Press Releases

Johannesburg, 26 August - 4 September 2002

Note No 178
19 February 2002

Note to Correspondents


The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) as Unique Opportunity to Create a More Sustainable Future, Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August – 4 September 2002

VIENNA, 19 February (UN Information Service) -- From 26 August to 4 September 2002 the World Summit on Sustainable Development will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Johannesburg Summit is a ten-year-follow-up to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro. Tens of thousands of participants will join the Johannesburg Summit 2002 to evaluate the results achieved in implementing Agenda 21, the global plan of action for sustainable development adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit. The Rio+10 Summit in Johannesburg will also present an opportunity to analyse obstacles to progress, to build on the knowledge gained over the past decade, and provide new impetus for commitments of resources and specific action towards global sustainability.

The past half-century has seen unprecedented economic gains for many; but also entrenched poverty and development problems, ecological devastation and waste of natural resources. One fifth of the world’s people must survive on less than one dollar per day; about 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water; poor environmental quality contributes to 25 per cent of the illnesses; earth’s population is projected to rise to nine billion by 2050. That is our world today.

"Achieving sustainable development is no easy task. Significant changes will be needed, if we are to reach our goal of development that meets the needs of today without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their needs," Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General warns. "We live on one planet, connected in a delicate, intricate web of ecological, social, economic and cultural relationships that shape our lives. If we are to achieve sustainable development, we will need to display greater responsibility," Kofi Annan stated.

This sense of responsibility will determine our future world. "For too long we have seen a false trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth. We must introduce a new way of thinking – one that sees economic and environmental health as inter-linked, mutually supportive goals," Nitin Desai, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who is also the Secretary General of the Summit, emphasizes. Our world needs a sustainable development.

Sustainable development calls for improving the quality of life for all the world’s people without increasing the use of our natural resources beyond the earth’s carrying capacity.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg from 26 August – 4 September 2002 will also address, at the highest level, concerns about globalization – particularly its social, economic and environmental impact. "The Johannesburg Summit 2002 is an opportunity to rejuvenate the quest to build a more sustainable future," Kofi Annan hopes.

The long-term success of sustainable development will depend on new approaches at every level of society, public and private. Therefore the Johannesburg Summit will include the voices, experiences and perspectives of governments, NGOs, business and industry, indigenous people, workers and trade unions, scientific and technological communities and other major groups.

While sustainable development may require different regional actions, it concentrates on three key areas.

  • Economic growth and equity – today’s inter-linked, global economic systems demand an integrated approach to foster long-term growth while ensuring that no community is left behind.
  • Conserving natural resources and environment – economically viable solutions must be developed to conserve our environmental heritage and natural resources for future generations.
  • Social development – while addressing the basic needs, the world’s population must also ensure that the rich fabric of cultural and social diversity is respected, and that all members of society are empowered to play a role in determining their future.

New dates for the Summit approved by UN-General Assembly

On 24 December 2001 the General Assembly, acting on the recommendation of the Second Committee, adopted without vote a draft resolution on the World Summit on Sustainable Development. In the resolution the General Assembly decided, inter alia, that the Summit shall be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002, with the participation of heads of State and Government during the period 2 to 4 September.

2nd PrepCom welcomed chairmen’s text

Delegates attending the 2nd session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), held from 28 January to 8 February 2002 in New York, warmly received Chairman Emil Salim’s text, which will serve as the basis for negotiations at the next Preparatory Committee session, to start on 25 March in New York, and will ultimately become the Summit programme of action.

The Johannesburg Summit agenda also builds on the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report on implementing Agenda 21, which outlined a 10-point plan for priority areas for action. The plan includes topics such as globalization, poverty, health, energy, freshwater, Africa, finance and technology, patterns of consumption and production, managing ecosystems and bio-diversity, and international governance.

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UNIS Vienna will keep you updated on developments en route to Johannesburg. For further details you may wish to also visit the official web-site of the United Nations Secretariat for the summit: