Press Releases

    4 September 2002


    China Announces Kyoto Protocol Ratification;
    Russia Tells Summit Hopes to Ratify Kyoto "in Near Future"

    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    JOHANNESBURG, 3 September -- World leaders stressed the need for shared responsibility and immediate concerted action to ensure a secure and prosperous future for the planet, as the World Summit on Sustainable Development continued its high-level segment this morning.

    The international community has gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, to pursue new initiatives and build commitment at the highest level to better implement Agenda 21, the road map for achieving sustainable development adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development -- the Earth Summit -- held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This morning, 22 additional heads of State or government addressed the high-level segment, which began yesterday.

    "Put your money where your mouth is", urged Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende. His country had been living up to that for years and would continue to dedicate 0.7 per cent of its gross national product to official development assistance. The international community must be clear about the future it wanted and decisive about the action it would take to get there. More than ever before, he stressed, the choice facing the world was a united future or no future at all.

    Nicaraguan Vice-President Jose Rizo Castellon emphasized that since the effects of national activities did not stop at national borders, global cooperation was required to find solutions to problems such as climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer. It was clear that global environmental issues could not be solved through isolated or local initiatives, but required immediate global responses.

    Speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, Mathieu Kerekou, the President of Benin, said that the initiatives of past years had remained good intentions, because they had not been followed by concrete action to address the serious imbalances in the world. He appealed to all countries to commit to truly supporting a more humane and just world -- to end disparity and inequality. The world was indisputably one, and shared a common responsibility. Solidarity was the only way to reach a new human vision.

    Micronesia's President, Leo A. Falcam, said the hope of averting disaster for low-lying countries such as his own was now gone. "Even if we all came to our collective senses, this week in this beautiful city, and agreed to immediately begin meeting the earlier targets and timetables, it is too late for most of the Federated States of Micronesia." The time for words was over; the time for action was now.

    Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, Laisenia Qarase, Prime Minister of Fiji, said that sustainable development, a fashionable phrase with a comforting, almost reassuring ring to it, was really about the salvation of the earth and stopping humankind from grossly abusing and destroying earth's resources. For the affluent North, sustainable development at its most basic meant finding a less destructive way of maintaining and increasing the greatest accumulation of wealth in history. For the South, it might mean giving a man a chance to own two good shirts, a digging fork and the money to buy a kilogram of rice.

    It could no longer be denied, stated Ukrainian President Leonid D. Kuchma, that man had been the greatest impediment to his own progress. Among the historic initiatives undertaken by Ukraine to ensure its future was the voluntary renouncement of its nuclear stockpiles. It subsequently set out to put to good use the money it saved as a result of no longer having to maintain those stocks. If even a small percentage of military expenditures were diverted to sustainable development efforts, great progress could be made. Unfortunately, his country's example went largely ignored.

    Zhu Rongji, Premier of the State Council of China, announced that China had ratified the Kyoto Protocol. China's strategy of sustainable development had now run through all aspects of its economic and social development efforts. As the world's largest developing country and a major player in environmental protection, China was an important force in international environment cooperation. He invited everyone to the Second Global Environment Facility Assembly, to be held in Beijing in October.

    Mikhail Kaysanov, Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, said the Russian Federation had signed the Kyoto Protocol and was preparing for its ratification, which, he hoped, would take place in the near future. Moscow would host a world conference on climate change in 2003. In providing an economic basis for sustainable development, a key role was played by removing barriers and trade obstacles. Russia was preparing to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and was reducing import tariffs. That would have a positive impact on trade with developing countries.

    In organizational matters, the Summit approved the request of L'Organisation pour la mise en valeur du fleuve Senegal to attend the Summit.

    Other heads of State or government who spoke this morning were: Natsagiin Bagabandi, President of Mongolia; Nursultan Nazarbayez, President of Kazakhstan; Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland; Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of Maldives; Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, Prime Minister of Bhutan; Goran Persson, Prime Minister of Sweden; Fatos Nano, Prime Minister of Albania; Jean-Bertrand Aristide, President of Haiti; Bernard Makuza, Prime Minister of Rwanda; Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, President of Cape Verde; Isaias Afwerki, President of Eritrea; Vicente Fox, President of Mexico; Joaqim Alberto Chissano, President of Mozambique; Maaouya Ould Sid' Ahmed Taya, President of Mauritania; Gustavo Noboa Bejarano, President of Ecuador.

    Also; Arturo Vallarino, Vice-President of Panama; Juan Carlos Maqueda, Vice President of Argentina; Charles Goerens, Minister of Environment of Luxembourg; Shahida Jamil, Federal Minister for Environment, Local Government and Rural Development of Pakistan; Rukman Senanayaka, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Sri Lanka; Irakli Menagarishvili, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia; Sayyid Assaad bin Tariq Al-Said, representing the Sultanate of Oman; Minister of Planning and Reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denis Kalume Numbi; Minister for Foreign Affairs and Education of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Timothy Harris; Minister of Housing, Urbanization, Environment and Country Planning of Djibouti, Abdallah Abdillahi Miguil; and head of the delegation of the Transitional Government of Somalia, Abbas Yusuf.

    The Summit will continue its high-level segment at 3 p.m. today.


    LEO A. FALCAM, President of Micronesia, said as the scientific evidence of problems such as climate change became clear, there had not been a heightened attempt to address the problem, but the exact opposite -- a rolling back of international commitments and domestic environmental legislation, a reduction in funding of alternative energy research, and an even greater reliance on fossil fuels. It was incomprehensible that during a time of such dramatic technological advances, the average fuel economy of a North American passenger vehicle had actually declined. The quality of life in many developing countries continued to decline. Sadly, so has the will of the international community in addressing environment and development. That was evident with objections being stated to previously agreed concepts, such as "common but differentiated responsibility".

