Press Releases

    GA/EF/3126
    4 November 2005

    Speakers Underscore Link between Climate Change, Growing Number of Natural Disasters as Second Committee Concludes Sustainable Development Debate

    Delegates also Hear Briefing on Inequality in World Social Situation

    NEW YORK, 3 November (UN Headquarters) -- As the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) concluded its discussion of sustainable development today, delegates spoke of a link between the rising number of natural disasters and climate change, which they said was caused by irresponsible economic practices that must be addressed urgently.

    Tuvalu's representative remarked that numerous scientific accounts had proved that human-produced atmospheric pollution had changed the climate, noting that hurricanes had taken many lives and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property in the United States, the Caribbean region and Central America.  Not even the world's richest and most powerful country was immune to the natural disasters arising from climate change.

    Colombia's delegate added that climate change brought about the defrosting of glaciers, the loss of harvests, extreme winters and the El Nino phenomenon, all of which required a people-oriented early-warning strategy to prepare the soon-to-be affected populations.  The international community must help developing countries to adopt effective measures to assure the transfer of environmentally clean, power-efficient technologies.

    As several delegates pointed out the existence of strategies for responding to emergencies and the need to fine-tune them, Thailand's representative said his country had established a Tsunami Regional Trust Fund to narrow the capacity gaps in the Asia and Pacific region and ensure the development of an integrated regional early-warning system.  However, the representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies noted that early-warning systems could not be fully effective unless they were supported by trusted partners, including Governments, as well as scientific, academic and aid agencies.

    Turning to the need for the mitigation of the effects of other hazards to sustainable development, delegates voiced support for multilateral environmental agreements dealing with the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions, land degradation and desertification, as well as policies to protect fragile mountain ecosystems.  In doing so, however, they stressed the need for more coordination between those implementing those agreements, especially if the ultimate goal was to achieve sustainable development.

    Fiji's delegate, for instance, expressed concern in regard to the Mauritius Strategy for Small Island Developing States about disturbing reports that United Nations entities and major regional donors involved in implementing the Strategy were being distracted by turf issues and behaving like "prima donnas".  Fiji respectfully requested that their efforts be distilled to their lowest component, so as to produce work that was truly coordinated.

    Other speakers acknowledged that in order to strengthen the international environmental governance system was a complex challenge that required the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders with diverse interests.  Kenya's delegate called for evolutionary reform of the system, while the representative of the United States said his country supported the incorporation of environmental concerns into development work, but saw no need for any additional supranational authorities to oversee such efforts.  Rather, the international community should continue its focus on strengthening the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through improved coordination, efficiency and funding.

    Several delegates expressed their desire to share their expertise in environmentally friendly practices.  Singapore's representative said his country had shown the Maldives how to produce freshwater through desalination after seawater had contaminated the archipelago's water supplies following the Indian Ocean tsunami.  Jordan's delegate recounted how, in order to compensate for the diminished Jordan River, his country had signed an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian Authority on drawing water from the Red Sea in Aqaba-Jordan into the Dead Sea, and generating enough electricity to power a desalination plant, which, in turn, would provide 850 million cubic metres of freshwater annually.

    Other speakers recognized their respective countries' potential to transform their natural resources into commercial products, but noted that they were financially unable to pursue such projects.  Nepal's representative said that mountain people in least developed countries like his own had remained traditionally dependent on mountain resources for medicinal needs, but the international community would have to contribute to the research into and development of mountain resources for medicinal purposes.

    Also today, the Committee heard a briefing by Jomo Kwami Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on the United Nations 2005 report, World Social Situation:  The Inequality Predicament.  He noted that inequality hindered growth and increased poverty, leading to a lack of economic, as well as socio-political power.  On a global economic scale, some 17 per cent of the world's population enjoyed 80 per cent of the global gross domestic product in developed countries, while only 20 per cent went to developing nations, with 83 per cent of global population.

    Inequalities were increasing, he observed, adding that the average number of food emergencies per year had risen to 30, compared with 15 a year in the 1980s.  Unemployment had remained a major source of inequality between 1993 and 2003, with the number of unemployed people rising by 31 per cent to 186 million.  The informal economy has grown in size, often characterized by the three Ds -- "dangerous, dirty and taking place in depressed conditions".

    Furthermore, access to health care had failed to increase alongside population growth, leading to further inequalities, and with high drug prices preventing much of the world from accessing better medical care, he said.  At the same time, the deteriorating terms of trade of developing countries had helped widen the gap between them and the developed world.  Unfortunately, the international agenda was dominated by issues that were deemed important by the developed countries, while those issues of importance to developing world barely made it on to the international agenda.

    In other business, Jamaica's representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced a draft resolution relating to the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).  The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania introduced a second draft on the International Year of Planet Earth, 2008.

