Press Releases

    30 January 2002

    Adequate Resources, Poverty Eradication Among Challenges for Sustainable Development Summit, Preparatory Committee Told

    UN Agency Heads Describe Summit Contributions; Committee Also Holds Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue

    NEW YORK, 29 January (UN Headquarters) -- Securing adequate resources, capacity-building and poverty eradication were among the main challenges for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Preparatory Committee for the forthcoming event was told today over the course of two meetings.

    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 programme of action adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    During its morning session, the Committee heard executive heads of United Nations agencies, financial institutions and convention secretariats state what they believed to be the main challenges, as well as the contributions their organizations could make to the Summit and towards further work on sustainable development.

    Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that the 10 years since Rio had largely been about the international community's failure to help developing countries build the capacities to respond seriously to the sustainable development agenda. For the UNDP, a major outcome for Johannesburg would be to push forward -- and support -- a major capacity development initiative to empower developing countries.

    Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the combined population of the least developed countries was expected to triple from 658 million to 1.8 billion in the next 50 years, with far-reaching implications for development and the environment. The poorest countries made direct demands on natural resources for survival and, if they had no other choices, the damage to the environment would be profound and permanent, she added.

    Also addressing the Committee this morning were heads and other representatives of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank, the Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

    During the Committee's multi-stakeholder dialogue segment this afternoon, a representative of the women's group said that although Agenda 21 had recognized women as one of the major groups, the establishment of women's ministries in some countries had not led to the mainstreaming of women's concerns. A wide gap remained between women's and men's control of resources and their participation in economic decision-making. Expressing surprise that the Secretary-General's report was gender-neutral and did not follow the spirit of Agenda 21 in that regard, she said the group demanded practical mechanisms to provide for women's voices to be heard at all decision-making levels.

    A business community representative said the divisions between the world's developed and underdeveloped, rich and poor, "haves" and "have nots" were clearly unacceptable and unsustainable. There was no doubt that the overriding sustainable development issue for the Johannesburg Summit was poverty eradication, and business remained the most potent force for wealth creation. Sustainable business was best achieved through open, competitive, rightly framed international markets that encouraged efficiency and innovation, both necessities for sustainable human progress, he said.

    Other speakers taking part in the dialogue were from groups representing youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, trade unions, science and technology, and farmers. Also participating were the representatives of Egypt, Hungary, Japan, Bangladesh and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

    The Committee will hold two parallel multi-stakeholder sessions when it meets again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 30 January.

    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, met today to hear contributions from executive heads of United Nations agencies, financial institutions and convention secretariats. They were expected to address the main challenges of the Summit, as well as the primary contributions their organizations could make to the Summit and to further work on sustainable development. Following that, in an afternoon session a dialogue will be held with major stakeholders.

    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 to achieve sustainable development. Johannesburg will review progress and provide guidance for improved future implementation.

    (For further background on the session, see Press Release ENV/DEV/606 of 28 January.)


    ANNA TIBAIJUKA, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, said that the international community was faced with the challenge of sustainable urbanization. Half of the world's population lived in cities and the other half was increasingly dependent on cities. Most of that growth was taking place in developing countries. The growth was too fast to manage, resulting in the creation of slums.

    Over 750 million urban dwellers lived in abject poverty and that number was expected to double by 2025, she continued. Overcrowding, burdens on infrastructures and unemployment were among the consequences. The slums were a breeding ground for disease and crime and, therefore, a threat to sustainable existence. Sustainable urbanization lay in forging partnerships with the urban poor and empowering them to solve their own problems, instead of fighting them through arbitrary forced evictions.

    The Habitat Agenda, she said, was closely linked to chapters 7, 21 and 28 of Agenda 21. For sustainable urbanization, preventive strategies were needed to make urbanization manageable. Adaptive strategies were also necessary to deal with those already in the urban areas. It was crucial to promote partnerships with the poor to fight poverty and squatter settlements. Building local capacities was also very important. The main contribution of her organization was working in partnership with other groups, such as the World Bank and local authorities.

    MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that the 10 years since Rio had largely been about the failure of the international community to help developing countries build the capacities to respond seriously to the sustainable development agenda. For UNDP, a major outcome for Johannesburg would be to push forward -- and to resource and support -- a major capacity development initiative, to empower developing countries to address development. For the Programme, there was a clear link with the process that began at the Millennium Assembly, and that would continue in Monterrey and culminate in Johannesburg. The classic problem of such conferences was that they were one-time events. The three events must be linked and what begins in Monterrey must come to a conclusion in Johannesburg.

    GODWIN O.P. OBASI, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, said the Johannesburg Summit must address issues relating to preservation of the ozone layer, pollution of the atmosphere, concentration of greenhouse gases and advanced consequences of global climate change. Other major challenges included: the availability, sustainability of and increasing demand for freshwater sources; soil erosion; and desertification. All of those challenges had serious ramifications for sustainable development.

    He noted the existence of new and stronger evidence that most global warming over the last 50 years was attributable to human activities and that most natural disasters were meteorologically related. Recent flooding in Mozambique and India, hurricanes in the Caribbean region, earthquakes in the Americas, and drought in South-East Asia had resulted in socio-economic setbacks amounting to more than $96 billion, with serious consequences for sustainable development.

    Describing freshwater shortage as a clear challenge to be addressed by the World Summit, he warned that it could well lead to social and political instability in some parts of the world. Resources and such other factors as growing world population must be taken into account, given the recognition that the world's present development path was no longer sustainable. A new paradigm of scientific inquiry must be invoked, he stressed.

    KLAUS TOEPFER, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said that the Summit must be one of concrete action and it must start on the basis of the Millennium goals. Second, it must be one of partnerships. Third, the Summit must be one of securing prosperity. Fourth, it must be one of integration. The Summit must prove that the environment was instrumental for development and for the dignity of people, especially indigenous people.

    He said the contributions of UNEP were many and could be found in several areas, including: assessment; capacity-building; technology and technology transfer; health and environment; environment and food security; globalization and trade; and energy.

    The UNEP could also contribute in diversity. In that regard, cultural and spiritual diversity were just as important as biodiversity. The UNEP also had a strong capacity for implementation, particularly with its contacts with civil society and private business.


    Responding to a question on governance, Mr. TOEPFER said that there was no doubt that mandates had to be respected and implemented. The mandates should be profiled, without which it was difficult to come to a point of cooperation. It was also necessary to integrate mandate-oriented work, as it was difficult to separate environment from such issues as food security and poverty eradication.

    On the inclusion of agency heads in the meetings of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Mr. OBASI said that there was a coordination mechanism, which was meeting of agency heads chaired by the Secretary-General. Within that body, there was the Inter-agency Committee on Sustainable Development. With regard to resources to achieve implementation, the failure of Rio had been the lack of strong commitment in that area. Not only financial contributions, but also scientific and technological support, were lacking and must be developed.

    On the issue of resources, Mr. BROWN added that, in the 10 years since Rio the UNDP had spent nearly $4 billion on sustainable development projects. Large amounts of money had been mobilized in that area. He hoped that the Programme would be able to continue its work in partnership with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). On integration, he said that the United Nations Development Group was in the business of doing that all the time. It was difficult to think of anything that UNDP did alone. Everything was done in partnership.

    With regard to the "Capacity 21" Initiative, he said that UNDP had just done an evaluation of that Initiative conducted by independent evaluators. Among the conclusions was that the Initiative had not been adequately resourced. The money envisaged in Rio for the first two years of the Initiative was what had been used for 10 years. The absence of resources meant it had been less effective than it had been in the beginning. Capacity development was at the centre of any plan for achieving sustainable development. It was also too big to be left up to one agency.

    Turning to the vulnerability of small island developing States, Mr. TOEPFER said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was looking at the particular issues of concern to those States. In that regard, the GEF must be replenished to enable it to do what it needed to do.

    Mr. OBASI added that adequate information was need for successful action. That's why he emphasized the adequate monitoring of the global climate system. In that connection, it was important to enhance the system of observations. Special consideration was given to help build the capacities of small island developing States to enable them to address the issue. The same was true regarding desertification, which also required adequate information gathering and monitoring.

    NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the World Summit thanked the presenters for their contributions during the first round of presentations. The process of preparations for Johannesburg was completely collaborative, he said. That had been a key feature of Rio. Also, the Commission on Sustainable Development was one of the few United Nations bodies where the support structure was system-wide.

    Second Segment

    THORAYA OBAID, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), noting that the combined population of the least developed countries was expected to triple from 658 million to 1.8 billion in the next 50 years, said the implications for development and the environment would be far-reaching. The poorest countries made direct demands on natural resources for survival and if they had no other choices, the damage to the environment would be profound and permanent.

    Pointing out that the combination of poverty, population pressures and environmental degradation in the rural areas drove migrants to cities and across national borders, she said the world's megacities should be powerhouses of development. Instead, their essential services were at risk of collapsing under the weight of unsustainable population growth. The UNFPA's main contribution to the World Summit was its experience in helping countries to incorporate population in development policies, to improve reproductive health and promote gender equality.

    She said the agency was working in more than 140 developing countries to help them meet their population and development goals. By helping countries formulate effective population and development policies that addressed real concerns -- rapid urbanization, HIV/AIDS, poverty, ageing, environmental protection, migration, gender issues and reproductive health -- UNFPA was committed to the collective global responsibility to ensure sustainable development and safeguard the environment during the twenty-first century.

    HAMA ARBA DIALLO, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said that it was under the aegis of Rio that the decision was taken to negotiate and adopt an international Convention to Combat Desertification. As of today, 180 countries were parties to the Convention, indicating that what had emerged in Rio as the preoccupation of a limited number of countries had now become a crucial instrument to deal with such issues as poverty and food security. Over the last 25 or 30 years, resources aimed to promote development had been "running away" from rural areas to the urban areas.

    He had just arrived from Timbuktu, where he had seen not only many problems but, also solutions to address those problems. There were now 50 countries that had national action programmes to live up to their commitments under the Convention. The Summit should address key issues, particularly the guaranteeing of adequate financial resources and capacity-building.

    HAMDALLAH ZEDAN, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said that the Convention was based on the understanding that biological diversity underpinned sustainable development in many ways. Biodiversity continued to be lost at an alarming rate, mainly due to human and economic activities. A key aspect of the Summit could be to send a clear political signal that achievement of the Convention's goals was a prerequisite for sustainable development. A renewed commitment to the Convention as an effective global mechanism was needed.

    The Summit, he continued, should also ensure that global trade, agriculture and development assistance, as well as environmental policies, were mutually supportive. With regard to trade, an enabling political environment must be established to address issues at the interface of trade and biological diversity in a more concrete manner. Also, more needed to be done to raise public awareness about the threats that the loss of biodiversity posed to human well-being and the prospects for poverty alleviation, improved human health and sustainable development.

    He added that, among the contributions of the Convention to the implementation of Agenda 21 and to the Summit, was the adoption of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which provided a regulatory framework for the safe transfer of genetically-modified organisms. Among other things, the Summit could urge States and all stakeholders to increase their efforts to incorporate biodiversity and other environmental considerations into relevant national, cross-sectoral programmes and policies.

    IAN JOHNSON, Vice-President of the World Bank's Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network, said that although the world had changed a great deal in the years since the Rio Summit, social inequality had widened while poverty remained unacceptably high.

    He warned against losing sight of the challenges of tomorrow, calling for concerted actions in forest conservation, as well as combating other increasing threats to the global environment. Such actions must be based on a shared vision that would require sustained economic growth and social equality. The goals of the Millennium Declaration provided set targets against which progress could be measured over the next 15 years.

    The World Bank was working closely with United Nations agencies to make the Johannesburg Summit a success, he said. With poverty reduction remaining its core mission, the Bank continued to work with its clients to achieve their goals in the health, education, energy, water and other fields.

    He said the Bank was proud to be an implementing agency of the GEF and was working with United Nations agencies and bilateral donors to increase and enhance private sector involvement in the Facility. A successful replenishment of the GEF was absolutely essential for sustainable development.