    He said the islands had spoken with a single, effective voice through the Alliance of Small Island States (OASIS), which had achieved some notable successes, particularly with regard to climate issues. But, given the tragically slow pace of progress, it had perhaps been too polite in its calls for action. More flowery statements were not needed -- most of the necessary mechanisms were there. Concrete goals and timetables for implementation must be set. The people in the Pacific had begun to note the rising of the seas and a dramatic shift in tropical storm patterns. Small island countries had maintained that emissions stabilization by 2000 and reduction thereafter was not only possible, but economically desirable. Yet, there was no political will on the part of many large industrialized nations to meet those goals. The hope of averting disaster for low-lying countries such as his own was now gone.

    "Even if we all came to our collective senses, this week in this beautiful city, and agreed to immediately begin meeting the earlier targets and timetables, it is too late for most of the Federated States of Micronesia", he said. However, it might not be too late for slightly less vulnerable areas of the world, such as Manhattan or Calcutta. His nation would need the assistance of the international community in adapting to the rising seas and developing relocation strategies. The time for words was over; the time for action was now. "If the human race has not advanced to the point where we can put aside immediate self-gratification for the larger global good and our own futures, then I fear for what the world of the next 10 years and thereafter will become", he said.

    NATSAGIIN BAGABANDI, President of Mongolia, said that as a follow-up to Rio, Mongolia had developed its national programme for sustainable development for the twenty-first century. A national council for sustainable development had been set up in order to coordinate and monitor implementation of that programme, which had led to the emergence of several sustainable development initiatives that have been effectively applied within the Government and in everyday life. Those included the Good Governance for Human Society Programme, which, since 2000, had proved to be instrumental in translating development objectives into practice.

    Moreover, there were currently 25 environmental acts, along with 20 specific environmental programmes being implemented. Mongolia had, therefore, been able to protect some 13 per cent of its total land. The goal was to expand that area and perhaps eventually place the entire territory of Mongolia under international legal protection. Achieving that goal would prevent creeping desertification, not only in Mongolia, but also in the entire Central Asian region. Despite the country's considerable effort to achieve sustainable development, it still faced considerable environmental challenges. The natural disasters, droughts and severe snowfalls over the past two years had practically devastated the livestock sector -- a cornerstone of the country's economy -- and had driven herdsmen into the ranks of the poor.

    He went on to say that the people of Mongolia continued to live with the phenomenon of desertification. Further, the country had, over the past 30 years, lost some 1.6 million hectares of forest by fire and other inappropriate human activities. Turning to the availability of fresh water, he said that in light of the up-coming World Water Forum next year, Mongolia had decided to designate 2003 as a year of water policy reform, with a view to enhancing or developing regional cooperation in conserving fresh water resources. Moreover, Mongolia was keen to collaborate with fellow Member States and relevant international organizations in developing joint studies in the areas of desertification, protection of endangered species, forest preservation and fresh water conservation.

    NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV, President of Kazakhstan, proposed that global military expenditures be cut by 1 per cent in all States, and those resources be spent on economic development in the least developed countries. He stressed that developed countries would never have become what they were now without the natural and human resources of developing countries. Therefore, more equitable distribution of incomes and benefits was necessary and urgent.

    After proclaiming its independence 10 years ago, Kazakhstan had made a real contribution to sustainable development on the global level, he said. It was the first country to voluntarily renounce the fourth largest nuclear weapons arsenal, when it closed the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing site. In the economic sphere, it had also achieved tangible results. For the past three years, gross domestic product (GDP) had reached 35 per cent, more than 70 per cent of the State budget had been allocated to the social sphere and poverty, and unemployment rates were dropping.

    The community of nations should always remember that poverty was a fertile environment for international terrorism, he continued. Despite the obvious success of anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan, that long-suffering country still remained a source of extremism and narcotics. Drug trafficking from the area passed through Central Asia to the European continent. A United Nations programme must be developed aimed at combating drug trafficking in Central Asia. He was confident that Central Asia was an indicator of the success or failure of fighting the negative trends of globalization, including international terrorism and transnational crime.

    JAN-PETER BALKENENDE, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said that it was up to everyone to make a difference -- the difference between poverty and development. The international community must be clear about the future it wanted and decisive about the action it would take to get there. "We must stop looting the treasure house of creation", he said. It was also necessary to be clear about the Rio principles. Education was a right and the best investment for the future. The Netherlands would increase from 6 to 15 per cent its official development assistance (ODA) allocation for education. "Put your money where your mouth is", he said. The Netherlands had been living up to that for years and would continue to dedicate 0.7 per cent of its gross national product (GNP) to ODA.

    It was also necessary to be clear about business, which could generate financial flows many times greater than international aid, he said. Businesses should be encouraged to commit themselves to accountability, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. He also favoured partnerships with civil society, as well as encouraging sustainable consumption and production.

    To achieve food security, he noted, it was necessary to reform agriculture. Developing countries must be able to benefit from increased access to the markets of developed countries. The Netherlands would focus on water and energy and continue to promote measures in the field of agriculture and biodiversity. More than ever before, the choice facing the world was a united future or no future at all. A future free of poverty and environmental degradation was what had brought the world to Johannesburg.

    ZHU RONGJI, Premier of the State Council of China, said that it was necessary to deepen understanding of sustainable development, which represented a radical departure from the traditional concept and model of development. Owing to varying national conditions and development levels, countries might differ in the way sustainable development was pursued. Also, the concerted efforts of all countries were needed in achieving sustainable development. The principles laid down in Rio, especially the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities", should be adhered to.

    Furthermore, he continued, States should endeavour to create an international economic environment conducive to sustainable development. Global sustainable development required a fair and equitable new international economic order and a new regime of world trade. To that end, he called for a proper handling of the relationship between trade and environment at the new round of multilateral trade negotiations, so as to ensure that the two would promote each other.

    He announced that China had ratified the Kyoto Protocol. China's strategy of sustainable development had now run through all aspects of its economic and social development efforts. As the world's largest developing country and a major player in environmental protection, China was an important force in international environment cooperation. He invited everyone to the Second Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly, to be held in Beijing in October.

    ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI, President of Poland, said in Johannesburg, imaginations must go beyond borders, as the problems faced went beyond borders as well. The documents adopted at Rio had been expressions of the determination of the participants to commit to access to food, jobs, safe environment and health care. However, the implementation had not been sufficient and negative trends had become stronger. The vast part of mankind supported itself for less than one dollar a day, and children died for lack of basic health care. That tragedy was followed by lack of education, causing hatred, extremism and terrorism.

    He said after 11 September the relation between violence, poverty and pollution had been better understood as a vicious circle. Today, the declaration of readiness to counteract those threats did not suffice. It was time for concrete actions. Poland would take up such steps. Since 1989, his country had done much to improve the economy and environment. It was a party to all important environment agreements and had ratified the Kyoto Protocol a few days ago. He hoped that the day would come, sooner rather than later, that all countries would do so. Implementation of provisions of multilateral conventions, especially in the area of the environment, had to be accelerated and the financial ability to implement them must be introduced. Global problems would not be solved in a world where the rich were defending themselves against the siege of the poor. Isolation was ineffective and morally unacceptable.

    External assistance only made sense if it helped the beneficiaries to generate their own resources, he said. A good example was the foreign debt conversion of a country into investments in the environment. In that way, Poland had improved the condition of its environment. He recommended that solution as a method for sustainable development. The environment funds created in Eastern Europe played their role effectively.

    MAUMOON ABDUL GAYOOM, President of Maldives, noted that the worst floods in more than 200 years had recently inundated Europe and populous areas in Asia and South America. While that global deluge had been wreaking havoc, severe droughts and famine in Africa and Asia had been causing untold misery to millions. If that was not enough, a two-mile thick cloud of pollutants, known as the "Asian brown haze", was threatening the lives and health of humans and all forms of life in the region.

    The last 10 years since the Rio Summit had been most disappointing, he continued. Globalization had increased in pace and scale, with the promise that a rising tide of prosperity would lift all the boats. Sadly, most still remained moored to poverty, faced with the threat of sinking. Time, the most precious non-renewable resource, was running out.

    Over 1.2 billion people still lived in absolute poverty, and nearly 3 billion had no access to safe sanitation, he said. Regrettably, the world still drew 90 per cent of its commercial energy from fossil fuels. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were now at their highest in over 400,000 years, and the past decade had been the warmest on record. Over the last century, the mean sea level had risen by 10 to 20 centimetres, and low-lying nations were at greater risk than ever before. From floods to drought, from advancing deserts to receding glaciers, and from rising seas to the loss of biodiversity, the writing was on the wall. In short, development must be made both sustainable and inclusive.

    LEONID DANILOVICH KUCHMA, President of Ukraine, said moderate progress had been made on a number of important issues since Rio. But, despite the comprehensive scope of the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, people's hunger had largely not been satisfied, their thirst had not been slaked and their planet was still dying. It had become clear that humankind was piling obstacle after obstacle in the path of true sustainable development. It could no longer be denied that man had been the greatest impediment to his own progress.

    Ukraine, he said, had undertaken several historic initiatives to ensure its own future. Foremost among them had been the voluntary renouncement of its nuclear stockpiles. To set an example for the rest of the world, Ukraine subsequently set out to put the money it saved as a result of no longer having to maintain those stocks to good use. Ukraine firmly believed that if even a small percentage of military expenditures were diverted to sustainable development efforts, great progress could be made. Unfortunately, Ukraine's example went largely ignored.

    As a country in transition, all Ukraine's efforts were geared towards making the common road towards sustainable development a shorter one. Turning to the work of the Summit, he said this was not the time for pompous posturing -- floods and hurricanes affected East and West, North and South. Nature was warning us that perhaps things would get worse before they got better. It was time for everyone to listen.

    MATHIEU KEREKOU, President of Benin, speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said that for several decades, the world had been marked by extraordinary poisoning, regularly punctuated by many commitments and statements, all of which had been in favour of a more humane and just order. Unfortunately, all of those initiatives had remained good intentions, because they had not been followed by concrete action to address the serious imbalances in the world. Yet, the people of Asia, Latin America and Africa were always prepared to improve the quality of the production of raw materials and sell them on the international market. He was both bitter and proud, given that state of affairs.

    Thus, he solemnly appealed to all countries to commit to truly supporting a more humane and just world -- to end disparity and inequality. The world was indisputably one, and shared a common responsibility. Solidarity was the only way to reach a new human vision. The desire of all least developed countries was that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly, when it met in Beijing in October, adopt decisions that would give the States parties the necessary funds and mechanisms they required. That meant that those who had resources should provide the Facility with the necessary means.

    The least developed countries, he said, also asked developed partners to assist them in increasing their agricultural productivity and allow them to sell their goods in the international market. The struggle against poverty, political will, pertinent initiatives and commitments, and the wise and equitable use of available resources were all required, as the world worked for a healthy environment for future generations.

    LYONPO KINZANG DORJI, Prime Minister of Bhutan, noted that his country had foregone short-term benefits for long-term sustainability at great cost to its people and Government. But, support for Bhutan's initiatives to conserve forests and biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adopt clean development mechanisms had unfortunately not been forthcoming. Bhutan urged the developed countries to honour the promises made at Rio, and more recently at Monterrey.

    He said his country had endeavoured to implement Agenda 21 and other outcomes of the Rio Summit. Sustainable development formed the guiding principle of Bhutan's development strategy, which was based on the concept of "gross national happiness", as opposed to gross national product. That approach was based on holistic development through equitable socio-economic development, good governance, environmental conservation and preservation of culture.

    As a follow-up to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, he said, his country and the Netherlands had signed a sustainable development agreement by which Bhutan had also forged a partnership with Benin and Costa Rica as a new South-South alliance to pursue sustainable development. As a country located in the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan was gratified by the recognition of the importance and vulnerability of mountain ecosystems by the designation of 2002 as the International Year of Mountains. In support of that initiative, Bhutan would host an international conference in October celebrating mountain women.

