Press Releases

    17 October 2002



    NEW YORK, 16 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Second Assembly of the Global Environment Facility, delivered by Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme in Beijing today:

    This gathering, just six weeks after the end of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, is especially timely.

    The outcome of the Summit has generated different assessments. That was inevitable, given the breadth of the agenda. But it is clear that Johannesburg identified concrete ways to accelerate the implementation of Agenda 21. The Summit also marked a major advance in forging partnerships among Governments, civil society groups and the private sector. Indeed, in some cases we are seeing confrontation give way to cooperation, and former adversaries becoming allies, working together on concrete, practical projects. Much of the conceptual confusion that had plagued sustainable development also appears to have been put to rest. The world now understands, more than ever before, that fighting poverty and protecting the environment are two sides of the same coin -- compatible, mutually reinforcing goals, rather than a zero-sum game.

    Last month I submitted to the membership my first annual report on progress achieved towards implementing the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration. The report paints a mixed picture. Some goals have benefited from the hard decisions and courageous reforms that are needed. Others have not and are lagging or even falling behind as a result.

    This holds true for efforts to ensure environmental sustainability, which is the seventh Millennium Development Goal. We are using energy more efficiently, and improving compliance with agreements to protect the ozone layer. Yet there has been a global net loss in forestry, and little change in reducing indoor air pollution. The Kyoto Protocol has not yet entered into force. And many regions, including fast-growing East Asia, stand at risk of environmental crisis in the years ahead.

    In the decade since its founding, the Global Environment Facility has become one of the key multilateral institutions working to ensure that economic growth and the fight against poverty are pursued in harmony with environmental protection. Even as it keeps this big picture in mind, your focus has been admirably local and community-based. As a unique partnership between the UN Environment Programme, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank, you are promoting coherence within the UN system. You also understand that Governments cannot do the job alone, and so are building important bridges to the private sector and NGO community.

    The recent replenishment of the GEF with $2.9 billion for the next four years was the biggest in its history. That is both a vote of confidence by your stakeholders -- developed and developing countries alike -- and a statement of expectation as we act now to carry out the agreements reached in Johannesburg. I wish you all success in these deliberations as you consider how best to shoulder those responsibilities.

    In closing, let me express my enormous gratitude to Mohamed El-Ashry for his outstanding leadership of the GEF. I am sure everyone here shares my high regard for what he has achieved in his many years as Chairman.

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