    Other speakers today included the representatives of Nicaragua (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Croatia, Belarus, Mexico, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Iran, Serbia and Montenegro, Guatemala, Ecuador, Cape Verde, Samoa (on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum), Mongolia, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Kuwait, Canada and Syria.

    Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel and Syria.

    Also making statements were the observers for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the Holy See.

    The Second Committee will meet again on Wednesday, 6 November, at a time to be announced, to consider operational activities for development.

    Background

    The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to continue its debate on sustainable development and to hear a briefing on the 2005 World Social Situation:  The Inequality Predicament.  (For background information, see Press Release GA/EF/3125 .)

    Introduction of Draft Resolutions

    DEIDRE MILLS (Jamaica), introducing a draft resolution on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) on behalf of the "Group of 77" and China, said that in drafting the text, the authors had reflected on the positive developments that had taken place in the past year.  Of particular importance was the inclusion of UN-HABITAT in the Inter-agency Standing Committee in recognition of its important role and contribution in the transition from relief to development.

    CELESTINE MUSHY (United Republic of Tanzania), introducing the draft resolution on the International Year of Planet Earth 2008, stressed the importance of education in the earth sciences in providing the tools for the sustainable use of natural resources.  Activities during the International Year would be funded by voluntary contributions from industries and major foundations mobilized by a consortium of international organizations led by the International Union of Geological Sciences.

    The year 2008 had been proposed because of two major international geo-scientific events expected to take place, namely the thirty-third International Geological Congress in Norway, and the thirty-first International Geographical Congress in Tunisia.  It was to be hoped that proclaiming a United Nations International Year of Planet Earth would encourage a more cooperative research in the field of earth sciences, and compel the world to use available sciences to prevent and mitigate the recurrence of natural disaster, such as landslides, volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods, which had resulted in potentially preventable deaths.

    Statements

    EDUARDO SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said the region occupied a special geographic position, acting as a cultural and biological bridge.  That same location, however, made the region vulnerable to natural phenomena with a highly destructive potential.  Natural disasters, including tropical storms, hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions, had left thousands dead, resulted in millions of dollars of losses, and affected economic development in the entire region.  The countries of the region had few possibilities of achieving the Millennium Goals if it remained on its current path, which was due partly to its vulnerability to natural disasters.

    It was vital that the international community assist the region in preventing and mitigating natural disasters, as well as with an early-warning system, he said.  Among other events, precipitation had caused floods, which could be followed by outbreaks of infectious disease.  Earthquakes were especially destructive, since infrastructure in the region rarely met the appropriate standards to withstand them.  Susceptibility to disasters could ruin entire harvests -- which generated income and employment -- leaving large parts of the population destitute.  Their aftermath could result in many years of economic stagnation.

    IAIN LOGAN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that small island developing States were among the most vulnerable to natural disasters, climate and environmental risks.  This year the International Federation had participated with the United Nations, as well as the Governments and non-governmental organizations of 14 Pacific countries in the twelfth Pacific Regional Disaster Management Meeting.  The Red Cross Societies of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean often took a lead role, and even national responsibility, for disaster-management training and communication, prepositioning of containerized disaster relief stocks, community awareness and early warning.  In 2005, from hurricanes Adrian, Katrina and Wilma to Beta, the Red Cross had played a vital role in supporting Governments with disaster response teams and prepositioned resources throughout the region.

    He said that the international debate and action to develop early-warning systems in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami had increased public awareness of the importance of disaster preparedness.  However, it focused only on satellite technology and telecommunications.  The people living in high-risk areas were key to successful disaster preparedness.  While often overshadowed, community involvement from the bottom up was vital in identifying needs and patterns of vulnerability, and in ensuring that warnings were acted upon.  Information and directives relating to a specific risk must flow down from regional and global monitoring systems to civil society networks.  Warning systems could not be fully effective unless supported by joint messaging by trusted partners, including Governments, as well as scientific, academic and aid agencies.  Red Cross staff could receive and disseminate warnings and support communities in reacting to those messages.

    SICHAN SIV (United States) applauded the work of the fourteenth Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) for its leadership in bringing the world beyond negotiations and towards making tangible differences in people's lives.  Hundreds of participants had gained valuable practical knowledge through the Commission's capacity-building learning centres, and through its work in gathering, managing and disseminating practical information that was beneficial for all.  The Commission was a prime example of what the United States hoped to see in a reformed and increasingly relevant United Nations.  Indeed, access to energy, centring on electricity, cooking, heating, transportation and energy efficiency underpinned so much of what must be done towards advancing the development goals adopted in the Millennium Declaration.

    He said that the United States supported the incorporation of environmental concerns into development work, and that the international community needed to continue its focus on strengthening the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through improved coordination, efficiency and funding.  In the last year, positive developments in the UNEP, such as the adoption of the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity Building, reflected a good balance between coordination and decentralization.  There was no need for any additional supranational authorities.  National Governments bore the principal responsibility for environmental governance.