    GORAN PERSSON, Prime Minister of Sweden, said it was the responsibility of political leaders to look beyond narrow interests and seek durable solutions. Each day, tens of thousands of children died because of hunger or diseases that were easy to cure. That was totally unacceptable and unworthy of the global community. A global strategy for sustainable development offered great opportunities. Investments in education, in health care and in social protection, vital to social and economic progress, were not a burden for development, but an engine for growth. The need to change unsustainable production and consumption would promote innovation, new business opportunities and job creation.

    He said the international community must focus efforts and resources on a number of key areas and set clear targets. Countries must live up to existing agreements and the Kyoto Protocol should be ratified by all countries, as soon as possible. Energy must be provided to the 2 billion people that lacked access, without increasing pollution and changing the climate. Scientists, businesses, trade unions and consumers must be mobilized in a strategy for a decisive change to use new technologies and learn new behaviour. A global target of 15 per cent renewable energy by 2010 would facilitate such a change. Industrial countries must take the lead. Sweden would make an additional contribution of 10 million euro to the GEF.

    One of the fundamentals in promoting change and increasing participation was education. More teachers should discuss the impact of lifestyles on the environment. Universities should offer courses on global survival issues and sustainable development in all major programmes. Centres of educational and scientific excellence in those areas must be promoted. Better governance at all levels was needed. Respect for human rights, democracy, rule of law and a corruption-free society were fundamentals for sustainable development. It was also crucial that progress be made on increasing market access for developing countries by the phasing out trade-distorting and environmentally harmful subsidies. Success was a question of political credibility, not just for individual political leaders, but also for multilateralism and the United Nations system as a whole, he said.

    MIKHAIL M. KASYANOV, Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, said in the years after Rio the world had changed dramatically. Based on the ideas of Rio, the Russian Federation was embarking on a new phase, focusing on economic growth, social development and protection of the environment. Russia was an ecological donor and had played a crucial part in maintaining ecological balance. One fourth of its forestry resources were not economically developed. Russia maintained 20 per cent of the world's drinking water supply and offered technological assistance to developing countries in refurbishing water supplies.

    He said the Russian Federation had signed the Kyoto Protocol and was preparing for its ratification, which, he hoped, would take place in the near future. Moscow would host a world conference on climate change in 2003. In providing an economic basis for sustainable development, a key role was played by removing barriers and trade obstacles. Russia was preparing to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and was reducing import tariffs. That would have a positive impact on trade with developing countries. Russia also played a role in resolving the debt crisis. Its actions in that regard, seen as a proportion of GDP, had exceeded 10 times the debt relief of other Group of 8 countries.

    His country stood ready to continue sharing its experience in health care and technology with developing countries. He expressed the hope that a decision would soon be made to hold the 2010 World Exhibition, devoted to mechanisms for achieving sustainable development, in Moscow. He was convinced that the outcomes of Johannesburg would focus the attention of all mankind on sustainable development and would make the world a safer place.

    FATOS NANO, Prime Minister of Albania, said humanity had already identified the escalating danger to the earth caused by pollution, environmental degradation, and uncontrollable use of natural resources, all exacerbated by uncontrolled economic growth. Those critical issues had transcended national and regional boundaries, and therefore efforts to address them should do the same. As a small country in the midst of economic transition, Albania had undertaken serious efforts to guarantee a sound, ecologically clean environment for its future generations. To that end, the country had created a Ministry of the Environment two years ago.

    Still, Albania faced numerous inherited problems. The country's transition toward independence -- occurring in the wake of worldwide globalization -- had been highlighted by efforts to address such issues as water management and sanitation, energy, rural development, rapid urbanization and ecological degradation. Albania would continue to adhere to the guidelines of the European Union in that regard, and make use of the lessons learned by industrialized countries from unsustainable production and consumption patters, as well. Poverty alleviation and renewable resources would be a large priority of the Albanian Government.

    JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE, President of Haiti, said that the amount of damage due to the El Niño phenomenon was between $32 billion and $96 billion. According to scientific forecasts, damages resulting from natural disasters could lead to losses in the amount of $300 billion a year. The correlation between environmental degradation and poverty must be acknowledged.

    In Haiti, only 20 per cent of a population of 8 million had access to drinking water, he said. Diseases related to that precious resource caused one third of all deaths recorded in developing countries. Also, between 1940 and 2002, forestry in Haiti went from 40 per cent of the economy to 1 per cent. In addition, his fellow citizens were fleeing the disastrous consequences of the unfair sanctions imposed on his country. Ten years after Rio, the major challenge was to promote economic growth and environmental sustainability. In 2004, Haiti would celebrate the bicentennial of its independence. It was now up to the international community to discover the path to rebirth for the 4.5 billion-year-old earth.

    LAISENIA QARASE, Prime Minister of Fiji, speaking as Chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum and President of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, said in the lonely atolls of his own marine continent in the Pacific and the islands of the Caribbean, people struggled to raise their families. They yearned for the simple things -- a decent home, clean water, and a school with desks and enough books. Participants in the Summit must share that yearning. Sustainable development, a fashionable phrase with a comforting, almost reassuring ring to it, was really about the salvation of the earth and stopping humankind from grossly abusing and destroying earth's resources.

    For the affluent North, sustainable development at its most basic meant finding a less-destructive way of maintaining and increasing the greatest accumulation of wealth in history. For the South, it might mean giving a man a chance to own two good shirts, a digging fork and the money to buy a kilogram of rice. It was about listening to the cry of the distressed masses. The world was a wounded and bleeding planet, while the degradation, the poisoning and the pollution continued. Natural resources and wildlife were still butchered, plundered and devastated. People starved and HIV/AIDS took a frightening toll. Wars and violence added to the destruction.

