Press Releases

    4 September 2002


    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    JOHANNESBURG, 2 September -- Political will to implement change and self-reliance were among the elements emphasized as being critical for successful sustainable development as the first round table discussion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held this afternoon, bringing together heads of State, ministers, specialized agencies and other organizations.

    The round table discussion, held under the theme "Making it happen", was organized around five broad questions: how to mobilize global and domestic resources in support of the Millennium Development Goals and the WEHAB priorities (water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity); how to improve coherence and consistency in national and international institutions and build capacity; how to promote regional and global cooperation on the WEHAB priorities; how to bring scientific knowledge to bear on decision-making and deploying the resources for research and development in sustainable development; and how the Summit could lead to renewed and improved commitments for global solidarity.

    Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland, who chaired the round table, said in his opening remarks that the purpose of the discussion was to encourage a free-flowing interactive dialogue. In order to obtain the maximum advantage from such a gathering of world leaders, and if they were to live up to the hopes that the world's peoples had placed in the World Summit, they must work together to "make it happen".

    President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, accusing the wealthy nations of living beyond their means and endangering the entire planet, demanded that they stop practicing double standards by preaching environmental protection while destroying ecosystems and advocating free trade while practicing protectionism. Those countries were also exploiting their own people by denying them more affordable agricultural products from the developing countries, which were denied access to the markets of the North.

    The other side of that coin was the self-emasculation and self-enfeeblement of the developing countries, particularly the African States that were always crying for more money, he said. They must strengthen themselves by uniting and demanding their rights, he emphasized, pointing out that weakness on one side invited arrogance and greed on the other.

    Prime Minister Ahmed Mohamed Ag Hamani of Mali said his country had tried to align its national poverty eradication strategy with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative. With that initiative, the region had created a framework to make possible specific steps to relieve poverty. The time had now come to define the priorities, as many speakers, including the Secretary-General, had done today. Once those were defined, resources should be mobilized.

    Countries defined as less developed should gain a more equitable position with regard to resources, he said. If the world really wanted to reduce poverty as soon as possible, an exceptional supplementary effort was needed in the form of additional resources. A specific plan of action was urgently required and the world could not afford to take another 10 years to implement it.

    Prime Minister Robert Woonton of the Cook Islands said his nation was not only confronting climatic changes, but also the depletion of ocean resources. He urged those who were exploiting the oceans to control their consumptions and to stop killing the whales. He added that the world's survival depended not only on ending pollution of the atmosphere, but also on debt relief for the poor countries. Official development assistance would not "stop the burning house", but merely slow it down.

    Austria's Environment Minister, referring to the mobilization of resources, stressed the importance of official development assistance (ODA), saying that priorities should be re-evaluated within ODA and perhaps within guidelines set by the five WEHAB priorities. While much stronger participation by the private sector was crucial, it could only be successful when political and legal frameworks provided stability. In terms of coherence and consistency, he said sustainable development should not be the exclusive province of national environment ministers, but must include national and regional strategies for a clear vision. It must also be possible to evaluate those strategies.

    El Salvador's Minister for Foreign Affairs, addressing the issue of coherence and consistency, said the United Nations had only just begun to tap its Economic and Social Council, which could provide the different agencies and financial organizations with a forum to ensure institutional coherence and consistency. She also noted that international financial aid was always provided to the least developed countries, whereas countries in transition also required international financial assistance to consolidate their democracy.

    Peru's Minister for Foreign Affairs, highlighting the extreme natural phenomena that had affected his country, and more recently European countries, said that those disasters were a clear result of human activity. One of the most frequent, intense and devastating phenomena was El Niño, which had affected some 110 million people in 1997-98, and caused direct economic losses in Latin America's Pacific coastal States. Another negative effect of climatic change had been the shrinking of glaciers in the Andes, which would seriously affect water and have adverse economic effects.

    Ukraine's Minister for Foreign Affairs emphasized the importance of keeping the international community involved in sustaining the efforts of developing States and economies in transition. International assistance was key to helping governments overcome the obstacles in their speedy integration of regional and global economic systems, as well as in participating in the advantages of globalization through active involvement in trade. Recalling the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, he said it would take the entire planet to overcome the effects of that truly global catastrophe.

    Pakistan's Minister for Environment emphasized that sustainable development processes and cleaner processes had a price that societies with no purchasing power could not afford. While there was plenty of indigenous knowledge, modern solutions were not known. Awareness raised at the Summit should reverse the marginalization of environment ministers, who should participate in the creation of projects in order to increase the focus on environmental matters. Finance Ministers should be similarly engaged and the scientific research and development components in developing countries should be strengthened.

    Norway's Minister of International Development stressed the need to focus expanding foreign direct investment, which was bypassing the least developed countries. African nations were almost completely bypassed, with most new investments going to middle-income countries, including those of Latin America. Reversing that trend was not easy, but certain partners had to behave better: the rich countries must encourage investment, including by stimulating their own industries to increase investment in the South.

    The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said there had been much institution-building in the decade since the Rio Summit. What was missing was the mainstreaming of the environment in the economic agenda. The environment must be integrated into the thinking and practices of the mining, industrial, agricultural and other sectors. Mainstreaming should be the major objective of the next decade, he said.

    Another participant, the Chairman of South Africa's Local Government Association said consensus had been reached last week on the importance of national government recognizing local government as a true sphere of government. NEPAD had become an extremely important initiative, but would not become a reality unless local government took up the challenge, as it was the closest to the people. Eradicating poverty was no longer an option, but an imperative, he added.

    A representative of the Trades Union Congress (United Kingdom) and the International Confederation Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) said the Summit was full of contradictions -- everyone wanted to rid the world of poverty, but almost no one wanted to talk about employment. Yet for most people, the only way out of poverty was by working. Any summit concerned with poverty must be deeply interested in expanding employment and improving the quality of employment.

    Another speaker, representing the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, said the pursuit of scientific knowledge was the pursuit of truth, which could contribute greatly to all levels of decision-making and development. There was sufficient science and technology, but what was missing was the means to adapt it to the five priority areas. It could be made simple and workable by using local materials, local human capacity and traditional knowledge.

    The representative of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) from Poland pointed out that gender equality was not only the business of women. They needed caring men and governments that were committed to change.

    President Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia also spoke during the roundtable discussion. Other government delegations listed to participate in the discussion were from Côte d'Ivoire, Denmark, Egypt, Fiji, Italy, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Palau and Senegal.

    Also listed were Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cyprus, Djibouti, Georgia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Thailand, Tonga and Viet Nam.

    The specialized agencies listed as participants were: the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), United Nations International Drug Control Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Among the intergovernmental organizations listed were the Global Environment Fund (GEF), Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety, International Energy Agency, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought and the Inter-American Development Bank.

    The major groups participating included Youth; Environmental Network International; Capacity Global, World Business Council for Sustainable Development-Rio Tinto; and Chamber of Agriculture of Mali.

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