    MOHAMMED T. EL-ASHRY, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, GEF, said that the main challenge for Johannesburg was to avoid repeating old formulas and past failures. Agenda 21, the blueprint for achieving sustainable development, was as valid today as it was in 1992. In preparing for the Summit, it was necessary to focus on a number of key challenges of greatest concern to the international community. Those included sectors such as water, forest and energy, as well as a number of cross-sectoral issues.

    The GEF, he continued, had helped to transform political commitments into concrete actions through financial and technical support to developing countries and countries with economies in transition. While its resources were small, the GEF was a model for partnership and collaboration. It had pioneered new approaches in order to build on comparative advantages and had forged strong partnerships with the private sector and non-governmental organizations. The GEF was contributing to the Summit's preparations by convening a series of high-level round tables on: sustainable energy; forests; land, water and food security; and development financing. He believed finance would be at the heart of the deliberations in Johannesburg.

    JOHN WESTLEY, Vice-President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said the main challenge before the Johannesburg Summit was restoring priority to rural poverty reduction. There was a systematic link between poverty and environmental degradation with farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists and farm workers depending on the environment for their water, food and livelihoods. In addition, the rural poor were often the stewards of the most fragile and vulnerable regions.

    He said the World Summit could help reinvigorate rural poverty reduction by calling for new investments that empowered the rural poor to take the lead in overcoming poverty. But, while the absolute value of aid to agriculture fell an alarming two thirds between 1987 and 1998, new investments were not enough. To translate increased resources into sustainable results, the rural poor must be empowered to drive the process.

    Outcome documents should emphasize building the capacity of the rural poor and promoting their access to productive natural resources, technology, financial resources and markets, he stressed. Also, specific attention must be paid to overcoming gender disparities, as more women than men relied on agriculture, while fewer owned land. It was vital that the Summit strengthen institutions created under international agreements and environmental conventions.

    Mr. SZOLLOSI-NAGY, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that while the Agency's priority was education for all, the educational challenge for sustainable development reached far beyond eradicating poverty. Education at all levels and in all its forms was essential to nearly all the issues on the table for Johannesburg. In addition, it must be at the heart of the work on freshwater, oceans, biodiversity and energy. The UNESCO's task was to ensure that the relevance of education and science were reflected in the Summit's outcome.

    He said the agency's main objective for information, communication and technology was to build a knowledge society based on sharing and incorporating the socio-cultural and ethical dimensions of sustainable development. Beyond the technological aspects, the real challenge was to take account of the human dimension of the digital divide. Vigilance was essential in ensuring that culture was given adequate attention in formulating the content of the World Summit and its outcomes.

    Across UNESCO's fields of action -- education, science, culture and communication -- the Agency was working to integrate and work across traditional boundaries. In addition, a General Conference resolution adopted last November emphasized that all fields of competence must contribute to the Summit and called on all Member States, civil society and the Director-General to mobilize for Johannesburg.

    JACQUES-PAUL ECKEBIL, Assistant Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), noted that before the Rio Summit, agriculture and the environment were often seen as being at loggerheads. There was now a wider appreciation of the important contributions that agriculture, forestry and fisheries were making to environmental sustainability.

    The Declaration and Plan of Action of the 1996 World Food Summit held in Rome had provided both a political framework and concrete actions to reduce by half the number of undernourished people and alleviate poverty worldwide no later than 2015, he said. However, progress since then had been disappointingly slow, with annual reductions in the order of 6 million, rather than the 20 million needed to reach that goal. For that reason, the World Food Summit scheduled for Rome from 10 to 13 June 2002 would address two major constraints: political will; and resource availability.

    He outlined four features of the poverty and food insecurity challenge as: environmental degradation and poverty were strongly linked; accelerating the fight against hunger depended on strong political will; fighting hunger required more capital and human resources than low-income countries could afford; and despite disappointing progress in reducing poverty and food insecurity since 1992, the World Food Summit Plan of Action provided an appropriate framework for World Summit initiatives.

