Report on Baha'i International Community
Presentation at WSSD PrepCom
30 April 2001
Commission on Sustainable Development
Acting as the Preparatory Committee for
World Summit on Sustainable Development
30 April 2001, 2nd Meeting (PM)
PRESS RELEASE ENV/DEV/580
SUSTAINING PLANET REQUIRES GLOBAL EFFORT, UNEP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TELLS PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT
Sustaining the planet required global cooperative effort, not isolated attempts to address crucial sustainability issues, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), told the Commission on Sustainable Development, acting as the Preparatory Committee for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, this afternoon.
He said it was, therefore, essential that preparations for the Summit -- to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa -- take into account trends associated with globalization. Further, the Summit must initiate a new culture aimed at ensuring overall sustainable development, without destroying the prospects for future generations by overburdening the environment.
Mr. Toepfer was one of more than 20 speakers this afternoon, as discussion focused on progress in preparatory activities for the Summit at the local, national, regional and international levels, as well as by major groups. In addition, the Committee considered the process for setting the agenda and determining possible main themes for the Summit.
Representatives emphasized that Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, must not be renegotiated and that new challenges and emerging issues be examined within the existing framework of Agenda 21. They also stressed the need for the Summit to reinvigorate political commitment for the implementation of the Rio commitments and the need to ensure participation of all stakeholders, which was crucial for a successful preparatory process and Summit.
Canada's representative stated that donor countries must be prepared to support the participation of groups from developing countries, in order to ensure a "strong voice" for civil society actors from the South. He urged the Committee to "keep it simple" when it turned to discuss the logistics and timing of the events leading up to the Summit. During the last 10 years, the international community had struggled with a complex and expansive sustainable development agenda. It was now necessary to focus on the practical steps needed to implement existing agreements.
Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, Iran's representative expressed the hope that the preparatory process would help build a genuine global partnership involving all stakeholders, both in the North and South. The developing world had been looking forward to the implementation of the commitments of technology, financial resources and capacity-building made in Rio and were still waiting. The review should address the constraints and challenges in the implementation of those commitments.
The representative of Samoa, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that there was a "credibility gap" between achievements and expectations after Rio. Overall, what was needed was substantive action and renewed political commitment. Support and cooperation had become all the more pressing, since the biological richness and diversity that sustained communities was being increasingly exploited and threatened.
Also this afternoon, JoAnne Disano, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report on draft rules of procedure for the Summit (document E/CN.17/2001/PC/24).
Statements were also made by the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), China, Chile, Mauritania, Egypt, Indonesia, Iceland, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela, Republic of Korea, United States, Norway, Mexico, Russian Federation, Brazil, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia and Japan. The observer for Switzerland and a representative of Baha'i International also spoke.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 1 May, to continue its discussion preparatory activities for the World Summit.
The Commission on Sustainable Development, acting as the Preparatory Committee for the upcoming 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, met this afternoon to continue consideration of organizational matters. It was also expected to hear statements by delegations on the preparatory process for the Summit.
KLAUS TOPFER, Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said that worldwide events since Stockholm in 1972 and Rio in 1992, had lead to the realization that sustainable development issues should not be focused purely on environment, but on the interdependent nature of environment and development. Indeed, sustaining the planet required a global cooperative effort, not isolated attempts to address crucial sustainability issues. It was, therefore, essential that preparations for the upcoming Summit take into account trends associated with globalization. Further, the upcoming Summit must initiate a new culture of solidarity aimed at ensuring overall sustainable development, without destroying the prospects for future generations by overburdening the environment.
He went on to say that the international community must work actively to ensure that the trade agenda and environment concerns were mutually supportive. Also, relevant actors should ensure that the benefits of both the technological and biological revolutions were used for sustainable development. He added that the role of civil society had changed, creating new expectations for the Summit. Indeed, there had been an important call for emphasis on efforts aimed at implementing Agenda 21 -- the action programme of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development -- at local levels. Further, inputs from private business partners would also be important to the preparatory process, particularly as regarding foreign direct investment, and technology transfer and training.