    ALEMKA VRCAN (Croatia) said her country had participated actively in the International Year of Mountains 2002, and was one of the 16 European countries that had established a national committee for the observance of the Year, which had significantly raised awareness of the challenges facing mountain people.  In Croatia, only 3 per cent of the population lived on 21 per cent of its total surface, which was more than 500 metres above sea level.  Even though progress had been made towards sustainable development in recent years, more work was needed to address mountain environments and peoples.

    She said the States Institute for Nature Protection was responsible for monitoring biodiversity in Croatia.  It was currently preparing the first Report on the State of Nature and Nature Protection, which would serve as a basis for revising the national strategy and was expected to be submitted to the Government by the end of the year.  This year, the Global Environment Facility had granted funding for a project on Croatia's preparation for the Third National Report on Biodiversity.  The Institute also participated in the European Union project on lists of national indicators, which aimed to develop a national list of biodiversity indicators to be monitored.

    TAN SHEE HIAN (Singapore) said that not long ago, his country had suffered from frequent floods and pollution.  Years of careful planning and infrastructural work had led to an alleviation of the flood situation, and rainwater had been successfully channelled into reservoirs.  More than just a matter of necessity, making Singapore clean was a strategy for attracting business and tourists.  Indeed, the interdependent link between environmental sustainability, economic growth and social development was a foundation for Singapore's sustainable development.

    He said his country had hosted the International Desalination Association's World Congress on Desalination and Water Reuse in September 2005, and had shared its experience in that field with the Maldives, where seawater had contaminated water supplies following the Indian Ocean tsunami.  Besides water, energy and the environment were also inextricably linked.  Through new energy-efficiency initiatives, Singapore aimed to cut up to 190,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2012 and help achieve a 25 per cent improvement in carbon intensity between 1990 and 2012.  Although the responsibility for sustainable development began at home, efforts must extend beyond national borders and go beyond short-term environmental performance.

    ULADZIMIR GERUS (Belarus) said that experts from his country had exerted much effort in implementing the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Central and Eastern Europe.  Belarus had just become a member of the CSD, and was committed to sharing the knowledge gleaned from practical experience with its development partners, in line with Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

    He said the occurrence of natural disasters this year affirmed the need for collective international action to address the problems of climate change, in accordance with the Hyogo Framework for Action.  Because a considerable area within his country was forested, Belarus also looked forward to the sixth United Nations Forum on Forest.

    BENITO JIMENEZ SAUMA (Mexico) said the international community should not lower its guard on sustainable development, even though the World Summit in Johannesburg had taken place some years ago.  Mexico supported strict compliance with the Kyoto Protocol and was prepared to participate in a dialogue addressing the differential responsibilities of signatories.  Its participation, however, would only occur if developing-country commitments were voluntary, and it would not accept any type of sanctions regime for lack of compliance.  The possible expansion of the climate change regime should be gradual and based on efforts to strengthen its capacities, which should include calculating and monitoring activities for different production sectors.

    If the international community wished to maintain its current standard of living, it must realize that harmful technologies, as well as production and consumption patterns must change, he said.  Mexico had mainstreamed the need for such changes into the education system, as well as ministerial policy in an effort to generate greater competitiveness and combat the adverse effects of such technologies on human health.  An attempt should also be made to strengthen the current international arrangement for forests in preventing the loss of those ecosystems.  Any new arrangement must ensure political commitments at the highest level, and establish clear and comprehensive goals.

    KWANG HYOK PANG (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said that environmental degradation was creating great obstacles to sustainable development, attacking human life and affecting efforts to eradicate poverty at the national and international levels.  It was caused not only by natural elements such as climate change but also by socio-economic factors.  Political will and efforts at the national level were essential to implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and major United Nations conferences.

    He said his Government was concentrating on environmental protection and management for sustainable development.  It was carrying out projects such as large-scale waterway and land readjustments to increase agricultural production and undertaking river conservation, as well as forestation projects.  It was important to pay keen attention to water-resource management and to develop effective early-warning systems for preventing and reducing natural disaster risk.

    More international assistance was needed to support developing countries in their efforts to create a sustainable environment, he said.  Commitments to provide official development assistance and technology transfers needed to be implemented, and priority should be given to building capacity in developing countries.  United Nations agencies should accelerate assistance in close cooperation with multilateral development and financial institutions.

    SCOTT O. E. OMENE (Nigeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, raised the issue of oversubscription to the Global Environment Facility through, which funding was provided to combat desertification, saying that the allocation of $250 million was grossly inadequate in the first place.  Nigeria hoped that the shortage would be amended during the fourth replenishment cycle of the Facility, and supported the invitation to United Nations funds and programmes, the Bretton Woods institutions, donor countries and other development agencies, to increase their financial and technical assistance to affected countries.

