Press Releases

    Commission on Sustainable Development
    Acting as the Preparatory Committee for World Summit on Sustainable Development
    1st Meeting (AM)



    29 January 2002


    NEW YORK, 28 January (UN Headquarters) -- Preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September, continued this morning, as a two-week session of the Summit’s Preparatory Committee opened at Headquarters.

    At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, the international community committed itself to an ambitious plan of action, known as Agenda 21, which embraced economic growth, social development and environmental protection, to achieve sustainable development. Ten years later, the Johannesburg Summit will be an opportunity to adopt concrete steps and identify targets for better implementing Agenda 21.

    Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Summit, told representatives this morning that the challenge for Johannesburg was to put sustainability at the centre of the development agenda. The Summit must reassert political commitment to sustainable development at the highest level and translate those commitments into concrete measures. It must also take into account the changes in the world since 1992, the most important of which had been globalization.

    Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said that 10 years after the historic Rio Summit, Johannesburg would be another landmark event that should reinvigorate international commitment to sustainable development. It was, therefore, crucial that all perspectives be taken into account in order to develop the broadest ownership and participation.

    Also this morning, the Committee adopted its provisional agenda and organization of work. It also approved the request of nine intergovernmental organizations, as observers, to the preparatory process and the Summit itself. Further, it accredited a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other major groups, with the exception of one organization, the International Campaign for Tibet, whose application had raised objection from a Member State. Further consultations would be held on that application.

    The Committee also heard presentations of results of a number of intergovernmental meetings and processes. Speakers included representatives of Germany, Iceland, Canada and Austria, as well as the representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

    The Commission on Sustainable Development, established in 1993 to follow up on UNCED, is acting as the Summit’s Preparatory Committee. The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. to hear presentations of the results of regional preparatory committees.


    The Commission on Sustainable Development, acting as the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September, will hold its second session at Headquarters from 28 January to 8 February.

    At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, the international community committed itself to an ambitious plan of action known as Agenda 21, which embraced economic growth, social development and environmental protection, to achieve sustainable development. Ten years later, the Johannesburg Summit presents an opportunity for today's leaders to adopt concrete steps and identify targets for better implementing Agenda 21.

    Johannesburg will not only bring together national leaders, but also representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the business community and other major groups to address the challenges of sustainable development. In that respect, the General Assembly stressed that the preparatory process and the Summit itself would provide for an active involvement of all stakeholders.

    The overall goal of the Summit is to regenerate, at the highest political level, the global commitment to sustainable development, a North-South partnership and accelerated action on Agenda 21. Specific objectives include addressing new challenges and opportunities that have emerged since Rio that are affecting action on sustainable development, as well as to propose specific measures to be undertaken, the institutional and financial requirements, and sources of such support.

    The Committee’s two-week session will include accreditation of intergovernmental organizations and NGOs, as well as presentations of results of regional preparatory committees and intergovernmental meetings. It will consist of a general debate, several multi-stakeholder dialogues, interactive discussion groups and a panel discussion on the role of the media, as well as several side events.

    In addition, the Governments of Indonesia –- the host of the final preparatory committee meeting -– and South Africa will make presentations. Participants will also study the Chairman’s draft text of the final outcome.

    Secretary-General’s Report

    For its consideration, the Committee has before it the report of the Secretary-General on implementing Agenda 21 (document E/CN.17/2002/PC.2/7), which assesses progress made thus far. In it, the Secretary-General states that progress towards the Rio goals had been slower than expected and that, in some cases, conditions were worse than they were 10 years ago. However, he goes on to say that with strong political will, practical steps and strong partnerships, several key hurdles in implementation could be overcome.

    The report found that Agenda 21 remains as valid today as it was at Rio. At the same time, while progress has been made in some areas, the state of the world’s environment was still fragmented and conservation measures were far from satisfactory. In addition, new developments, such as globalization and the spread of HIV/AIDS, presented new challenges that must be addressed.

    The implementation of Agenda 21 has been hampered by four main factors, according to the report. First, a fragmented approach that has not seen policies and programmes address economic, social and environmental concerns in an integrated manner. Secondly, the world continues to use far more resources than ecosystems can support. Thirdly, policy approaches to finance, investment, technology and resource development are not coordinated or coherent, and are driven by short-term considerations rather than a long-term interest in sustainability.