He said that UNEP's role in the implementation of Agenda 21 had been central to the agency's policy framework, particularly in terms of inter-governmental decision-making and institutional reforms. Some recent initiatives undertaken that would be relevant to preparations for the upcoming Summit included, among others, work in the field of environmental law, the coordination of environmental conventions and coordinating regional activities in management of the environment. He said that another of UNEP's contributions to the process had been preparing the Global Environment Outlook report, which was expected to be completed in 2002 and would provide a substantive and definitive assessment of the global environment situation. The information compiled in that report had been gathered with the help of a broad network of scientists and researchers, particularly in developing countries. He hoped the report would give clear direction to the deliberations and eventual agreements at Johannesburg.
He said that international environmental governance should also be given high priority during the preparatory process and then at the Summit itself. To that end, he noted that the first Global Ministerial Environment Forum, in Malmo, Sweden had seen more than 100 environment ministers gather to discuss that issue. The Forum's outcome, the Malmo Declaration, was an inspiring expression of a "global environmental consciousness". It concluded that governments, the private sector and civil society were needed to alleviate poverty and remedy the threats to human health and the environment caused by past actions.
BAGHER ASADI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, hoped that the preparatory process would help build a genuine global partnership involving all stakeholders, both in the North and South. The Preparatory Committee should be the only body to discuss and decide on the agenda and key issues related to the Summit. The Commission should have a draft document on the linkages between the preparatory process for the Summit and that of the Conference on financing for development.
With regard to substance, he emphasized the three pillars of Rio -- economic development, social development and environmental protection. Agenda 21 was not to be renegotiated. New challenges and emerging issues should be considered within the framework of Agenda 21. The developing world had been looking forward to the implementation of the commitments of technology, financial resources and capacity-building made in Rio and were still waiting. The review should address the constraints and challenges in the implementation of those commitments.
Ms. BOHN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Union had studied the conference room paper on preparations for the Summit of the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. General Assembly resolution 55/199 was an important step forward for the Summit. It was necessary to make a comprehensive review of the implementation of Agenda 21 and, based on that, address new challenges and opportunities. The Summit should aim to reinvigorate the political commitment for the implementation of the Rio agenda.
The high-level segment of the Sustainable Development Commission had deliberated on possible themes for the Summit, she continued, and that background should facilitate the work of the tenth session. She looked forward to considering concrete steps in deciding the agenda. It was necessary to mobilize interest and involvement in the preparatory process at the highest levels of government. It was essential that the outcome of the Summit be action-oriented with proper mechanisms for follow up. She acknowledged the importance of regional preparations. The Union very much supported the proposed thematic regional and global multi-stakeholder round tables and attached importance to the participation of major groups in the preparatory process.
TUILOMA NERONI SLADE (Samoa), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said his delegation shared the concerns of other developing countries at the lack of international support for their efforts at implementing Agenda 21. Significant work must be done to overcome that shortfall and restore faith in broad efforts to promote sustainable development. There was a "credibility gap" between achievements and expectations. Overall, what was needed was substantive action and renewed political commitment. As an island country, Samoa wanted to ensure the development of truly global initiatives.
He went on to say that support and cooperation had become all the more pressing, since the biological richness and diversity that sustained communities was being increasingly exploited and threatened. Climate change, climate viability and rise in sea level were issues of particular concern for small island nations. Indeed, Mauritania's own efforts at sustainable development appeared to be at risk from forces beyond its control. Because of that, it important to build the capacity of governments, as well as community-based organizations.
WANG ZHIJIA (China) said that attaining sustainable development required the common efforts of all countries. The UNCED, for the first time, established the goal of sustainable development and elaborated a blueprint for achieving that goal. Nevertheless, that goal still eluded the international community. Moreover, the implementation of Agenda 21 faced various obstacles. The challenge before the international community was great, but not unattainable. With the accumulation of wealth and technological advance, humankind would be able to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.
Relevant themes would become clear after national assessments had been completed, he said. Priority should be given to those issues that had hindered the ability of developing countries to fully implement Agenda 21. Since 1994, China had worked out its own Agenda 21. Since then, its national strategy for sustainable development had played a part in the elaboration of the national strategies for economic and social development. Last year, the Chinese government had established a guidance group for sustainable development, with the participation of representatives from various national authorities. China would continue to promote international cooperation and participate in the preparatory process for the Summit.
JOSE MANUEL OVALLE (Chile)said his country had made enormous progress in mining procedures, preserving coastline ecosystems and decreasing pollution, in its quest to ensure sustainable development. Chile had established an inter-ministerial working group that had produced a national report on all those efforts. The country was now spearheading a regional meeting, whose outcome would hopefully provide a platform of action for environmental initiatives in Latin America.
He said that the World Summit should focus on substantial issues, with clear and easily attainable goals. All countries should give new impetus to implementation of the commitments made at Rio, particularly in light of the impact of globalization during the last ten years. The links between sustainable development, poverty and environment should also be given priority. It was the duty of the Preparatory Committee to ensure the dissemination of information and to raise awareness at all levels, so that the results of the Summit would not be forgotten after just a few days.
Mr. OULD AHMED (Mauritania) said the main priority of the 2002 World Summit should be the evaluation and review of the developments since Rio, as well as the elaboration and identification of further mechanisms that would point the way forward. The success of the Summit would be predicated on the level of preparation, particularly through the contribution of developing countries. He, therefore, appealed to developed nations to assist smaller countries to participate in the preparatory process and the Summit itself.
IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt) said that the upcoming World Summit was not occurring in a vacuum. In that regard, that the work of the Preparatory Committee should be guided by what had been accomplished at Rio. At the same time, Agenda 21 had established a framework that did not need to be renegotiated.
He went on to say that since the work of the international community in the area of sustainable development could be characterized by the efforts undertaken by governments, the United Nations system and civil society, it would be most helpful if the Secretariat could provide reports detailing those contributions. It would be important to take stock of what had been done by those three major actors, in order to avoid making mistakes in the future. He said that another helpful report would be a compilation of national and regional processes underway. Moreover, regional groups might want to identify and develop specific procedures for sustainable development and suggest what might be necessary over the next ten years. He further hoped that the draft rules of procedure, particularly rules regarding non-governmental participation, could be based on those that governed the Rio Summit. He also suggested that, at Johannesburg, no more than two drafting groups meet simultaneously.
MAKARIM WIBISONO, (Indonesia) said that despite the heightened awareness of the dangers of environmental degradation and the indisputable promise of Rio, results fell far short of expectations and the much vaunted momentum of the Conference had been sharply eroded. Deterioration of the environment continued at an alarming rate, poverty had increased and the negative impact of globalization had marginalized developing countries. At the same time, the overall official development assistance (ODA) levels necessary for successful implementation had dropped below their levels in 1992.
Multilateral cooperation and the unprecedented partnership forged at Rio had been overtaken by the new emphasis on globalization and trade liberalization, he continued. As a result, the implementation of Agenda 21 became less focused and the paradigm of sustainable development had not yet taken hold. To ensure effective implementation of its national Agenda 21 Indonesia had established a National Council on Sustainable Development, which would cover all relevant governmental departments and major stakeholders, under the auspices of the Vice-President. The Council was to, among other things, better integrate and coordinate the implementation of national programmes on sustainable development. As for Indonesia's local and national preparations, it had identified constraints, including the lack of financial and human resources, as well as weakness in institutional capabilities, which undermined the effective implementation of sustainable development.
Mr. THORJEIRSSON (Iceland) asked, what was expected from Johannesburg? There were as many answers to that question as there were delegations. Outside the United Nations, the expectations for the outcome of the Summit were even more diverse. Less was more, he emphasized. The outcome had to be of interest to political leaders. During the Assembly's deliberations on the Summit, Iceland had suggested that the Summit focus on three challenges: fighting poverty and raising the quality of life; de-coupling economic growth from environmental damage; and maintaining the functional integrity of ecosystems, on which mankind was dependent.