    He said President Olusegun Obasanjo had promoted the idea of establishing a green wall for the Sahara to create greenery from Senegal in West Africa to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and plans were in place to upscale that initiative to the sum of $4 billion.  In addition, Nigeria was pursuing measures to increase the energy mix by exploiting its capacity to generate solar, hydro, wind and geothermal energy.  The greatest challenge there was to acquire relevant technology that was affordable, efficient and environmentally sound.  Hopefully the fourteenth session of the CSD would take due note of that constraint.

    BHAGWAT-SINGH, Observer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), said that the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit had missed its opportunity to further the world's understanding of sustainable development issues and catalyze collective action on them.  The majority of the planet's essential ecosystem services continued to be degraded and unsustainably managed.  The Millennium Project report had concluded that those services were essential to attaining the Millennium Goals, and that their continued degradation significantly impaired the world's ability to achieve them by 2015.

    Regarding disaster reduction, he said countries that had suffered heavily from the December 2004 tsunami were populated by some of the poorest people and contained the richest biodiversity in the world.  A review of damage had indicated that intact natural ecosystems had played a vital role in buffering the force of the waves and protecting human settlements.  Mangrove forests, in addition to providing vital coastal defences, were also a cornerstone of the region's economy.  Post-tsunami reconstruction provided a good opportunity to integrate ecosystem restoration into coastal planning and development.  The IUCN was currently working with a wide range of partners to strengthen livelihoods and reduce the vulnerability of coastal populations in tsunami-affected countries through a planned $47 million programme to restore and conserve mangrove ecosystems.

    YASOJA GUNASEKERA (Sri Lanka), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that a country's chances of surviving natural disasters depended on its relative wealth, including the wealth of scientific and technical know-how.  The United Nations-backed tsunami early-warning system for the Indian Ocean should receive a higher priority, and international efforts should be directed towards supporting national efforts to build and strengthen national and regional capacities to react.

    She said Sri Lanka was concerned over the negative impacts of climate change faced by developing and small island developing countries.  It was similarly concerned about desertification and land degradation.  Sri Lanka had conducted tree planting programmes and a number of workshops on land degradation to raise awareness among stakeholders, including the corporate sector and school children.  Environmental preservation was also being pursued by determining parameters for the establishment of a sustainable supply of fuelwood plantations in degraded, marginal and underutilized land areas; by researching the use of biogas as a transport fuel, for industrial heat and electricity generation; and by assessing the usefulness of hydroelectricity, solar and wind energy resources.

    PRAVIT CHAIMONGKOL (Thailand) said his country had become an emerging donor, trading partner and foreign direct investor for least developed countries in South-East Asia and beyond.  Since 2000, Thailand had integrated the idea of "partnerships for development" into its development and foreign policies, forming partnerships with United Nations agencies, as well as with other countries.  Such alliances had occurred through both North-South and South-South cooperation.  Details of Thailand's experiences and lessons learnt were included in a report on "Global Partnerships for Development", prepared by the Government in collaboration with the United Nations Country Team.

    Noting that it was almost a year since the tsunami had hit the west coast of Thailand, he said that the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as the earthquake in South Asia had demonstrated the importance of disaster preparedness.  The Tsunami Regional Trust Fund for the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia had been established last month to narrow capacity gaps in the Asia and Pacific region and ensure the development of an integrated regional early-warning system based on adequate resources.  Contributions to the Fund from donors, regional and international financial institutions, as well as the private sector would be welcome.

    ISIKIA SAVUA (Fiji) said the proposed initiatives contained in the Mauritius Strategy must turn into action on the ground, but that more "noise" must be made to ensure that the recommendations were executed to the letter.  Fiji had heard disturbing reports that United Nations entities, whose activities were coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, were each pursuing their own goals and programmes, leading to the emergence of turf questions.  To exacerbate matters, major regional donor organizations were also claiming "prima donna" status.  Fiji respectfully requested that efforts be distilled to their lowest component, so as to produce work that was truly coordinated.

    Meanwhile, Fiji had taken advantage of the presence of the UNDP and other United Nations entities in the country to further the implementation of its projects, he said. One such project was on biofuels and involved the conversion of sugar into ethanol. That by product was then mixed with gasoline.  Related projects to convert coconut oil into diesel, or biodiesel, and of waste into gas were being pursued concurrently, with funding obtained through the Global Environment Facility.  United Nations entities should bring similar projects to countries without United Nations representation to fruition in order to convey a spirit of fairness.

    JAVAD AMIN-MANSOUR (Iran) said implementation of the outcome of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, held this year in Kobe, Japan, would have a positive impact on coordination, and substantially reduce losses in lives, as well as the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries.  Full implementation of and follow-up to the outcome during the next 10 years at the national, regional and international levels, as well as adequate resource mobilization, would lead to increased national and community resilience to disasters and decrease their adverse consequences.