    In addition, financial resources for sustainable development remain insufficient, with official development assistance (ODA) actually declining since 1992 and with flows of private investment highly volatile and focused on a small number of countries.

    The report includes a comprehensive set of 10 principles for countries, business leaders, NGOs and other stakeholders to consider as they work towards developing the Johannesburg Agenda. Among them is making globalization work for sustainable development through measures such as better coordinated macroeconomic policy management, removal of trade-distorting subsidies and improved access to markets for developing countries.

    The report also supports changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production by, among other things, a fourfold increase in resource efficiency in developed countries in the next 20-30 years. Mobilizing financial resources and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies for sustainable development, particularly through increasing both the amount and the effectiveness of ODA and foreign investment, is also supported.

    Committee Membership

    The Chairman of the Committee is Emil Salim (Indonesia). The Vice-Chairpersons are Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti (Brazil), Richard Ballhorn (Canada), Jan Kara (Czech Republic), Ihab Gamaleldin (Egypt), Kiyotaka Akasaka (Japan), Ositadanma Anaedu (Nigeria), Alexandru Niculescu (Romania) and Lars-Goran Engfeldt (Sweden), and Diane Quarless (Jamaica) who also serves as Rapporteur.


    In opening remarks, Committee Chairman EMIL SALIM (Indonesia) said that world leaders would only attend the World Summit if the outcome was meaningful. Therefore, he stressed the need for successful deliberations leading up to the Summit. Also, the process should start from the bottom up and support the involvement of the major groups. In addition, the meeting must be able to meet the new challenges that had emerged after Rio, such as globalization and new technologies.

    NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the World Summit, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on implementing Agenda 21. He said that Rio was particularly important since it marked a move away from a confrontationist atmosphere to one where the international community sought common ground. It was a groundbreaking meeting, because its focus was finding consensus on issues of concern to all.

    The achievements since then had been substantial, he noted, including an increase in awareness-raising. Also, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, as well as the precautionary principle, had found their way into the lexicon of international diplomacy. Those principles could be seen in the elaboration of several international agreements since Rio. Another gain was acceptance of the fact that addressing human depravity was a global responsibility. Other gains included important developments in the mindset of the corporate sector, as well as local authorities and other areas of civil society. Rio also brought NGOs and other groups into the United Nations processes.

    He noted that, despite those achievements, it was difficult to see the results on the ground for many reasons, including a lack of policy coherence, unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and the lack of promised financial resources. The challenges ahead included taking into account the changes in the world since 1992, the most important of which was globalization. At Johannesburg, governments and civil society should find ways to address the anxieties associated with globalization. The Summit was part of a triad of major international conferences that included the Doha World Trade Organization meeting, held in November 2001, and the upcoming International Conference on Financing for Development.

    The challenge for Johannesburg was to put sustainability at the centre of the development agenda, he said. It was an opportunity to reinforce the new multilateralism that was emerging, which was placing developing countries at the centre of global development. The challenges for the Summit included: reasserting political commitment at the highest level to sustainable development; translating those commitments into concrete measures; and establishing partnerships for success in implementing those measures. Sustainable development was about the process of peaceful change, which was the strength of the United Nations.

    B. BERBALK (Germany), presenting the outcome of the International Conference on Freshwater held in Bonn last year, said it had made substantive progress on issues of governance, integrated management and partnerships in water affairs. It had underlined the primary responsibility of governments to ensure equitable access to water and to set and enforce stable and transparent rules with decentralization as a key element.

    She said the Conference had looked in depth at public funds, private investment, external development assistance and user charges as the key sources of income for water-service providers. It had agreed that while customers should pay sufficient charges to cover operation, maintenance and capital costs, cost- recovery objectives should not be a barrier to poor people's access to water supply and sanitation. The use of tariff systems that allowed social targeting was recommended.

    In the field of capacity-building and technology transfer, she said, the Conference had recommended actions for education and training, for research and information management, for better water institutions and sharing knowledge. The Conference had also devoted a plenary session to gender issues, underscoring the need for water-management policies to allow men and women equitable access to water resources and to empower women to take up leadership and managerial roles.