The current session was responsible for examining the process and possible themes for Johannesburg, he continued. While it was too soon to decide on final themes, a decision should be taken on the way forward. Regional consultations would also provide important input in that regard. Globalization was an important cross-cutting issue. The challenge was to respond to globalization in a way that contributed to sustainable development in all regions.
Mr. SIDDIQUI (Pakistan) said his country had been a constructive partner in all international endeavors to make the planet safe and sustainable for all. Pakistan believed that the Summit would be most helpful in achieving the much cherished goals of broad economic and social development, as well as environmental protection. To be effective, however, all parallel initiatives should be integrated into the Committee's work. Only through such an integrated approach could comprehensive preparations for the Summit be achieved.
He went on to say that it would also be necessary to create a balance between the proposed themes of the summit and bring them in line with the aims and goals expressed during the preparatory process, with particular concern for the needs of developing countries. The draft rules of procedure should be based on those of the Rio Conference, but should be improved to be reflective of Agenda 21 and initiatives made over the last 10 years. He felt, however, that there was room to improve rules on participation in the 2002 Summit by major groups, particularly the accreditation mechanism for non-governmental organizations.
YAVUZ CUBUKCU (Turkey) said that the focus, ten years after Rio, must be to go beyond the declaratory stage. It was time for the international community to come up with an acceptable programme for implementation. What was obvious was that the countries facing the severest threats to sustainable development were generally those that lacked the capacity, both institutional and financial, to thwart those threats.
Another crucial issue was access to technologies that raised productivity, but were also environmentally sound, he said. The decision of a large number of developing countries to liberalize their foreign investment regimes was prompted in significant measure by the belief that their actions would facilitate technology transfer, however. There was a lingering concern in the developing countries that the transfer of technology would become more difficult, a concern confirmed by the fact that 97 per cent of global research and development was currently realized in developed countries. The implementation of Agenda 21 was, therefore, inextricably linked to the issues of new and additional financial resources and technology transfer.
GILBERT PARENT (Canada) said that the most important work for the Committee this week would be to define a constructive role for major groups in the process leading to the 2002 Summit. While it would be crucial to build on the accomplishments at Rio, it would also be necessary to further enhance the engagement of major groups for the new conference. The involvement of those groups should go beyond policy discussions to include active participation in implementing the outcome of the 2002 Summit. Further, donor countries must be prepared to support the participation of groups from developing countries, in order to ensure a "strong voice" for civil society actors from the South. He urged the Committee to "keep it simple" when it turned to discuss the logistics and timing of the events leading up to the 2002 Summit.
During the last 10 years, he continued, the international community had struggled with a complex and expansive sustainable development agenda. There was now a need to focus on the practical steps needed to implement existing agreements. Canada's approach to that challenge had been to work within a thematic framework, agreeing on a very broad agenda and then working with government actors and major groups to refine priority issues within that framework. To that end, Canada had identified several major themes that could be helpful to the work of the Committee. Those included: health and environment; conservation and stewardship; international environmental governance; sustainable communities; and innovation and partnership. He hoped Canada's approach would point the way forward during the approach to Johannesburg.
Mr. VELASCO (Venezuela) said that his country had a wide array of different types of resources, including energy resources. It was beginning to implement a number of changes to ensure the rational use of resources and further the concept of sustainable development. The international community had to look at what had been done since adoption of Agenda 21. Sustainable development was something the entire international community could achieve. Developing countries needed new financial resources to implement Agenda 21, and countries must ensure that Agenda 21 was not renegotiated, although new and emerging issues could be added.
On the preparatory process, he said that Venezuela's Environment Minister was working together with its Minister for Foreign Affairs to prepare for the Summit. Since it was an interdisciplinary process involving various sectors, the Government had set up a working group, which included representatives of the private and public sectors and non-governmental organizations to prepare strategies for negotiations. The process should focus on such issues as financing and investment for sustainable development, as well as the links among social and economic development and sustainable development.