    Regarding desertification, he noted that deserts covered one third of the planet's land surface and affected the lives of about a billion people in more than 100 countries.  During the International Year of Deserts and Desertification 2006, the international community should make every effort to highlight deserts and land degradation by addressing the root causes of desertification and its impact on development, poverty, deforestation, health, environmental sustainability, agriculture, and migration.  They should listen to people living in dry lands, consider the far-reaching implications of desertification on sustainable development, and their impacts on reaching the Millennium Goals.

    ELI BEN-TURA (Israel) said that while his country was tiny, its advancements in combating desertification, promoting renewable sources of energy, and advancing technology to reduce global disasters, could be shared with other States and regions.  In the area of desertification, for instance, Israel had carried out cutting edge research projects in dry land sustainable development, and had decided to host an International Year on Desertification Conference in the fall of 2006.  The country had also developed water-recycling systems, the ability to reuse sewage effluents, and the production of freshwater resources through desalination.  Manufactured water resources were expected to make up 55 per cent of water resources by the end of the decade.

    He said his country had recently signed a natural gas contract with Egypt, eliminating the need to build a new coal power plant.  That contract would gradually yield 30 to 40 per cent of Israel's overall electricity output and was expected to reduce significantly the emission of greenhouse gases in the short term.  With regard to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the country was developing remote sensory imaging capacities to identify hazard vulnerability and populations at risk.  It had also developed interferometric radars to evaluate the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, which could also be used to monitor dune and sand migration.

    MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN CUÉLLAR (Colombia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the sustainable use of biological diversity was a matter of paramount importance for her country and for the Latin American region.  They would like to see a more coherent application of international objectives that sought to reduce the loss of biological biodiversity, and that would assign additional financial and technical resources to developing countries for projects relating to biodiversity.  Similarly, it was important to create an international regime on the access to genetic resources and distribution of the benefits derived from their use.

    She said that the risk of having more droughts, floods and hurricanes was growing as a result of climate change, as was the defrosting of glaciers, the loss of harvests, extreme winters and the El Nino phenomenon.  A people-oriented early-warning strategy was needed, and the international community must help developing countries to adopt effective measures to assure the transfer of environmentally clean, power-efficient technologies.

    SLOBODAN NENADOVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) said that a segment of work in the Committee directed at improving knowledge and strengthening capacities was of particular importance to his country.  Training represented an extremely important component of each strategy in view of the fact that no strategy could be implemented without qualified personnel.  There were ongoing efforts in Serbia and Montenegro to work out a strategy of sustainable development.  One of the dimensions of strengthening the United Nations was the promotion of activities in the field of environmental protection.  Serbia and Montenegro supported the transformation of the UNEP into a more powerful and institutionalized framework.  More attention should be devoted to environmental protection.

    He said that in economic terms, environmental damage in Serbia and Montenegro amounted to 2 billion euro annually.  There was a need for stepped up efforts to offset the damage.  While Serbia and Montenegro should make major progress by the end of the year to preserve biodiversity, land degradation presented a significant problem.  As much as 86 per cent of the land in the Republic of Serbia suffered a varying type intensity of degradation, while in some parts of the Republic of Montenegro, the proportion was as high as 96 per cent.  The country supported efforts to allocate more resources for sustainable development.  Huge disproportions between mountainous and other areas should be gradually reduced by investing in projects that would emphasize competitive advantages.  Efforts should also be made to conserve natural resources while bringing benefits to local populations.

    ENELE SOPOAGA (Tuvalu) said that the translation of the Mauritius Strategy into real actions on the ground to address the vulnerability challenges in small island developing States should be the focus of all efforts.  It could not be overemphasized that implementation must be country-driven by small islands themselves, based on their national sustainable development strategies.  It was also necessary to strengthen the coordination of United Nations activities regarding small islands, especially in view of their isolated or fragmented nature.

    Regarding climate change, he said the recent devastating hurricanes that had taken the lives of people in the Caribbean, Central America and the United States, destroying millions of dollars worth of property, were not simple acts of nature, but the effects of climate change.  Similarly, the numerous cyclones that had swept through the Pacific earlier this year were not what some called climate variability.  Numerous scientific accounts had proven that the effects of human-produced atmospheric pollution had changed the climate. With the sustainable development of many highly vulnerable countries like small islands at stake, the time to act was now.  The impact of recent environmental calamities had shown that even the richest and most powerful country in the world was not immune to the devastating effects of climate change.

    The largest historical producers of greenhouse gases must step up their commitment to take meaningful, thorough and immediate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he said.  The world could no longer afford a stand-off whereby industrialized nations said they would take no steps unless developing countries reduced their own greenhouse gas emissions.  The biggest polluters in the world must face up to their responsibility for the sake of humanity.