    Johannesburg offered another opportunity, he said. Although media reports already suggested failure of the Summit, he hoped delegates would find the resolve and the strength of Nelson Mandela to bring order and restoration from the havoc that had been visited on the planet. There were some rays of light. The international vision of his group was gathered around one word -- partnerships, with genuine commitments for what was best for the world, imbued by the ideals of sharing, justice and compassion. The Pacific Ocean was threatened from many quarters, including radioactive materials being transshipped across the ocean against their wishes. As generations of its people were still suffering from the effects of nuclear-weapon testing, that was of serious concern. He urged all to join the Pacific island countries in a partnership to protect its ocean.

    BERNARD MAKUZA, Prime Minister of Rwanda, extended heartfelt sympathy to those various nations which had experienced natural disasters, such as floods and droughts, since the 1992 Rio Summit. The very persistence of those tragic occurrences was a testimony to the urgency with which the international community needed to address environmental challenges. Moreover, environmental degradation remained a major threat to the planet, as evidenced by continued loss of biodiversity, desertification, climate change and global warming.

    He added that the fact that alternative energy sources, particularly in poor countries, remained scare, deforestation was increasing rapidly and that poverty and ignorance continued to hamper the development of millions of people in the developing world. Turning to his own country, he said just two years after Rio, Rwanda had lost more than 1 million people in the 1994 genocide, which had subsequently devastated the social fabric and wrecked the economy. Those tragic events notwithstanding, Rwanda attached great importance to the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 and other post-Rio development goals.

    Rwanda had, among other things, ratified and initiated the three Rio Conventions, and had also developed programmes which were focused on poverty eradication, land degradation, modernization of agriculture, gender mainstreaming and good governance. Rwanda had also been devoted to addressing development challenges at the national level. For example, it had worked hard to mend the social fabric and had continued to consolidate unity and reconciliation efforts, promoting good governance, democracy and fundamental human rights. Turing to issues before the Summit, he urged participants to be mindful of the context in which they were negotiating the sustainability of the world's future. Indeed, addressing the issue of globalization would be enormously challenging, but the Summit's outcome must find a way to turn that phenomenon's "missed opportunities" into development opportunities for all.

    PEDRO VERONA RODRIGUES PIRES, President of Cape Verde, said that it had been generally recognized that the world was imbalanced and unstable. Of particular concern was that those imbalances were being exacerbated over time. Unbridled human activity was endangering the very future of the planet and mankind. Current prosperity had been achieved at the expense of the degradation of the environment and the destruction of mankind's common heritage. It was necessary to establish harmony between economic growth, social development and environmental protection. Development and environment were inextricably linked.

    To that end, he continued, sustainable development must meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The sustainability of the future lay in shared responsibility. It was also necessary to revive human solidarity and overcome the indifference of the privileged and the agony of the disenfranchised. The time had come to offer mankind the prospect of hope for the future. The crucial problems affecting development had been identified, as had been the measures to address them. What remained was political will to implement those measures. Poverty eradication was the priority of all priorities.

    He noted that a particular problem for Africa was the expansion of the desert and its consequences, for which urgent action was required. There was an urgent need for a global war against desertification, which impoverished man and the earth. The Convention to Combat Desertification must be provided with the necessary means to implement its programmes. He called for vigorous and persistent international action in the struggle against that scourge.

    ISAIAS AFWERKI, President of Eritrea, said that 10 years after Rio the world's eyes were focused once again on world leaders at Johannesburg with great hope and expectations. However, since Rio, poverty and environmental degradation had only deepened and millions of people were living in unsafe conditions. Despite agreement on what was required to eradicate poverty and protect the environment, there had been little actual progress.

    He called on world leaders to rekindle their commitment, saying that the consequences of inaction were unacceptable to both poor and wealthy nations alike, with equally adverse impacts on the political, economic and social fabric of all. Poverty was the real enemy of the environment and the only way to protect the environment was to eliminate abject poverty.

    He emphasized that poor nations were not asking for charity, as was generally believed by some, he said. Rather, they wanted an opportunity to participate equitably in the global economy. They needed unimpeded access to world markets. While they would benefit from international assistance, that would work much better when it was free of the conditions that often accompanied it. Stressing the need to bequeath a cleaner planet to future generations, he called for the curtailment of the use of harmful pollutants.

    VICENTE FOX, President of Mexico, announcing that his country had been the first country on the American continent to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, said that the protection of the environment and natural resources were a matter of national security for Mexico, because environmental degradation had started to affect its potential for progress. Having abandoned the burning of 70 per cent of the natural gas associated with petroleum exploitation in the last two years, Mexico had avoided the emission of 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide and substantially reduced methane gas emissions.

    With respect to bio-security, he said the Senate had recently ratified the Cartagena Protocol. Mexico had also driven the creation of the "like-minded megadiverse countries", which controlled more than 70 per cent of the planet's biodiversity. Those countries had agreed to redouble their efforts to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010. For their part, developed countries must commit themselves to provide new financial and technological resources to developing countries, and to promote an international regime to develop and protect the equitable distribution of the benefits resulting from the use of genetic resources.

    He said the only way to protect and save the world's biological diversity was to directly benefit the local and indigenous communities that, despite inhabiting areas of great natural resources, were generally the planet's most impoverished and marginalized inhabitants. For thousands of years, they had preserved, for the benefit of all humankind, that great natural and cultural wealth. It was, therefore, necessary to justly value the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and to take it into account in the granting of intellectual property rights.

    JOAQUIM ALBERTO CHISSANO, President of Mozambique, said that the holding of the Summit in the poorest continent would hopefully raise global awareness of the problems related to poverty and underdevelopment, he said. Despite their marginalization, African countries were determined to achieve sustainable development through poverty eradication. Improving the lives of their people was the primary responsibility of the countries themselves. Therefore, Africans were taking control of their destiny through the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). However, the NEPAD could only be viable if it benefited from partnership with the rest of the world.

    The implementation of Agenda 21 had been given priority and integrated into Mozambique's development progammes, he continued. His country had ratified almost all environmental conventions and multilateral environmental agreements. It had implemented a national strategy for sustainable development centred on poverty eradication and had enacted the necessary environmental legislation.