SON SYN-HWHN (Republic of Korea) said his country had established a national preparatory committee for the upcoming Summit that was currently assessing implementation of Agenda 21 at national and local levels. Remarkable progress had been identified in cooperative efforts in North-East Asia, particularly in marine environment initiatives. Several obstacles to the full implementation of the Rio agreements had also been identified, including the lack of coordination among the various environmental programmes and the lack of available resources. He hoped that the subregional meeting to be held in Beijing this June could explore those obstacles and further enhance global cooperation on environmental issues.
He said that it was important for the Committee to address the root causes of the global degradation of the environment, including poverty, and unsustainable production and consumption patterns. The Committee should also elaborate a more strategic approach, which reflected goals that were readily achievable. It was also essential to examine the institutional effectiveness of current global environmental governance mechanisms.
Mr. MARGOLIS (United States) said that globalization was integral to discussions on sustainable development. With regard to the Summit, he wanted to emphasize two main themes. The first was the role of all major groups, particularly the private sector. Trade and foreign direct investment had become the primary engines for economic growth. The second theme was governance, both international and domestic. Internationally, there were many institutions that played a role in the achievement of sustainable development. Creating the right domestic environment was important for attracting investment for sustainable development. ODA was also relevant in that connection. The United States had provided technical and training assistance to countries to strengthen and further create sound and strong domestic environments.
Mr. GIOVANNINI, Observer for Switzerland, said that the economic, technological and social changes necessary to attain sustainable development would only be possible with the mobilization of all actors working together as part of a strong alliance. Governments could not implement the necessary measures on their own. Johannesburg must be, first and foremost, political. Rio had the character of mobilization and had spurred many forms of action at different levels. That political strength must be rediscovered in Johannesburg. The role of the private sector was crucial for attaining the Rio commitments. As early as possible, contact must be made with all stakeholders.
For Switzerland, important possible themes were freshwater, sustainable mountain development, questions related to climate, international trade and global governance -- particularly in the environmental sphere.
Mr. LINDEMAN (Norway) said his country would work for a Summit that was forward-looking, which expressed the requisite political will and which addressed the main challenges facing the international community regarding sustainable development. Norway would further work for a summit which included the participation of all stakeholders and contributed to bridging the divide between North and South. Combating poverty was the overarching challenge facing the world today. Indeed, the international community needed to broaden the sustainable development process to specifically address poverty issues. The myriad ways in which widespread poverty affected overall development should frame and inform all preparatory processes for the World Summit.
He said that the Committee should develop practical tools and strategies that could be easily and effectively implemented. The question of whether current international financial structures were capable of promoting sustainable development would also have to be addressed. Another issue that should be given priority during preparatory efforts was globalization. Though multifaceted and complex, the impact of globalization could not be ignored if a truly sustainable environment was to be achieved. He added that any decision taken on the participation or non-participation of specific non-governmental organizations in the World Summit should be made by the Committee as a whole in an open and transparent manner.
Mr. LUNA (Mexico) said it was time to act with urgency to identify specific actions and indicators to measure the progress that had been achieved since Rio. To that end, he believed that the Summit should reflect a careful balance of the needs of all countries, regardless of their level of development. It should also ensure synergy between all international environmental conventions. The Committee should pay particular attention to the promotion of an integrated approach to environmental issues; one that linked economic, social and developmental efforts with environmental protection. Mexico, he added, had established a National Preparatory Committee for the Summit, which would encourage the broad participation of civil society and reflect a national consensus.
Mr. TROFIMOV (Russian Federation) said that activities designed to assess the implementation of Agenda 21 were important for the success of the Summit. In Russia, active work was being done to prepare for the Summit. In the near future, the national preparatory committee would be established, in which governmental bodies would work together with Russian lawmakers. Active dialogue had begun with relevant government departments, with the participation of women's groups, scientists and farmers. Discussions were being held to assess implementation of the Rio commitments. The results would be used in the preparation of the national report on implementation. Special importance was being given to regional and subregional activities.
