test would be found in terms of the implementation of the Johannesburg Plan.
Finally, he welcomed Mr. Desai’s announcement this morning that the report of the World Summit would be reissued to correctly reflect the intergovernmental understandings reached at Johannesburg.
ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said that, despite the ambitious declarations made at Johannesburg, developed nations showed a clear lack of political will to meet those commitments and were intent on diluting the Rio Principles on environmental protection. While the Rio agreements had been reiterated at Johannesburg, there had been no financial commitments to implement them. Developed countries were annually contributing a mere 0.2 per cent of their gross domestic product to official development assistance (ODA) for developing countries, $12O billion less than the required 0.7 per cent. Moreover, for every ODA dollar received, developing nations paid out six in debt servicing.
He emphasized that more realistic formulas were needed to achieve sustainable development goals, including the creation of a United Nations-administered development tax of 0.1 per cent on international financial transactions that would generate $400 billion annually, and the immediate cancellation of the external debt owed by the least developed countries (LDCs). Cuba called for the channelling of 50 per cent of current military spending into sustainable development.
MOCHAMAD SLAMET HIDAYAT (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Johannesburg Summit had reinvigorated the political commitment of the world’s leaders and put sustainable development at the top of the global agenda. No effort should be spared in translating the entire Plan of Implementation into concrete activities. He underlined the critical role of regional and international organizations, as well as the United Nations, in further elaborating their programmes to help implement the sustainable development agenda, noting that international cooperation was critical in enabling those entities to vigorously pursue agreed targets and goals in concrete terms.
Partnership initiatives were an innovative way to generate concrete activities and resources for implementing the commitments agreed in the sustainable development agenda, he said. Many such initiatives had been launched at the Summit by governments, major groups and intergovernmental organizations. But, while partnerships were important, they must not be allowed to be a substitute for governmental responsibility in fulfilling commitments. To that end, it was important to develop further a clear framework ensuring that the partnerships announced at Johannesburg supported implementation of the Summit outcome and that they did not simply represent a repackaging of existing programmes currently being undertaken.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said that, while there had been a drop in the number of people living below the poverty line in relative terms, those living in precarious, impoverished conditions had increased, as had environmental deterioration and natural resource exploitation. That trend made the implementation of the sustainable development goals set at Johannesburg a top priority of both national governments and regional organizations.
Echoing the sentiments of the representative of Costa Rica, he called on Member States to comply fully with the institutional mandates for sustainable development set forth in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, as well as with the agenda and work programme set by the Commission on Sustainable Development.
IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt) said the Summit was an important phase for multilateralism and for the implementation of sustainable development. While lauding the commitments reached in water, health, energy, biodiversity and environmental protection, including utilizing the GEF for desertification strategies, he lamented the absence of financing strategies and commitments, as well as targets for technology transfer and capacity-building. He also criticized the Summit’s litigation approach to implementation.
Better coherence was required at the international level to avoid past mistakes, he stressed. The Commission on Sustainable Development should focus on time-bound measures for financing and implementing the agreements already reached, particularly with UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
KULKUMUT SINGHARA NA AYUDHAYA (Thailand) said the World Summit had heightened the world’s awareness of the delicate balance between the environment, economic pursuits and social conditions.
Linking the protection of the planet to the eradication of poverty, he said all States had a duty to implement appropriate policies and pursue good governance to achieve economic growth, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and to ensure equitable distribution of income. At the global level, the economic and trading environment must facilitate the efforts of developing countries to achieve those goals.
Emphasizing the necessity for capacity-building in developing countries, he pointed out that most of them lacked the skills, technologies and capacities to cope with rapid globalization and its impact on environmental management. Without those capacities, they would find it difficult to implement Agenda 21 and the goals of Johannesburg. Thailand had encouraged its people to achieve a sustainable way of life in harmony with existing domestic resources, local knowledge and wisdom.
MASASHI MIZUKAMI (Japan), stressing the importance of concrete action to implement the outcome of Johannesburg, noted that the Japanese and Indonesian Governments, together with their partners, had launched the "Asia Forest Partnership" during that Summit. The Partnership’s aim was to promote sustainable forest management in Asia by addressing urgent issues of good governance and forest law enforcement to enhance effective management, control illegal logging and forest fires and rehabilitate, as well as reforest, degraded lands.
Noting that water was indispensable to human life, the production of food, social activities and preservation of ecosystems, he said there were still many people worldwide with no access to safe water, and many others suffering from the effects of flooding. At Johannesburg, participants had agreed to halve the proportion of people unable to gain access to or afford safe drinking water or without access to basic sanitation by 2015, recognizing that as a matter of great urgency. Japan was now preparing for the third World Water Forum and the Ministerial Conference on that subject, to be held next March.
BEAT NOBS (Switzerland) said the World Summit had reaffirmed the necessity of a multidimensional approach to sustainable development, which fully integrated social, economic and environmental concerns. Switzerland particularly welcomed agreements on new targets, objectives and specific work programmes on chemicals, biodiversity, sustainable production and consumption patterns and access to water and sanitation. The country also appreciated that good governance, enhanced participation by civil society, gender equality, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and cultural diversity were essential to the pursuit of sustainable development.
To realize the decisions taken at Johannesburg, the Commission for Sustainable Development would have to adopt a working agenda and define its future working method, he said. The Commission should focus on horizontal issues and not give priority to issues treated in other more specialized processes. It should also review the multistakeholder dialogue and use it for the discussion of partnership initiatives, he added.
DAWID DE VILLIERS, World Tourism Organization, said tourism had emerged as a central pillar of the service economy and an important engine of growth and job creation in both developed and developing economies. Tourism, and particularly eco-tourism, was ideally suited to balancing development with conservation and it had contributed to the conservation of both the natural and cultural environments. However, unguided and opportunistic tourism development could have negative social and environmental impacts. Without an appropriate regulatory framework, efficient planning, sound management and clear sustainable development guidelines, tourism could go wrong, he cautioned.
The World Tourism Organization had often argued that the strength and momentum of tourism should be better aligned with the fight against poverty and the preservation of the world's natural and cultural heritage, he said. Thus, while the Rio Agenda contained not a single reference to tourism, the Johannesburg Plan included several explicit references and the Brussels Programme of Action had a whole section on sustainable tourism.
He added that the organization's response to the challenges of sustainability and poverty included a Global Code of Ethics for Tourism; a World Eco-tourism Summit held in Quebec City and the submission of the resulting Quebec Declaration at Johannesburg; the launching, with UNCTAD, of a mechanism linking sustainable tourism and elimination of poverty; and the establishment of a working group to help developing countries gain the maximum benefits from tourism.
JOHN LANGMORE, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office in New York, commended the Johannesburg Summit for recognizing the vital role of "income-generating employment opportunities" in eradicating poverty. The ILO would continue to use its Decent Work Agenda and Global Employment Agenda as key mechanisms to support action at the country level to promote employment, incomes and decent work.
He drew attention to a meeting tomorrow of the ILO’s Employment and Social Policy Committee to discuss the organization’s follow-up to Johannesburg. It would be looking at the importance of employment; decent work and the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and relevant ILO Standards for poverty eradication; the ILO’s role in easing the transition to more sustainable consumption and production patterns; and the importance of continuing its priority activities since Rio in dealing with the challenges of sustainable development. He emphasized that the Johannesburg outcomes went far beyond issues targeted within the Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction, encompassing many important commitments and opportunities for action by and within industrialized countries.
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