    AMINA C. MOHAMED (Kenya), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the Millennium Development Goals would be futile if the challenges of environmental degradation were not addressed adequately.  A preparatory committee meeting for the development of a strategic approach to international chemicals management in 2004, and a meeting of the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in 2005 had underlined that environmental degradation was a result of poor management of chemicals and unsustainable land-use practices.  That problem, alongside global warming, climate change, depletion of the ozone layer, loss of biodiversity, exacerbation of deserts, land and environmental degradation were negatively impacting the world's poor, a majority of whom lived in Africa.

    Multilateral environmental agreements played a crucial role in poverty alleviation and promoting sustainable development, but there was a need to enhance coordination between related agreements, she said.  Indeed, the process of strengthening international environmental governance was a complex and big challenge, which must involve a wide range of stakeholders with diverse interests.  However, the system should be reformed in an evolutionary manner.  Kenya endorsed the ongoing process of international environmental governance within the framework of the Cartagena Decision, and was convinced that the UNEP should be strengthened within its current mandate through an enhanced financial and scientific base.

    JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said that while agriculture and forestry were the mainstays of his country's economy, tourism had become an important income source over the past few years.  As side-effects of growing investments in tourism, deforestation and intense cultivation had resulted in serious soil degradation, due to massive erosion.  That had been aggravated by natural hazards, including a series of catastrophic mudslides in October, caused by torrential rain generated by tropical storm Stan.  Guatemala counted on international support to maintain its soil, especially in mountainous areas.

    He said the country had integrated renewable sources of energy into its regional and domestic policies for social, economic and environmental development.  The country, which had substantial potential in the fields of hydraulic resources, biomass and solar energy, was participating in the Strategy for the Promotion of Renewable Sources of Energy in Central America, which disseminated information on resources, the use of technologies, manufactured goods, and financing options to reduce energy-project transaction costs, especially in rural areas.  A prime advantage of using renewable energy sources in producing electricity was the lower consumption of fossil fuels and the decreased emissions of contaminated substances affected public health, infrastructure and ecosystems.

    DIEGO CORDOVEZ (Ecuador), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the Andean region, where his country was located, was vulnerable to disasters, and as such, concerns had been raised about Ecuador's ability to achieve the internationally agreed development goals.  The country had endured landslides, flooding, earthquakes and volcanoes, which had often affected the poorest rural populations.

    He said Ecuador was firmly committed to an international centre for research on the El Nino phenomenon, which was concerned with promoting, complementing and considering scientific projects with a view to developing an early-warning system relating to El Nino weather patterns.  The centre would contribute towards reducing the socio-economic impact of such phenomena, and develop the basis of sustainable development policies.

    Tourism was the least recognized sector of the economy and was frequently dealt with as if it were the poor relation among the engines of growth, he said.  On the contrary, however, tourism could make a significant contribution to the Millennium Development Goals, and efforts should be made to ensure that developing countries benefited from tourism in the same way as developed countries.  In that regard, Ecuador underscored the importance of the code of ethics developed by the World Tourism Organization.

    MARIA DE FATIMA LIMA DA VEIGA (Cape Verde) said the Convention to Combat Desertification was a key instrument for attaining the Millennium Goals that would help reduce poverty and hunger, empower women and help ensure environmental stability.  Despite that and other facts, resources allocated to implementing the Convention were still insufficient, and States parties should pay the outstanding contributions needed for its core budget.  The Convention's latest session in Nairobi had decided on only a modest increase in the core budget and a significant staff reduction, while drought, land degradation and hunger increased year after year, particularly in Africa.

    She said Cape Verde was chronically stricken by drought, which had been a root cause of international migration and emigration for many years.  National and municipal plans to combat drought and desertification had been developed and were now an integral part of the National Development Plan.  Other internal strategies included the Strategic Plan for Agriculture Development for 2005-2015; the second National Plan for the Environment, which included both sectoral and local components for a new approach to the environment; and the Poverty Reduction and Growth Promotion Strategy.

    PERINA J. SILA (Samoa), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, urged the mainstreaming of the Mauritius Strategy and the long overdue strengthening of the Small Island Developing States Unit in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Two weeks ago, Samoa had hosted a Pacific Regional Meeting to follow up on the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, the Millennium Declaration and other international instruments, together with the region's Pacific Plan.  However, the country recognized the critical need to simplify the processes for accessing financial and technical resources to support national and regional efforts.

    She said the Pacific Island Forum welcomed the opportunity afforded by the CSD to devote one day of its review session to implementation of the Mauritius Strategy.  Samoa accepted that the primary responsibility for implementation remained with the region, but the island States could not go it alone.  Sustained and long-term commitment by development partners was needed because of the specific vulnerabilities of small islands, and the consequential challenges generated by those vulnerabilities.

    OCHIR ENKHTSETSEG (Mongolia) noted that desertification affected almost 30 per cent of the world's total land area and cost the international community $42 billion a year.  The livelihoods of more than a billion people -- almost a fifth of the entire global population -- were at risk.  The importance of mobilizing adequate and predictable financial resource, transferring technology and building capacity to tackle desertification and land degradation had been underscored at the 2005 World Summit, the commitments of which must now be translated into well-coordinated action at the international, national and local levels if sustainable development goals were to be reached.

    As one of the world's most arid regions, droughts affected 25 per cent of Mongolia's total territory once every two to three years and covered half the country every four to five years, he said.  Research had indicated that the areas affected by drought had increased by 3.4 per cent, and those engulfed by desertification had increased by 5.4 per cent from 1990 to 2000.  The Government had launched a programme to create a "Green Belt" covering 2,500 kilometres, which aimed to increase the country's forested area by 7.3 per cent and help halt desertification.

    IMERIA NUNEZ DE ODREMAN (Venezuela) noted that instruments designed to help countries undergoing or emerging from conflict had been given priority over mechanisms that could help countries achieve sustainable development and protect the common environment.  As a result, questions of poverty and social inequality had been deferred until later, as had those relating to the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production that had adversely affected the environment, as well as the quality and foundation of human life.

    She said there was a need to strike a balance between the social and economic needs of human beings and noted that the deterioration of the environment was due mainly to developed countries, whose lifestyles placed immense pressure on the world's natural resources.  Meanwhile, the basic needs of large groups of mankind went unmet, including the provision of food, health care, housing and education.  Problems such as desertification and climate change had also become more evident.

    To protect the climate, Venezuela adhered to the Kyoto Protocol and was also a signatory to the Convention to Combat Desertification, she said.  The country also supported the use of alternatives like solar, wind and other energy sources.  Any international agreement on environmental norms should be based on transparency and a rejection of unilateralism, and must go beyond the desire to commercialize.  Only by changing the prevailing economic system would the world's sustainable development efforts be meaningful.

    SAKIAS TAMEO (Papua New Guinea) said that international policy-making on sustainable development must end, and results must be delivered on the ground.  Special efforts must be made to overcome obstacles hindering implementation, especially in the areas of capacity-building, technology transfer and financial resources.  While countries themselves must take full responsibility and ownership in implementing sustainable development, international support was indispensable.  A new era for small island development States after Mauritius must be marked by the translation of commitments into concrete actions, with the international community doing its part.

    Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands were more exposed to natural disasters than most other countries, he said.  Volcanoes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods and drought continued to adversely impact upon the people's livelihoods.  The disruption of economic activities, damage to infrastructure, such as schools and health facilities, roads, and bridges, had continued seriously to affect development efforts.  The outcomes of the Kobe Conference on Disaster Reduction were being pursued seriously in the Pacific region, where a regional framework to implement the Yokohama Strategy had been developed.

    NAWAF AL-MOWED (Kuwait) reaffirmed his country's belief in world trade as an engine of development, saying that all countries had a joint responsibility to achieve sustainable development.  Kuwait intended to support international efforts to empower developing countries through bilateral assistance in the form of a Kuwaiti Development Fund, which had already benefited 101 States to the tune of $12 billion.  Kuwait had also participated in regional and international institutions, such as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund and the African Development Bank, so that an estimated 1.3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product in 2003 had been devoted to financial development assistance.

    In terms of environmental protection, Kuwait had created a general environmental administrative body in 1995 to preserve and protect the environment.  It had partnered with local and international research centres to build artificial shelters in the seabed, where coral was planted.  Furthermore, as an oil-producing country, Kuwait was working towards limiting the harmful environmental effects of oil production by looking into alternative oil-refining methods.  However, that required a huge investment by the oil industry and great coordination among oil producers, an endeavour that was complicated by the high taxes imposed on oil exports by developed countries for profit.  While there was a shortage of investment in refineries in Asia and America, Kuwait looked forward, nevertheless, to finding solutions to keep up with future demand for oil in a sustainable manner.

    GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said the international community must do whatever was needed to address climate change in preserving the natural environment, as well as prosperity.  A concrete expression of Canada's commitment to climate change was the Climate Change Conference to be held in Montreal later this month.  The Conference would be the first of its kind after the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force, and would be a crucial gathering of the global community in setting the tone for future negotiations on climate change.  Climate change was not simply a matter of resource protection, but had deep roots in global economic and political activity.  Addressing the phenomenon also meant addressing development, health, demographic change and energy security.

    Finding a way forward on climate change would not be a simple task, as each country had its own demands, unique circumstances and preferred method for dealing with the issue, he said.  However, the shared desire of all to address climate change directly would allow the world community to come together in Montreal for productive discussion on real, long-term progress.  With insights gleaned from international meetings, Canada believed Montreal could arrive at a decision based on ensuring environmental effectiveness, broadening participation, advancing development goals, strengthening market mechanisms, realizing the potential of advanced technologies, and dealing with adaptation.