    He underlined the need for the adoption of a sound political declaration, which affirmed the validity of Agenda 21, the principles of Rio and the Millennium Declaration. It was also crucial to approve an action plan with a clear time frame, targets and monitoring mechanisms, accompanied by financial commitments for its implementation. In addition, globalization and international trade should be reoriented to serve the needs of the poor. He also stressed the need to support the NEPAD and the African process aimed at poverty reduction. Furthermore, debt relief, particularly for the heavily indebted poor countries, was crucial to assist them to implement their national poverty-eradication programmes.

    MAAOUYA OULD SID'AHMED TAYA, President of Mauritania, said in the decade since Rio, the international community had to admit that certain obstacles had yet to be addressed. Implementation of the Johannesburg action plan for sustainable development required efforts on behalf of the entire international community. For its part, Mauritania had spared no effort in addressing the pillars of development. In accordance with the recommendations of the Earth Summit, Mauritania had undertaken great efforts to integrate environmental concerns into its development strategies. It had also given priority to enhancing education programmes.

    All those activities would make it possible for Mauritania to establish a framework based on a realistic strategy for development. The country had also supported the principles of NEPAD, which would be key towards making it a pan-African strategy. Mauritania had set up strategic partnerships, and would continue to urge international governments to open markets and provide greater access for small and developing countries. That was the basis for the happiness and prosperity of future generations.

    GUSTAVO NOBOA BEJARANO, President of Ecuador, said the presidents of South America had met in Ecuador in July and charged the Presidents of Brazil and Ecuador to coordinate efforts for the Summit. For developing countries, sustainable development meant ensuring basic survival. It was ironic that the developing countries, having the greatest biological and genetic wealth on the planet, had been charged with protecting the wealth without getting any resources for it. The megadiverse countries of Latin America contained 45 per cent of the world's population and 75 per cent of its biodiversity. His country had approved the Andean strategy for biodiversity and was aware of the important role of preserving the environment for current and future generations.

    He was convinced that environmental destruction and profound inequity were the result of the economic and social practices of developed countries. The Millennium Declaration had committed world leaders to work in favour of sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. He was afraid the Millennium Goals would not be reached. Ecuador jealously guarded biodiversity, such as the Galapagos Islands, and its policies had established the right to live in a healthy environment. Moreover, Ecuador had created the first "marine-diverse corridor". It reaffirmed the vital role of indigenous peoples and acknowledged their collective rights. Gender equality was equally important.

    The policies imposed by financial institutions had severe consequences, he said. Ecuador's foreign debt burden had severely impacted on any efforts towards sustainable development. Subsidies to agricultural producers of the developed countries were to the detriment of his country's markets. Those countries that spoke the loudest about the environmental struggle turned out to be the worst polluters, and did not live up to their environmental commitments. Further, they were not prepared to maintain official levels for development assistance.

    JOSÉ RIZO CASTELLÓN, Vice-President of Nicaragua, said that the Summit provided an important opportunity to achieve tangible results in breaking the vicious cycles of unsustainable consumption and production, among other things. Recognizing the interdependence of countries, there was now more concern about environmental problems. Since the effects of national activities did not stop at national borders, global cooperation was required to find solutions to such problems as climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer.

    It was clear that global environmental issues could not be solved through isolated, local initiatives, but required immediate global responses, he emphasized. Nicaragua had legal instruments to seek balanced solutions to address environmental issues, foster investment and encourage civil participation. The Government was following the Rio guidelines in pursuing sustainable development. The establishment of the National Council for Sustainable Development had been a major step forward. The Government had also created a constant dialogue between itself and a wide range of actors. Within that dialogue, civil society had promoted its own proposals.

    Nicaragua, he continued, was working to ensure that transparency, honesty and austerity in expenditure were basic pillars of the Government. Faced with the problem of poverty, it had developed an accelerated policy to combat poverty and establish a dialogue among various economic and social actors. It also had a goal of developing sustainable development strategies by the year 2005. He stressed the importance of listening to the demands put forward yesterday by the children.

    ARTURO VALLARINO, Vice-President of Panama, said his country followed the doctrine of human security and promoted human rights, sustainable development and peace. The fruits of Panama's efforts could be witnessed in its society's increased awareness of the need to comprehensively address the nexus of poverty eradication and environmental protection. As the eighth country to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it would urge those States that had not done so to commit to that important instrument as soon as possible.

    Despite the progress Panama had made, the challenges remained formidable. Panama needed to put programmes in place that that would promote its broader aims of sustainable development. One priority issue was cleaning up the unexploded ordnance and other contaminates left behind at former United States' defence bases. The Government had moved to act on that issue, as its attempts at seeking a bilateral solution had come to naught. Panama had also given priority to developing its scientific and technological capacities. It had, therefore, proposed the creation of hi-tech learning centres. While the work of such centres would be regional in focus, the reach would be global.

    He went on to say that creating a new world order in which economic growth and technological change were in harmony with nature was Panama's ultimate goal. The decisions made at the Summit would be critical, particularly for the developing and least developed countries. He urged the negotiators to address cross-cutting issues such as racism, which he believed was one of the major, but often overlooked, causes of environmental injustice. The cost of environmental racism should be clear -- just ask the people of South Africa. He reaffirmed the vital role of indigenous people and people of African origin in framing sustainable development strategies. He urged developed countries to meet their ODA goals, as well as the objectives of the Earth Summit and Agenda 21.

    JUAN CARLOS MAQUEDA, Vice-President of Argentina, said his country was currently enduring one of the most serious economic and social crises in its history. Argentina was part of a process characterized by asymmetries in the world's economic system, which were made worse by protectionist practices in international trade. It was imperative to eliminate all forms of subsidies, which developed countries used to protect their primary production, and which conspired against the free evolution of the international market.

    Globalization not only generalized the commercial and financial rules; it made the benefits of civilization and democracy, of wealth and scientific progress, universal. However, globalization was not possible without equity and social justice. The world must direct all of its efforts towards the definitive eradication of poverty. There would be no sustainable development in the world as long as extreme poverty continued to exist.

