Press Releases

    1 February 2002


    NEW YORK, 31 January (UN Headquarters) -- There was overall agreement to institutionalize the multi-stakeholder process at all levels as a way to enhance partnerships in implementing sustainable development, the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development was told this morning.

    The Commission on Sustainable Development is acting as the preparatory committee for the Summit, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September. During the Summit, leaders are expected to identify concrete steps to further implement Agenda 21, the action programme adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Summarizing one of two parallel dialogue sessions held yesterday -- on enhancing multi-stakeholder participation in sustainable development implementation efforts -- Co-Chair Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti (Brazil) said it had also been agreed that rather than seeking a single vision, the major stakeholder groups would find areas of commonality. There was also a strong call for the involvement of major groups in decision-making at all levels.

    Jan Kara (Czech Republic), Co-Chair of the other session -- on application of integrated approaches to sectoral and cross-sectoral areas of sustainable development -- highlighted agreement on sustainable job creation, particularly for women, youth and vulnerable groups; the need for innovations in science and technology to help alleviate poverty in water and other key sectors; environmental education at all levels; and the critical nature of gender issues. Amid calls for regional and subregional approaches to sustainable development, representatives of the major stakeholder groups highlighted the need for adequate funding of implementation efforts and for time-bound targets.

    During the morning’s discussion, trade union representatives identified the building of social pillars of sustainable development, implementing core labour standards and focusing on a bottom-up approach as priorities. They also stressed the importance of corporate accountability. Local authority representatives emphasized the importance of local Agenda 21 initiatives and the crucial role played by local governments.

    However, a representative of the farmers group expressed disappointment that agricultural concerns were not adequately reflected. Emphasizing that farmers worldwide were responsible for managing a large part of the Earth’s natural resources, he pointed out that government investment in agriculture was an important first step in achieving economic sustainability in the farming community, which would then result in responsible and accountable food production.

    A women's representative raised the issue of information, saying that the new communication technologies tended to leave out significant numbers of women, youth and children. Governments and stakeholders must find a place for proven traditional communications -- including person to person -- that had been overlooked by donors with the advent of the Internet. Some modern technologies were

    beyond the reach of many people. Women were ready to take the lead in promoting a people-first approach, she added.

    Speaking for indigenous peoples, another participant said poverty placed indigenous communities at a disadvantage, as their full potential was not taken into account. Poverty eradication must be related to territorial security, control of resources and the self-determination of indigenous models of development based on indigenous values, she said. While supporting proposals on education, she said current models did not consider traditional knowledge. Other concerns included the impact of organic pollutants on the health of indigenous peoples.

    A representative of the science and technologies communities expressed disappointment that sustainable consumption patterns had not been emphasized as much as they should have been. It was even more disappointing that health and population issues seemed to have disappeared. In addition, there was a need to uphold and reinforce the long tradition of free circulation by scientists across national borders as a basis for extending peace and stability for a better world, he said.

    Several delegations raised issues that they felt had not received adequate consideration. Tuvalu’s representative said spirituality and human values were an important consideration. Ignoring the cultural values of people and societies had been a major factor in the failure of sustainable development projects.

    The representative of the Netherlands, stating the need to put people first in facilitating sustainable development, said it was necessary to respect social and cultural integrity, as well as to conserve and use the Earth’s biodiversity in a sustainable manner.

    Indonesia's representative stressed the need to enhance the capacity of developing countries to harness new technologies. The "digital divide" must be turned into the "digital dividend". In that regard, a representative of the scientific and technological community said that the transfer of technology to the least developed countries should take into account their capacity to absorb it. He also stressed the importance of technology transfer between countries in the South.

    South Africa's representative said that any plan of action emerging from the Johannesburg Summit should seek technology transfer, resource commitments and time-bound objectives in order to further accelerate implementation of Agenda 21. One of the major outcomes should be a more effective governance system linked directly to the plan of action.

    She said that for its effective implementation, governments must have the support of all stakeholders, financial institutions, United Nations agencies and civil society. The private sector must also play a major role in changing the world economic power relations that had marginalized developing countries.

    China's representative said there were still many obstacles blocking implementation of Agenda 21. Sustainable development required a change in mindset, for which governments must take a great responsibility in terms of education and publicity.

    Other delegations participating in today's session were those of Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Brazil, Bangladesh, Japan, Turkey and the Republic of Korea. A representative of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) also took part.

    The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to begin its general debate.

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