Press Releases

    28 January 2002


    NEW YORK, 25 January (DPI) -- Identifying practical initiatives and new partnerships that can realistically improve economic, social and environmental conditions globally will be the focus of two weeks of talks between governments, business and other groups in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

    The Summit Preparatory Committee will hold its first substantive global-scale meeting from 28 January to 8 February in New York. The Summit will take place from 26 August to 4 September in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Already, there is extensive agreement among participants that the long-term vision for sustainable development adopted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit -- called Agenda 21 -- is still a valid basis for action. Although reports indicate that 10 years after Rio progress has been less than satisfactory, there is wide consensus that efforts to implement Agenda 21 must be reinvigorated, and the Johannesburg Summit is the best opportunity to advance tangible results in the form of actual programmes and projects.

    "Rio gave us the concept and Johannesburg will give us action", the Preparatory Committee Chairman, Emil Salim of Indonesia, declared. "We, as governments, know what the problems are. We need to concentrate on solutions."

    In a recent report laying the groundwork for the Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan found that progress towards the goals set at Rio has been slower than anticipated, and that, in some respects, conditions are worse now than they were 10 years ago. (For a copy of the report, as well as a media summary, see

    Ten-Point Action Plan

    The Secretary-General’s report also provided a suggested "Ten-Point Plan" for actions that should be considered at the Summit to move the sustainable development agenda forward. These include tackling issues regarding globalization, poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, health, energy, managing ecosystems and biodiversity, freshwater, finance and technology, initiatives for Africa, and international governance for sustainable development.

    Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai said the Ten-Point Plan was an attempt to see what actions could realistically be taken at the local, national, regional and global levels to strengthen sustainable development. "The main challenge", he felt, "is to secure the political commitment to undertake practical steps in partnerships."

    Many governments and others involved have already indicated that they welcomed the idea of an action-oriented Summit at a pre-Preparatory Committee brainstorming session on 16-17 January. Delegations from both developed and developing countries endorsed the Secretary-General’s Ten Points as a sound basis for initiatives that produce tangible results. One idea that gained ground was to forge "coalitions of the willing" that would encourage business, non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups to form partnerships to tackle particular problems or projects, with or without government involvement.

    One of the factors that has limited progress in sustainable development, according to the Secretary-General’s report, is a lack of resources. But Mr. Salim said that identifying "doable, deliverable programmes that are effective and measurable" would be far more appealing to donors than "high-flying rhetoric".

    The International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in March in Monterrey, Mexico, is expected to make headway on the question of availability of resources. "The challenge for Johannesburg", said Mr. Desai, "is to make those resources available for sustainable development."

    In an important departure from strictly intergovernmental negotiations, the two-week Preparatory Committee will feature in-depth discussions between representatives of all the potential partners who are considered necessary to ensure that implementation efforts will succeed. These major groups -- which include representatives of business and industry, farmers, the scientific and technological community, indigenous people, workers and trade unions, local government, women, children and youth, and non-governmental organizations -- will play a key role in raising issues and in promoting solutions.

    Also meeting during the session will be the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Panel for the Summit. The Panel, which includes a dozen prominent experts on various sustainable development issues, will meet with Secretary-General Annan on 5 February.

    Following this preparatory meeting, there will be one other in New York, from 25 March to 5 April, followed by a ministerial-level preparatory session in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 27 May to 7 June.

    Media contact: Klomjit Chandrapanya, tel. (917) 815-0063 (till 8 February only), (212) 963-9495 (after 8 February); or Pragati Pascale, tel. (212) 963-6870, United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI); fax (212) 963-1186; e-mail: A press schedule and other background materials are available on the Summit Web site,, under Media Info.

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    * Press release SG/2074-ENV/DEV/603 of 20 December 2001 should have been SG/2074-ENV/DEV/604