Press Releases

    18 July 2002

    World Summit on Sustainable Development a "Test for Multilateralism and the International Community", Says Secretary-General

    NEW YORK, 17 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks to the "Friends of the Chair" of the Preparatory Committee of the World Summit on Sustainable Development:

    It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you here to United Nations Headquarters for these crucially important consultations on the Johannesburg Summit.

    I know you are well aware of the high expectations among the world public that the Summit should be a decisive step forward in the quest for sustainable development. So I hope you come here ready to work hard, as the Minister said, listen to each other's points of view, and find a way to ensure that, when we get to the Summit, your Government is clearly seen to be taking this challenge seriously.

    Over the last two years, significant strides have been made in addressing the challenges of development. The Millennium Summit not only defined the major goals, but also galvanized political commitment at the highest level. That commitment helped lay the groundwork for successes at Doha and Monterrey. Johannesburg must maintain this momentum and show that in the face of a quintessential global challenge -- the challenge of raising living standards while protecting the environment -- multilateralism works and international cooperation is the way to go.

    I would like to convey my great appreciation to Dr. Emil Salim of Indonesia for his dedication and outstanding work as Chairman of the Preparatory Committee. A great deal has already been accomplished, in Bali and elsewhere, and that is reflected in the draft plan of implementation.

    As you know, negotiations on several critical issues have reached an impasse, and thus require further political engagement and dialogue before the opening of the Summit just six weeks away from now. That is why President Mbeki and I felt the need to bring you together.

    As "Friends of the Chair", this group is not expected as the Chair to negotiate text on the outstanding issues. Rather, the hope is that you will suggest ways to bridge the gaps on those issues, leaving actual negotiations to the full membership of the United Nations.

    Therefore, the purpose of this meeting is twofold.

    First is to identify the core remaining issues. It seems that six clusters of issues hold the key to agreement on a plan of implementation: the first, the Rio principles; then finance, including replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); globalization and trade; good governance; time-bound targets; and technology transfers. South Africa has circulated a paper containing details on each of these.

    The second reason we have gathered is to reach an understanding on a common approach to resolving these undoubtedly complex and politically sensitive issues. Allow me to suggest a few points and principles that could help guide your efforts.

    First, the Summit should seek to implement the existing global consensus on sustainable development, and avoid revising or reinterpreting the principles and agreements of this consensus.

    Second, efforts to build on the recent achievements in critical areas such as finance, trade and good governance should be grounded in existing agreement or work that is already in progress in these areas.

    Third, the Summit should not be sidetracked by discussions on issues that are already under discussion by other relevant forums.

    Fourth, there should be a greater focus on specific actions in the five key areas of water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity -- or WEHAB, the acronym that many people are using.

    And fifth, States should give us assurances that there will be an adequate replenishment of the GEF.

    I believe that flexibility and mutual understanding should be possible for this group of "friends" to find a common approach that can bridge the differences and produce a broad-based agreement. Needless to say, this common approach should be found before the Summit, so that Member States arrive in Johannesburg with a clear idea of how the negotiations can succeed and, in turn, result in the launch of concrete initiatives.

    Let me now turn briefly to the political declaration. Dr. Salim has proposed elements, which I am sure will prove very useful as South Africa proceeds with preparation of a draft. That draft will be presented to the Summit for its consideration. I know you share my hope for an inspiring declaration that speaks to the needs of real people. And I know you all join me in thanking Dr. Salim for his contribution.

    The United Nations Secretariat, for its part, has begun to develop technical frameworks for partnerships in the five areas, and will, of course, continue to provide all necessary assistance as the Summit approaches. I myself will continue to take every opportunity to speak out on the issues and urge leaders at the highest political levels to attend and give the agenda their strong support.

    Johannesburg is a test for multilateralism and for the international community. It is a test for all leaders who profess to care about the well-being of our planet and its people. Johannesburg must send a message of solidarity and concern, and must produce real change, on the ground in people's lives, where it matters most.

    Progress since the Earth Summit has been slower than expected and -- more important -- slower than what was needed. A setback now would be a tragic missed opportunity. Your work here can help avert the worst, and restore the hope for the future of all humankind. I wish you all the best in your deliberations.

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