A key role must be played by the United Nations regional commissions, in conjunction with UNEP, he said. He was convinced that a substantial contribution could be made through the holding of the multi-stakeholder round tables. The main task of the tenth session of the Commission was to define the parameters of the preparatory process leading up to the Summit. It must be comprehensive. That was the only way to ensure that the whole spectrum of opinions was taken into account.
Mr. VARGAS (Brazil) said that having been present during the preparatory process for Rio and being here today led him to make certain comparisons. Ten years ago, certain issues did not exist. Globalization, for example, was, at that time, a word that was used in only certain circles. Today, globalization not only existed; it was challenging the international community. Rio+10 was a political process and not a technical seminar. It was a way to find concrete measures that would allow the international community to make a clear assessment of successes and failures in implementing Agenda 21.
Brazil, in the last three years, had made a full assessment of its implementation of Agenda 21, he said. It had held more than 1,000 consultations in all 27 States in the country and was now moving towards regional consultations in the six regions of the country. The process had been politically difficult and costly. Among the areas of concentration for Brazil were natural resource management, sustainable agriculture, sustainable cities and science and technology for sustainable development. Brazil was not keen on reopening negotiations that had been successfully concluded in Rio.
Mr. ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) said before the international community embarked on a 10-year review of Agenda 21, it might be necessary to admit that expectations immediately following Rio had been too lofty. Some countries, like his own, had been able to make some progress, however. Bolivia had established the first Ministry on Sustainable Development and the Environment in that region. Further, Bolivia hosted a conference on sustainable development in 1996. A review of that conference to assess national and regional progress since that time would be held next June.
In order to point the way forward, the Committee would have to evaluate implementation of Agenda 21 at all levels. While every chapter of the Agenda needed to be evaluated, specific attention should be paid to sections on financial resources and transfer of technologies. The Committee should also work to ensure that the preparatory process was open and transparent. Several other topics and emerging issues that should be considered included globalization, synergy among the various environmental conventions, instruments for implementation and fragile ecosystems. The preparatory process should start at the grass-roots level. That would be the way to ensure the broad participation of civil society. He proposed that the 2002 Summit should focus on poverty, environment and international cooperation. Based on the interventions he had heard today, those topics could indeed be the "glue" that held the Summit together.
Mr. ABULIEF (Saudi Arabia) fully endorsed the statement made by Egypt with regard to the participation of non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders, the rules of procedure and the inclusion of cross-sectoral themes. Assembly resolution 55/199 should be the basis for the preparatory process. The international community should not renegotiate Agenda 21, but work within its framework. The agenda of the Summit and any input to it should be made through the preparatory process. Also, it should follow and use the rules of procedure used in Rio.
With regard to substantive issues, he believed that the Preparatory Committee must work within the framework established in Rio. It was necessary to focus on Agenda 21 and the work programme developed by the past nine sessions of the Sustainable Development Commission. Combating poverty and hunger were essential issues to be addressed at the Summit. He reiterated Iran's emphasis that the principle of common, but differentiated responsibility should be the cornerstone of and guide discussions.
Mr. UKITA (Japan) said that Japan had a powerful non-governmental organization, known as the Global Environmental Action (GEA), consisting of parliamentary members, leading industries and scientists, which was going to have a global meeting in October in Japan. On possible themes, he suggested moving towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production and developing innovative technologies to be used for attaining sustainable development. The Government was prepared to participate constructively in Rio+10 and its preparatory process.
Mr. ADRIANCE, representing Baha'i International Community, said that some nine years after Rio, the responsibility of determining the next steps for sustainable development fell on the World Summit. In identifying the major constraints and opportunities facing implementation of Agenda 21, the Preparatory Committee must address the spiritual dimension of development. Governments had collectively begun to acknowledge the spiritual dimension of development. It was time to move beyond generalities. "Sustainable development: the spiritual dimension" could be one possible theme for the Summit. The creation of a just world would require a significant shift in priorities. Such far-reaching changes could only be achieved by addressing the non-material aspects of development.
International Environment Forum - Updated 6 May 2001