    Responding to questions on the issue of resources to implement the Convention to Combat Desertification, Mr. DIALLO said that, as of today, 50 national action programmes had been devised in accordance with the principles of the Convention. All the necessary conditions at the national level had been created by those countries. The main problem now was that of funding. Major steps were being envisaged, particularly vis-à-vis the GEF. The funding for those countries would need to be supplemented from other sources. He believed that the possibilities for action were there and it was time for the international community to decide on how to proceed forward in terms of funding. Johannesburg needed to launch the implementation of the Convention by addressing the barriers to implementation.

    Multi-stakeholder Dialogue Segment

    A representative of the Women's Group said that Agenda 21 had recognized women as one of the major groups. That, in turn, had challenged women to organize themselves. In a few countries, women had been able to push governments to enact land acquisition bills, as well as establish women's banking systems. In spite of many efforts, however, much remained to be done. In Rio, there had been talk of economic justice and equality. The poor of the world, however, continued to be marginalized. The poor, the majority of whom were women and girls, were aware that their rights were constantly being violated.

    A few countries, she continued, had established women's ministries, but many of them had not led to mainstreaming women's concerns. Today, there was a wide gap between women and men's control of resources and their participation in economic decision making. She was surprised that the Secretary-General's report was gender neutral and did not follow the spirit of Agenda 21 in that regard. The group demanded practical mechanisms to provide for women's voices to be heard at all levels of decision making. Also, she demanded action from governments to ensure gender equality, as well as cultural, economic and political rights for women.

    A representative of the Youth Group noted that young people made up more than 50 per cent of the world's population, but 130 million children were currently not enrolled in school. Without the opportunity to learn how to read or even to acquire the most basic formal education, youth could not be expected to lead their societies in building sustainable communities.

    Another representative said the youth forum demanded that governments of all nations have fully operational governmental departments or agencies -- such as youth ministries, commissions and councils -- by 2005 to empower young people in implementing policies that would shape their future. The youth also demanded that 20 per cent of official development assistance (ODA) contributions go towards sustainable development of education and the financing of youth initiatives.

    Other demands, a representative said, included one for the recognition of children as a major group for inclusion in the delivery of sustainable development and in the World Summit process. Another demand was that youth and children be given two hours at the Johannesburg Summit and that a youth summit be held immediately preceding the Johannesburg event.

    Another youth representative demanded that governments include young people in their national preparatory processes for Johannesburg and include youth as official government delegates to the Summit.

    A representative of the Indigenous Peoples' Caucus said that one key principle that concerned indigenous peoples was their right to self-determination. Indigenous peoples' rights had assumed an important place in international human rights law. Indigenous peoples had the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development, for the development and use of their lands, territories and other resources. Western forms of development had not been sustainable and had been a disruption to cultural practices, created poverty and fostered dependency on financial systems that did not recognize indigenous traditional knowledge and values.

    Another representative of that group said that ten years after Rio, a significant number of indigenous peoples still lived in sustainable societies, historically evolved in diverse ecosystems. However, the imposition of the mainstream development model since the 1950s had destroyed many indigenous communities. A key failure 10 years after Rio had been the inability of the United Nations to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    Among the successes since Rio had been the inclusion of indigenous peoples as a major group in Agenda 21 and the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, she continued. However, it was one thing to have those bodies, policies and laws in place. How they were being implemented and monitored was another matter. There was an upsurge of conflicts in indigenous peoples' lands, mainly because of conflicts over land and resources.

    A representative of the non-governmental organizations said that today there was more poverty and inequality and the concept of technology transfer had been reversed. Environment and development had declined in priority. A major reason for that deterioration had been the onset of globalization. While developing countries were pressured to free their markets, rich countries continued to protect their markets. Due to market expansion, the environment had deteriorated. The increase in the military budget of one particular country would be enough to fund sustainable development needs.

    What was needed for the future was a renewed vision of structural changes, he continued. That vision should build on the positive points gained from Rio. Also, strong institutions were needed to turn that vision into a plan and that plan into action. Second, the precautionary principle should be made operational. Third, the North-South deal must be revitalized. Fourth, the countries of the North must take the lead in changing their own consumption and production patterns and in initiating global policy reforms. At the same time, the countries of the South must be more serious in developing a sustainable development approach.