    The international community must also actively seek mechanisms to reduce the pressure of external debt on developing countries, so they could direct more resources towards growth, he said. Reducing poverty also meant sustained market access on a non-discriminatory basis, incentives to basic production and agricultural development, and promotion of science and technology so they were accessible to all countries.

    CHARLES GOERENS, Minister of Environment, Minister for Cooperation and Humanitarian Action of Luxembourg, said there certainly had been some success after Rio, such as the Kyoto Protocol, the Cartagena Protocol and the effective work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). But recent United Nations figures on poverty and environmental degradation were not encouraging. Natural disasters occurred more and more, such as the recent floods in Asia and Europe and the drought in Africa.

    He said Johannesburg had to adopt at least seven crucial decisions in the framework of a "global deal". If the industrialized countries would fulfil their commitment of 0.7 GDP for ODA, poverty could not only be reduced by half, but it could be totally eradicated. His country hoped to achieve 1 per cent GDP by 2005. Opening markets for developing countries and integration of environmental and social standards should be done simultaneously. A goal of 15 per cent renewable energy would have social, economic and environmental benefits and contribute to prevention of certain conflicts. It was absolutely necessary to reduce by half by 2015 the number of people that did not have access to drinking water and sanitary provisions. A global network of protected zones must be created that covered at least 5 per cent of the earth's surface through a legally binding protocol. International environmental governance must be improved.

    The only defendable goal in facing the HIV/AIDS scourge was access to health care for all. The Global Fund was a first, but small step in the fight against that scourge. France, Italy, Spain and Luxembourg, joined by the United States, urged hospitals in northern countries, in the context of the ESTHER initiative -- a European AIDS initiative, known by its acronym in French (Ensemble pour une Solidarité Thérapeutique Hospitalière en Réseau) -- to create partnerships between European hospitals and health services in developing countries in order to treat patients afflicted with AIDS, and to assure their access to anti-retroviral medication.

    SHAHIDA JAMIL, Federal Minister for Environment, Local Government and Rural Development of Pakistan, said that thoughtless acts of human intervention had adversely affected her country's climate. Permanent loss of the waters of three major rivers in 1960, inflow of polluted waters from the Hudiara drain, industrial and domestic effluents in the rivers, deforestation and six years of drought had all help degrade water sources. Snowfall and rainfall in mountainous areas had been reduced and glaciers had shrunk. The sound of water no longer echoed in valleys, where it once rushed down from brooks, streams and waterfalls to replenish the four remaining rivers. The resultant damage had negatively affected the mountain and coastal ecosystems and communities.

    In 1997, Pakistan passed the Environmental Protection Act and set up protection agencies at the federal and provincial levels, she continued. However, resources were limited and the problems enormous. Growing desertification, drought, the El Niño phenomenon and resultant deterioration of water resources made life for the poor even more difficult. To combat that, a massive poverty-alleviation programme had been launched in January 2000. Micro-credit schemes were introduced, farm-to-market roads were built and canals were dredged to improve the water supply to rural areas.

    In August, Pakistan reached a lead-free status in the production of gasoline in all of its four refineries, he said. Since June, all foam industries have been operating CFC-free. Pakistan reached both those landmarks three years before the target year of 2005, with the help of the public and private sectors, international institutions and donor agencies. The country was now eager to set up joint venture agreements between the Government and private sectors -- both local and foreign. Pakistan supported urgent action through effective partnerships among the Government, private sector, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. That was the only way to save precious natural resources and combat poverty.

    RUKMAN SENANAYAKA, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Sri Lanka, said that his country had taken significant steps towards implementing Agenda 21 and meeting its international commitments. It had ratified all major international conventions and protocols and had formulated a new national environmental policy based on the Rio principles.

    His country took pride in the fact that policies and programmes formulated for environmental protection during the past several years sprang from a visionary political leadership -- a process facilitated by consensual and bipartisan policy making. Many of those policies were adopted at a time when the country was passing through a difficult period in its development path, including a great deal of social and economic hardship.

    Sri Lanka perceived sustainable development as a process in which the active participation of all stakeholders in civil society, government and the private sector could be mobilized, he said. It would continue to draw inspiration from the past, to raise awareness on issues and deploy strategies that would facilitate grass-roots-level involvement in formulating and implementing mainstream policies for sustainable development. It was his hope that the above process would facilitate wider participation of civil society as stakeholders, and effectively support the development of a local agenda that would enable local communities to become true partners in sustainable development.

    IRAKLI MENAGARISHVILI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, Georgia had just begun taking its first steps as an independent nation. Though it had not participated in that important event, Georgia held dear the objectives of the Rio Declaration and the principles of Agenda 21. It was regrettable that much less had been achieved in the decade following Rio than expected. It had been hoped that, when the cold-war-era global order had been dismantled, social and economic development would flourish in every region of the world.

    Sadly, he continued, those hopes of future opportunities and dreams had proved overrated, as nations began to face challenges posed by deepening poverty, environmental degradation, unchecked use of natural resources, as well as such new threats as international terrorism. Indeed, Georgia knew well the important role maintaining peace and security played in sustainable development. Georgia's territorial integrity continued to be violated and the bulk of its resources were devoted to dealing with some 300,000 Abkhazian refugees.

    Thus, achieving sustainable development seemed to be an unobtainable task, he said. The effects of ethnic cleansing and bloody violence still cast a pall over Georgia's social and economic development. In response, the Government had taken a number of extraordinary initiatives to promote sustainable development, including several programmes aimed at promoting wider use of renewable energy sources. But, the heavy burden of foreign debt seriously hindered any real progress towards achieving those goals. He urged the Summit to give particular priority to low-income countries with economies in transition.