    BALA BHADRA BHARATI (Nepal), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that mountains were the source of most of the earth's freshwater, the storehouses of minerals and the abode of ecological diversity.  Yet, mountain regions were the most vulnerable in terms of natural calamities.  Difficult weather, poor communications, and inaccessibility to mountainous areas impeded aid delivery and rescue efforts, as seen during the recent South Asia earthquake.  Nepal was a country where three fourths of the land was mountainous.  It was also home to Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.  More than half of its population lived in mountainous or hilly areas.  International cooperative mechanisms like the Mountain Partnership for Sustainable Development and the Bishkek Mountain Platform had provided a good opportunity to address aspects of sustainable mountain development.

    He said that health concerns were prominent in his country's efforts to fight sustainable development and poverty eradication.  Mountain people in least developed countries like Nepal had remained traditionally dependent on mountain resources for medicinal needs, and Nepal called upon the international community to contribute to the research and development of mountain resources for medicinal purposes.  Meanwhile, the country was committed to generating employment opportunities for remote mountainous areas, and targeting programmes to include the promotion of ecotourism.  Hopefully, mountain development would continue to receive international cooperation and support.

    BASHEER ZOUBI (Jordan), addressing environmental threats in the Middle East, said the evaporation rate from the Dead Sea had exceeded the rate of water inflow since the diversion of the Jordan River in 1967, which had caused the water level to decline steadily by almost one metre a year.  Over the past 40 years, the Dead Sea had diminished by 30 per cent, as annual water inflow declined by 90 per cent from 1.3 billion cubic metres in the early 1960s to 100 million cubic metres today.  If that rate of reduction continued, the sea would dry up totally within 50 years.  Once it was dry, wind would spread the remaining salty minerals to neighbouring fertile fields in the Jordan Valley, turning that breadbasket into a desert.

    To compensate for the diminished river, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority had signed an agreement in May to pave the way for a canal linking the Red Sea to the Dead Sea from the south, he said.  The Red-Dead project would comprise 175 kilometres of canal, tunnel and piping, drawing water from the Red Sea in Aqaba-Jordan, and raising it 170 metres above sea level, before dropping it into the Dead Sea 400 metres below sea level.  That drop would generate enough electricity to help pump water in the initial stage, and power a desalination plant, which would provide 850 million cubic metres of freshwater annually.  There were also plans to build holiday resorts and a water park along parts of the route.

    CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said that the costs to ecosystems must be considered in all economic decisions, as nature's resources were clearly finite.  Protection of natural assets must gain a much higher priority in Government planning, investment and budgeting.  Of particular concern were forests, which remained essential in providing food, shelter, fuel, freshwater and fibre to 90 per cent of the world's 1.2 billion extremely poor people.  Yet forest loss was still evident in too many places.

    States should not forget the Millennium Goal to halve the number of people without access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015, and to improve significantly the lives of slum dwellers by 2020, he said.  Unfortunately, many States would fail to meet the 2005 target for establishing integrated water-resource management programmes.  Another grave question was that of climate change and energy, which the Secretary-General had rightly described as one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century.  The next biennial cycle of the CSD would be an opportunity for the international community to focus on poor areas with the least capacity to adapt, the scarcest energy resources and greatest exposure to the consequences of climate change.

    MANR TALEB (Syria) said Governments should continue to support the CSD and to assist developing countries in implementing its objectives.  Since water resources were particularly vital, the United Nations mechanism for water should work towards the goals of the Decade, Water for Life, especially in efforts to attain the Millennium Goals.  Moreover, the international community should provide more resources to the Convention to Combat Desertification and strengthen the UNEP, as well as other agencies addressing desertification.

    He said that Israel's representative had forgotten to mention in his statement what his country had done to transform agricultural land and water resources owned by Arabs in occupied territories, despite pronouncements by the international community that Arab rights to those resources were inalienable.

    Rights of Reply

    The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the rights of reply, said that in discussing hazardous materials, the Committee was forgetting that "lies" were the most hazardous materials that existed.  Indeed, the report of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said such claims could not be substantiated.  It was Israel's strong belief that issues should not be politicized in the Second Committee.  However, it was not surprising that Syria would make such allegations, and that its representative had the audacity to repeat the lies as if to make them come true, whether in writing or in speech.  The Committee should unequivocally reject such attempts to turn lies into truth.

    The representative of Syria responded by saying that, as was customary, the Israeli delegate had provided "idiotic" statements that rightfully belonged "in the dustbin".  Syria reasserted its earlier statement concerning Israel's abuse of the environment, which had appeared in many United Nations reports describing the living conditions of Palestinian people, especially the inhabitants of the East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan.

    He said Israel had transformed the agricultural lands of Arab citizens into desert, uprooting trees and causing soil erosion in the process.  Numerous reports testified to that fact.  Furthermore, a report of the Johannesburg Summit said that foreign occupation was a threat to sustainable development, which was directly related to today's topic of discussion.

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