    THORSTEINN INGOLFFSON (Iceland), presenting the results of the Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem, which took place in Reykjavik, Iceland, from 1 to 4 October 2001, said it confirmed the fundamental importance of sustainable fisheries for food security and for economic well-being and development.

    He said the Conference clarified the nature and objective of ecosystem-based fisheries management, recognizing that it entailed taking into account the impacts of the marine ecosystem on fisheries, as well as the impact of fisheries on the marine ecosystem. The Reykjavik Declaration committed States to work individually and collectively to incorporate ecosystem considerations into fisheries management, with the aim of reinforcing responsible and sustainable fisheries in the marine ecosystem.

    One concrete area of action to attain the Declaration's objectives, he said, was the introduction of effective management plans with incentives to encourage responsible fisheries, including mechanisms to reduce excessive fishing. Another area was effective cooperation to advance the scientific basis for incorporating ecosystem considerations in the management of living marine resources.

    He also stressed the need to support the developing countries in building sustainable fisheries management and cooperation between international financial institutions and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in providing those countries with such support. Another area for concrete action was the development of FAO technical guidelines to facilitate the incorporation of ecosystem considerations into fisheries management.

    MAGNUS JOHANNESSON (Iceland) presented the outcome of the First Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, which was held in Montreal from 26 to 30 November 2001. The Meeting, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and hosted by Canada, brought together representatives of governments, the private sector, NGOs and civil society. The Montreal Declaration represented the outcome of the Meeting.

    The Global Programme of Action was a response to the global call for protection of the marine environment from pollution from land-based activities, he said. Despite considerable progress in several areas, marine degradation had worsened. The Summit must take that into consideration and give priority to the implementation of the Global Programme of Action. It was evident that active implementation of the Programme at all levels would contribute to food security, protection of human health and sustainable economic growth. Its implementation was primarily the responsibility of governments.

    The Declaration stated, among other things, that technical assistance and capacity-building should be promoted. It called on financial institutions for support, as the lack of financial resources was a major impediment to implementation of the Programme of Action. In that regard, governments could take action to ensure wider application of micro-financing. He reiterated that the Programme had emerged as one of the successful outcomes of the Rio Conference. It held real promise to address the threats posed to the marine environment from land-based activities. He requested that the Summit take full account of the Review when considering the implementation of Agenda 21.

    GILBERT PARENT, Ambassador for the Environment of Canada, reported to the Committee on the International Pollution Prevention Summit, a joint initiative of the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention and his Government. In Montreal, from 18 to 20 October 2000, over 250 leading practitioners from more than 60 countries gathered to strengthen partnerships and stimulate further action on pollution prevention, he said.

    The Summit launched the Global Cleaner Production Information Network, he continued, a permanent network that went beyond annual meetings to truly link practitioners and encourage ideas and innovation. It represented a vital new resource for businesses and governments. The Internet-based network connected and served as a virtual meeting place for pollution prevention round tables, sustainability and cleaner production networks and other organizations worldwide that were committed to expanding cleaner production and pollution prevention.

    The Summit also produced a series of action plans for furthering sustainability goals in the areas of changing behaviour, education, finance, and policy and the role of national governments, he added. Specific actions identified at the Summit included developing a model that demonstrated the social, economic and environmental implications of purchasing decisions, as well as developing a compendium of pollution prevention, legislation and regulations in each country.

    The action plans, he said, recognized that innovation, partnership and commitment were vital components of the changes needed to eliminate pollution from production processes, transportation, delivery of health services and many other economic development activities. None of those changes could be accomplished in isolation or by any one sector of society. To further sustainability goals, governments at all levels, small- and medium-sized businesses, and citizens must also reflect the principles of pollution prevention.

    MELCHIADE BUKURU, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, reported on the outcome of the fifth Conference of the States Parties to the Convention, held in Geneva from 1 to 12 October 2001. The Conference report contained two annexes. The first was a report of conclusions and recommendations, and the second was a political document adopted by the ministerial and high-level interactive segments of the Conference.