    SAYYID ASSAAD BIN TARIQ AL-SAID, representing Oman, said protection of the environment and ensuring sustainable development was a common responsibility of all. Striking a balance between exploitation of natural resource and implementing developmental strategies and conserving biodiversity necessitated more effort and cooperation. Oman had reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of Rio. It had developed a national strategy to conserve the environment, in addition to integrating environmental considerations in development plans at all levels of planning. A national plan of action for biodiversity had also been developed.

    Conservation of the maritime environment, maritime pollution, management of dangerous chemicals and desertification were also of concern to his country, he said. A long-term strategy was aimed at diversifying its economy, so it would not be solely dependent on oil, and exploiting other aspects, such as tourism. He reiterated the necessity for dealing with crucial outstanding issues, including the scarcity of water. It was necessary to develop regional and national strategies in order to manage coastal maritime and fresh water resources, which was important to agricultural communities.

    Desertification necessitated pilot projects at the community level. Maritime pollution necessitated efforts to protect the maritime environments and address the problem of the disposal of all wastes. Biodiversity necessitated an increase in the number of protected areas and more financial resources, specifically to preserve plant coverage in mountainous regions. He encouraged developed countries to abide by the commitment of 0.7 per cent GDP for ODA, transfer new technologies and encourage micro-credit initiatives as the main tool for empowering women and others in poor and urban areas.

    DENIS KALUME NUMBI, Minister of Planning and Reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that in a country like his, peace and stability was a prerequisite for sustainable development. Everyone had an obligation to achieve a positive and concrete result at the Summit in order to save the global village. Ecological disasters knew no borders.

    His country, he stated, had great potential in terms of water, biodiversity and arable land, which could be used for sustainable development and poverty eradication. The Congo River, for example, had the potential to fight desertification and drought in Africa. Regarding energy, the potential of the river for hydroelectric power could be calculated at thousands of megawatts. In the area of biodiversity, his country had set aside 8 sites for protection and would like to extend coverage to 20 per cent of the country, once peace was solidified. Having over 80 million hectares of arable land, his country was capable of producing enough food to feed all of Africa. All of the above made the country the answer to the future of several African countries in terms of sustainable development.

    At the same time, he said, there was concern that all of that potential would not be used to serve Africa, but rather disappear into the pockets of those who wanted to exploit the natural resources of his country. To allay those fears, he asked that the Summit establish the inextricable link between peace and sustainable development. Also, the Summit should decide on the imposition of peace in his country by encouraging the changing of the mandate of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), so that it could be more than an impotent observer. In addition, the Summit should call for the organization of a major international conference on peace and security in the Great Lakes region under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union.

    TIMOTHY HARRIS, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Education of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said that only the people could safeguard the planet, and only the productive and responsible actions of people could lead to prosperity. However, it was the people of the global village whose consumption and production undermined biodiversity, created pollutants and caused global warming. Caribbean leaders had repeatedly urged people, for example, to be more responsive to the potential catastrophe that could occur should something go wrong with nuclear waste shipped through their waters.

    If people were at the heart of any development agenda, the international community must examine the quality of their existence, he said. The Millennium Summit had envisioned a world in which poverty was halved, basic education was available to all and measurable progress was made in containing the scourge of HIV/AIDS. His country had provided leadership in the Caribbean on health issues, particularly those related to that pandemic.

    He applauded the establishment of the Global Fund for the Treatment of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the multi-sectoral approach to those major diseases. He regretted, however, that the $10 billion needed by the Fund had not been realized. His country believed that comprehensive and sustained public awareness, information and education programme on HIV/AIDS must be launched in every village, township, town and city. Abstinence was virtuous, but everyday experiences and realities suggested that promoting safe sexual practices would be more effective.

    ABDALLAH ABDILLAHI MIGUIL, Minister of Housing, Urbanization, Environment and Country Planning of Djibouti, said that since Rio, the international community had spent a decade drawing up strategic studies and plans, forgoing what was really needed: concrete action. He said that despite the real economic problems Djibouti faced, it had worked hard to integrate in its social and economic legislation many of the precepts included in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21. At the same time, structural problems and economic hindrances had made the implementation of those commitments difficult.

    Still, adherence to the Rio principles had yielded some positive initiatives, including new constitutional recognition of the need to address development and environmental concerns. Djibouti had also strengthened its administrative structures and had created a national sustainable development commission. He said, however, that Djibouti's arid climate and the alarming degradation of indigenous vegetation -- due mainly to low amounts of rainfall and increasing pressure by human populations -- still posed problems. In response, the Government had introduced initiatives to promote sound management of water resources.

    He said it was clear that there could be no sustainable development without strengthening human capacities, and the Government had undertaken efforts to enhance Djibouti's social safety net, as well as its health and education policies. He added that to address Djibouti's rapidly urbanizing society, the Government had put in place mechanisms to manage solid waste, provide better sanitation and safe drinking water. Still, overcrowding in the cities was growing worse and Djibouti hoped the Summit would focus international attention on such issues, perhaps creating the opportunity to identify international partners or donors.

    ABBAS YUSUF, head of the delegation of the Transitional National Government of Somalia, said there could be no sustainable development in the absence of sustainable peace, all-inclusive governance, human rights and the rule of law. During the conflict in his country, desertification had intensified as vegetation was destroyed, and poaching, as well as the extermination of endangered species, escalated. Depletion of fishing stock, as well as dumping of toxic and hazardous waste on land and in the sea from developed countries became the order of the day. That would not have occurred except for a decade-long political vacuum.

    In Somalia, he said, refugees and internally displaced persons aggravated the situation of poverty, poor sanitation, shortage of clean drinking water and preventable diseases. Malaria, tuberculosis and other poverty-related diseases in those nations should be urgently addressed. Bilateral and United Nations resources devoted to meeting those health challenges were nowhere near adequate.

    Though famine, droughts and wars had characterized Somalia over the past decade, he was optimistic that the reconciliation and peace process would continue and sustainable peace leading to sustainable rehabilitation and reconstruction would be possible in the near future. He urged the international community not to write the country off, but join it in restoring peace and developing in a sustainable manner.

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