Press Releases

    26 February 2002


    LONDON, 25 February (DPI) -– The World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in South Africa later this year, "must mark a break with business as usual", United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared today.

    Mr. Annan told an audience of Britain’s political, academic and business elite at the London School of Economics that their way of life, and that of people in developed countries generally, must change if the planet was to be inhabitable by the number of people likely to live on it in the decades to come. But, he said, they should view this as an opportunity, not a disaster. "Far from being a burden, sustainable development is an exceptional opportunity – economically, to build markets and create jobs; socially, to bring people in from the margins; and politically, to give every man and woman a voice, and a choice, in deciding their own future."

    The Summit, which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September, will offer heads of State, business leaders and civil society pressure groups a chance to agree on practicable ways to reduce poverty, expand access to freshwater and sanitation, and adopt cleaner and more efficient use of energy.

    Johannesburg will take place 10 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where countries adopted Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable development. Although there have been significant efforts to implement Agenda 21, particularly at the local level, the Secretary-General said there was a feeling of loss of momentum. "As our attention has been focused on conflict, on globalization, or most recently on terrorism, we have often failed to see how these are connected to the issue of sustainability. That word has become a pious invocation, rather than the urgent call to concrete action that it should be."

    Preparations for Johannesburg are well under way. Representatives of governments, along with non-governmental organizations, business and other major groups recently concluded a second preparatory meeting in New York, where they agreed that the Summit must result in not only an agreed action plan, but also a substantial list of initiatives that will be undertaken by various partnerships.

    A new round of preparatory talks is scheduled for 25 March to 5 April in New York, and a ministerial round of talks will take place in Jakarta from 27 May to 7 June.

    There are hopeful signs that the opportunity will not be missed. The Secretary-General said that the recent agreement at the World Trade Organization meeting in Doha to put development at the heart of the new round of trade talks could go a long way towards helping people to compete more fairly in a globalized world. And he noted that next month’s Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, could have a major impact on efforts to unlock the financial resources necessary for development and for fighting poverty.

    The Secretary-General concluded with a hopeful vision of what history books may say about these three conferences –- Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg –- and urged his audience to make it come true:

    "Challenged by the goals its political leaders had set at the Millennium Summit, and shocked into a stronger sense of common destiny by the horror of 11 September 2001, during the following 12 months the human race at last summoned the will to tackle the really tough issues facing it. In passionate debates, held in the meeting-rooms and corridors of three great world assemblies, it painstakingly assembled the tools, thrashed out the strategies, and formed the creative partnerships that were needed to do the job."

    Media contacts: Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Tel: (212) 963-7160 (New York); United Nations Information Centre, London, Tel: (44-207) 630-2713.

    Media office for the World Summit on Sustainable Development: Klomjit Chandrapanya, tel. (212) 963-9495; Pragati Pascale, tel. (212) 963-6870, United Nations Department of Public Information, e-mail

    Additional press materials are available on the Summit website,, under Media Info.

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