    Noting that geography often coincided with the topology of drylands in many poor countries, he said there was a nexus between environment and poverty in those countries. It was hoped that the report of the Geneva Conference would be useful for the deliberations of the Commission on Sustainable Development acting as the Preparatory Committee for the Johannesburg Summit.

    A representative of the Conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change presented the results of the seventh Conference of the parties, held in Marrakesh from 29 October to 9 November 2001. He said that the Marrakesh Ministerial Declaration addressed the linkages between climate change and sustainable development. It stated that climate change and its impacts must be addressed through international cooperation. It also recognized synergies between the UNCED-related conventions and stressed the importance of energy. Further, it welcomed the efforts of all parties to implement the Convention.

    SU JILAN, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), presented the report of the Extraordinary Executive Council of the Commission, held in Paris from 10 to 11 December 2001. The oceans were a special responsibility of the United Nations system and that should be reflected at Johannesburg. The institutions created by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea were insufficient. Close to 75 per cent of the world’s population would live in coastal zones by 2025. To protect economic development in the coastal zones, governments needed integrated ocean and coastal management at various levels.

    PATRICIO BERNEL, also representing UNESCO, briefed the Committee on the Global Conference on Oceans and Coasts, held in Paris from 3 to 7 December 2001, to assess progress in the post-Rio oceans and coasts agenda. The topics discussed included implementation of the Rio principles and international ocean agreements, capacity-building and addressing persistent challenges. The Conference recognized major initiatives in coastal management by various governments. Forty-six per cent of coastal countries had enacted coastal legislation. It also recognized significant new funding and new investments in projects related to oceans and coasts, as well as significant progress in scientific understanding of oceans and coasts.

    On the other hand, the Conference recognized that there had not been many improvements on the ground in coastal communities, he said. Also, the Conference recognized the continued threats to reefs and marine species. Among its conclusions, the Conference recognized that proper management of coastal and ocean resources could help alleviate poverty. The full implementation of international agreements was given high priority by the Conference. Also, it endorsed the idea of accepting the goal of having 20 per cent of coastlines under coastal management by 2012.

    KLAUS TOEPFER, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said that 10 years after the historic Rio Summit, Johannesburg would be another landmark event that should reinvigorate international commitment to sustainable development. It was, therefore, crucial that all perspectives be taken into account in order to develop the broadest ownership and participation.

    The first Global Ministerial Environmental Forum and sixth special session of UNEP had met in Malmo, Sweden, in May 2000 to review important and emerging environmental issues and to chart a course for the future, he said. In addition, the Commission on Sustainable Development, at its organizational session in April/May 2001, had adopted decision one on progress in the preparatory activities at the local, national, regional and international levels. The final results of the international environmental governance process would be reported to the third session of the preparatory committee.

    He said five meetings of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group of Ministers or Their Representatives on International Environmental Governance had been held in New York on 18 April 2001; Bonn on 17 July 2001; Algiers on 9 and 10 September 2001; Montreal on 30 November and 1 December 2001; and New York on 25 January 2002. The process had incorporated views of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to UNEP, other United Nations entities, international financial institutions, experts institutions, major groups and individuals outside the United Nations. The final meeting of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Group would be held in Cartagena, Colombia, on 12 February 2002, a day before the seventh special session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environmental Forum.

    On the basis of the discussions at the first and second meetings of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Group, he said, the President of the Governing Council had proposed to the Algiers meeting a set of "building blocks" for strengthened international environmental governance. They addressed the areas of: improved international environmental policy-making; strengthening the role, authority and financial situation of UNEP; improved coordination and coherence between multilateral environmental agreements; capacity-building, technology transfer and country-level coordination for the environmental pillar of sustainable development; and enhanced coordination across the United Nations system.

    ELISABETH KOGLER (Austria) presented the report of the second meeting of the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy, held from 28 to 30 November 2001 in her country. In recognition of energy policies and the multi-stakeholder nature of those policies, the Austrian Foreign Minister had initiated the Forum two years ago as a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue on energy issues. The meeting’s 85 participants addressed energy technology for rural development and the results would feed into the preparations for the Johannesburg Summit. The Commission on Sustainable Development had recognized the connection between energy considerations and poverty eradication. Before concluding, she paid tribute to the sponsors of the Forum.

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