    Also, he said, the process of unfettered globalization must be tamed. That included regulating companies, combating corruption and regulating financial markets. Further, it was necessary to re-examine the policies of the Bretton Woods institutions.

    The representative of the Local Authority Group said local governments were adopting land use practices aimed at minimizing human impact. However, a lack of cooperation between different spheres of government, which often had shared responsibilities, meant they did not always work towards the same goals or integrate their strategies.

    To overcome such barriers, he said, it was necessary to strengthen local government as the legitimate sphere of government closest to the people. It must be redesigned to promote accountability and adopt integrated management. Local government must also recognize the best local heroes and reward them.

    He stressed the need to strengthen intergovernmental cooperation; to foster international solidarity and cooperation; and to use globalization as a tool for supporting sustainability and sustainable development. Local government must create a new culture of sustainability. The local level was where sustainability became reality; local successes were also international successes.

    The trade union representative said that all the elements for global action existed. What was lacking, however, was political will. Core labour standards must become part of a new deal at the Johannesburg Summit. Concrete tools must be implemented. The International Labour Organization (ILO) was set up to address basic security issues. Governments, especially local governments and authorities, must be strengthened and broadened. The trend towards privatization and deregulation went counter to sustainable development.

    Also, governments must create frameworks for multi-stakeholder decision-making, he said. A review of investment and procurement policies must also be part of the new deal. True verification, reporting and compliance were still missing among global corporations. Corporate behaviour must be reviewed during the fourth session of the Preparatory Committee in preparing for the Summit. A key concern of all stakeholders was the promotion of peace and security. Poverty and the lack of integration of the social dimension could only feed terrorism, conflict and war.

    A business community representative said that sustainable business, while excelling on the traditional scorecard of return on financial assets and shareholder and customer value creation, also embraced community and stakeholder success.

    There was no doubt that the overriding sustainable development issue to be addressed in Johannesburg was poverty eradication, he stressed. Clearly the divisions between the world's developed and underdeveloped, rich and poor, "haves" and "have nots" were unacceptable and unsustainable. It was in the interest of global stability and prosperity to address them.

    A representative of the science and technology community said that sustainable development must be based on scientific and technological knowledge, which was often costly to create. That was why much of it was created in industrial countries. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries spent more on research and development than the economic output of the world's 61 poorest nations. That "scientific divide" was a threat to sustainable development. Progress had been made in meeting some of the challenges in Agenda 21, but more needed to be done. A new contract was needed between various sectors of society, resources must be invested and reoriented, capacity must be built and maintained and new technologies must be developed and transferred to all.

    The new challenge, he said, was to develop scientific understanding and technological options that not only addressed environmental aspects, but also integrated the economic and social pillars of sustainable development. It could be done, but it needed a participatory approach involving all stakeholders. The problem was partly one of a "digital divide", but it was much more serious than just the access to information. Information was not knowledge. There was an even more serious "scientific divide" and if bridges could not be built between the affluent and the poor scientific and technological communities, nations would not be able to develop sustainable societies.

    Capacity-building was central to such an effort, he added. He called on all partners to join in efforts to put capacity building high on the agenda for the Summit. The focus of such efforts should be on science and technology for sustainable development.

    The farmers representative said farmers expected the Johannesburg Summit to place a high priority on questions of food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development, especially in view of the fact that demand for food would double in the next 20 or 25 years. Farmers were willing to take on more responsibility, as fully recognized partners of governments and international organizations.

    Over the past 10 years, some governments had developed laws, policies and programmes to strengthen the rights of women over water resources. While that was essential, those policies and laws had not translated into change in some households and local situations, where discrimination against women remained.

    Agriculture was directly linked to the implementation of many Agenda 21 programmes and it was essential to stop the drain of resources away from agriculture, he said. To reduce hunger and poverty, the power of farmers must be strengthened relative to the power of other food chain members.

