Press Releases

    SG/SM/8363
    AFR/473
    ENV/DEV/698
    4 September 2002

    RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMAN SOCIETY AND NATURAL
    ENVIRONMENT IS CORE CONCERN OF JOHANNESBURG SUMMIT,
    SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS

    Common Action Plan Must Be Adopted by Governments;
    Should Be Reinforced with Voluntary Partnerships

     

    NEW YORK, 3 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a high-level round table in Johannesburg today:

    I would like to begin by thanking President Mbeki for giving us this opportunity to discuss the important initiatives that have emerged at recent summits and conferences, and to see how we can bring them together as a unified force for progress.

    In September 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, the world’s leaders agreed on an ambitious, yet achievable agenda for peace and development in the twenty-first century. They focused, in particular, on the importance of devoting the first 15 years of this century to a major campaign against the terrible poverty that afflicts so many members of the human family. Towards that end, they established a set of specific, time-bound objectives, known to you all as the Millennium Development Goals.

    But the Millennium Declaration was not only about lifting people out of poverty, and not only about securing them from violence and armed conflict. Equal priority was given to protecting our common environment.

    We are here today because we face great challenges on both sides of the development-environment equation. More than 1 billion of our fellow human beings suffer the dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, eking out a living on less than $1 a day.

    And several reports prepared for this Summit depict a world at genuine risk. Progress since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago has been slower than anticipated. The stark fact is that the present patterns of development may not be sustainable, even for those who are most enjoying its benefits.

    Johannesburg is meant to find another way, a path that improves standards of living while protecting the environment, a path that works for all peoples, today.

    That relationship -- between human society and the natural environment -- is the core concern of Johannesburg, and is what sets Johannesburg apart from other United Nations conferences and summits.

    Environmental stability is itself one of the Millennium Development Goals, and there is a close and symbiotic relationship between it and all the others. Even if we succeed in reaching them all by 2015, what will be the point if this achievement cannot be sustained?

    But equally, how can we speak of sustainable development if the other goals are not achieved? Our efforts to reach all the goals must be mutually reinforcing.

    Getting from here to there -- from aspiration to achievement -- will require extra resources and new policies. Doha brought home the message that trade is as important as aid, if developing countries are to make lasting, sustainable progress.

    I, therefore, strongly endorse the World Trade Organization’s call to use aid to strengthen the trading and negotiating capacity of developing countries so that they can fully utilize their productive and export potential.

    Monterrey focused on the mobilization of resources for development in general and the Millennium Development Goals in particular. Both developing and developed countries made impressive commitments. However, as you all know, they still fall well short of the minimum needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

    The problems are clear. The frameworks have been adopted. Now we need implementation. We know, better than ever, that many of these problems cannot be solved by any one country alone. And even if some countries are able to address some environmental issues alone, others -- like carbon dioxide produced in other parts of the world -- will continue to affect them.

    Scientists tell us that the world of nature is so small and interdependent that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon rainforest can generate a violent storm on the other side of the earth. This principle is known as the "Butterfly Effect". Today, we realize, perhaps more than ever, that the world of human activity also has its own "Butterfly Effect" -- for better or for worse. That’s why we need collective action.

    But we also realize that the "we" not only includes the governments who give those commitments, but must include everyone who can make a difference. A common plan of action must be agreed and adopted by governments. And this plan should be reinforced with voluntary partnerships among many different actors: governments, the business sector, non-governmental organizations, local communities, the academic community, and concerned individuals all over the world.

    This is the alliance for progress -- the only alliance -- that can realize the great goals we have set ourselves at the Millennium Summit, Doha, Monterrey, and now at Johannesburg.

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