Press Releases

                                                                                                                            30 March 2004

    Secretary-General Says Environmental Forum Opportunity to Refocus Attention on UN’s Anti-Poverty Efforts, Including Key Issues of Water Sanitation

    NEW YORK, 29 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the UNEP Governing Council Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Jeju, Republic of Korea, 29-31 March:

    It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to all the environment ministers gathered on the beautiful and diverse island of Jeju.  The Government and people of the Republic of Korea warrant our thanks for hosting this event, especially in this unique environment.

    This year’s Global Ministerial Environment Forum is an opportunity to refocus much-needed attention on the UN’s overarching agenda of poverty eradication and its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Issues of water, sanitation and human settlements, which you will be discussing at this forum and which are also the main focus of next month’s session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, occupy a key position in that agenda.

    Millions of people all over the world face water shortages, and water-related problems are likely only to increase in the future.  The search for solutions must not come at the expense of already threatened ecosystems.  We must involve all stakeholders, urban and rural, public and private.  We must reach out to new partners, and involve traditional partners in new ways.  One such example is the Water for Asian Cities project, announced one year ago between UN-Habitat and the Asian Development Bank, which is meant to benefit some 700 to 800 million people in the region’s urban areas.  But projects need not necessarily be of such a large scale to have an impact.  Smaller, community-based initiatives can be just as successful.  In that regard, I encourage you to listen to what the Global Civil Society Forum, which took place this past weekend, had to say on these issues.

    I am pleased that you will also be considering the further development of the international environmental governance process, finalized two years ago in Cartagena and endorsed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  In that connection, I look forward to learning of your views on the pending question of universal membership of the Governing Council.

    I also note that considerable progress has been made on strengthening the scientific base of the UN Environment Programme, and on an intergovernmental strategic plan for technology support and capacity-building, both integral parts of the governance issue.  When fully articulated, I am sure that this plan can enable UNEP to better assist developing countries in their efforts to implement the environmental goals and objectives set out in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

    As the world’s environmental policy makers, your discussions can enrich and contribute to the broad review of these issues at the intergovernmental level, while at the same time having an impact at home in your countries, where change is needed most.  In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful session.

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