    Mr. DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Summit thanked the major groups for their help in mobilizing the communities they represented. Rio had pioneered the participation of civil society groups. He hoped to go beyond that in the preparatory process for the Summit, as well as in the Summit itself. Also, he hoped to hear the voices of those that would not normally be heard. Civil society was expected to play a major role in bringing sustainable development within reach. The conception of Johannesburg that he had was more than just a meeting of governments. It should be a summit of all those concerned with sustainable development.

    Responding to a question on core labour standards posed by the trade union representative, the representative of the ILO noted that those standards were not a barrier to trade. They were adopted by employers, workers and governments worldwide and the ILO stood ready to support their implementation. The improvement of worker security was an essential component of the social pillar of sustainable development.

    Responding to the presentations, the representative of Egypt aligned himself with the statement delivered on behalf of the non-governmental organizations. He believed that poverty was not an academic exercise, but a common problem to be addressed by all. He encouraged the World Trade Organization to examine how it was contributing to sustainable development efforts. He would like to see the Millennium Declaration goals implemented with time-bound targets with the provision of adequate resources.

    The Summit, he said, would be one of restoring multilateral cooperation. Sustainable development was a joint effort. It was the poor who suffered the most due to environmental degradation, but it was the countries of the North which were mainly responsible for that degradation.

    Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Spain's representative expressed his satisfaction over the fact that civil society had been invited to participate in the preparatory process. He underscored the Union's commitment to such participation and welcomed the channels established for that purpose at the Summit. It was vital to have the participation of civil society in the implementation of objectives and policies of governments.

    Johannesburg, he continued, should also produce government plans for sustainable development, which contain an important role for civil society. He was committed to advancing the participation of non-governmental organizations at all levels within the framework of the outcome of Johannesburg. He added that business had an essential role to play in economic growth and fighting poverty. With regard to the scientific community, the Union would be in favour of holding a scientific forum alongside the Summit. Also, the Union would propose solutions and adopt measures to solve some of the concerns expressed by the farmers.

    The representative of Hungary agreed with the youth representatives that peace was a prerequisite for sustainable development and the overall basis for any actions. He also asked whether there were any practical indicators for concrete approaches regarding gender issues in light of various cultural differences. How could a better dialogue between stakeholders be achieved and how could trade unions achieve a better workplace? he asked.

    The representative of Japan, citing the example of the Kyoto Protocol, noted that nations must not insist only on their own interests. International cooperation was essential, although it was understandable that governments often placed their own interests first in response to national mandates. However, national policies could often be inconsistent with the true expectations of the public. He added that non-governmental-organizations in Johannesburg should have a bigger role than that of observers because their coordination with governments was essential.

    Bangladesh's representative said that his government believed in strong collaboration with civil society groups. Bangladesh had experienced some successes with such collaboration. The presence of the stakeholder groups should be strengthened in future sessions of the Preparatory Committee. Also, sustainable development should be mainstreamed in the national plans of all governments. In that regard, the role of the media was very important. In Bangladesh, the media was at the forefront of the battle towards sustainable development.

    A representative of the women's group said that women were not a vulnerable group, needing the protection of men or anyone else. What they needed was equality and partnership. They should be accepted as equal partners for social change. She felt that the Summit should be connected with the financing for development process. At different levels, women had already proposed various measures for the implementation of Agenda 21, she added. The "50/50" campaign was important for including women in the decision-making process.

    A representative of youth reiterated the importance of teachers and suggested the creation of a tenth major group, which would include teachers. He also suggested the convening of a youth summit immediately before the Summit. Also, stakeholders should meet in the same venue as governments to ensure effective participation and collaboration. In addition, national delegations to various conferences should include youth delegates.

    The Indigenous peoples representative said that it was clear that there was an unequal relationship between indigenous peoples and businesses. She was interested to know whether businesses in the Global Compact were going to respect international norms and standards relating to human rights as well as to indigenous peoples.

    She said the issue of mining was a sensitive one for indigenous peoples as it had caused a lot of destruction to their lands. Perhaps the Summit could provide a forum for indigenous groups and businesses to discuss that issue. Also, she proposed that poverty indicators be drawn up in close collaboration with indigenous peoples. The European Union had a policy for indigenous peoples, but it was weak because there was no means for implementation.

    * *** *