Press Release

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

19th Meeting (AM)



Sustainable development policies required a close integration of labour and environmental policies, the representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said this morning as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) continued its consideration of the environment and sustainable development.

Speaking on the implementation of Agenda 21, he added that the success or failure of polices for environmental sustainability was closely intertwined with strategies for full employment.  The concept of sustainability applied equally to economic, social and environmental policies, and it called for a closer integration of public policy making and implementation.  The ILO’s experience in the promotion of public works programmes offered many cases of projects that improved the environment, while also providing basic income to the unemployed.

The representative of Belize, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), remained convinced that sustainable development was an achievable objective that required cohesive, coherent and long-term national and regional policies.  CARICOM countries looked forward to a more focused Summit, with an emphasis not only on implementation but on a renewed and strengthened commitment to the provision of the resources required for the implementation of Agenda 21.  He hoped the Summit would lead to more determined efforts to address sustainable development objectives.

The representative of the Republic of Korea felt the Summit should be designed to revitalize political momentum for mapping out future actions.  It should be a forum to review progress made thus far and identify the major constraints in implementing Agenda 21.  It should by no means serve as a rewriting exercise of commitments made in Rio.  In order to reflect the impact of globalization, he supported “poverty eradication and sustainable development in the context of globalization” as an overarching theme for the Summit.

The combination of resource depletion and pollution growth placed sustainable development at risk in many of the poorest countries, said the representative of the World Bank.  Some developing countries were losing 4 to

8 per cent of gross domestic product because of productivity and natural capital loss due to environmental degradation.  To address those issues, the World Bank had approved a new environmental strategy, which supported development that did not come at the expense of people’s health and livelihoods.

[Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, serves as the blueprint for achieving global sustainable development.  The 10 year review of Rio, known as the World Summit for Sustainable Development, will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 2-11 September 2002.]

Statements were also made by the representatives of Canada, Oman, Nepal, Thailand, Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), El Salvador (on behalf of the Central American Countries), Czech Republic, Venezuela, Iceland, China, Mexico, Brunei Darussalam, Tunisia, Brazil, Kuwait, Algeria, India and Andorra.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of the environment and sustainable development.


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to continue its consideration of environment and sustainable development and the sub-item on the implementation of Agenda 21.  For background information see Press Release GA/EF/2966 of 29 October.


MATTHEW LEVIN (Canada) said that in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002, the discussion of sustainable development should be reinvigorated.  That meant involving all stakeholders, at all levels, as partners in achieving sustainable development.  In keeping with that goal, Canada had arranged for financial support to help ensure broad participation by officials and civil society organizations from developing countries in the preparatory process.  Nations needed to find innovative ways to engage major groups, not just in policy discussions, but as active participants in development efforts.

In preparation for the Summit, he said there were five main themes identified by his Government.  Those themes were:  health and environment, conservation and stewardship, innovation and partnership, international environmental governance, and sustainable communities. The Summit could and must reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable development.  Refocusing global attention on sustainable development was essential to making a healthy, safe and prosperous world a reality for all.

ABDULLAH OMAR AL-HADDAD (Oman) said that one country alone could not achieve the goals of environmental conservation and sustainable development.  Nations should work to increase cooperation in that regard, particularly in combating the effects of environmental degradation.  The environmental effects of poverty should also be addressed.  The responsibility for fulfilling the goals of Agenda 21 rested primarily with of governments.  In that regard, trade imbalances and economic cooperation must also be considered in the effort to reach environmental and sustainable development goals.

He said that 2001 was the year of the environment in Oman.  Nations needed to commit to sustainable development around the world, and that required a new commitment to environmental mechanisms -– including the Kyoto Protocol.  Many oil carriers passed by the Gulf of Oman, and his country had taken steps to ensure that maritime traffic was protected against environmental accidents.  The Summit would be the appropriate occasion to assess the achievements of the last 10 years and to come up with new and innovative ways to aid developing countries in reaching the goals of sustainable development.

ARJUN KANT MAINALI (Nepal) said that in the past decade, the issues of environmental preservation and sustainable development had gained momentum.  Yet the unsustainable patterns of consumption in rich countries continued unabated, while poor countries were compelled to exploit nature for their survival.  In both cases, the environment had been the principal victim.

The Commission on Sustainable Development had become an important forum to discuss issues of global common interests, he said.  The Commission had discussed such issues as freshwater, energy, transport, transfer of technology, tourism, agriculture and forests, and had come up with a number of recommendations.  Incorporation of some of those pertinent issues in next year’s review would enhance its utility. 

However, he continued, progress in those areas had been too slow.  On the one hand, developed countries had yet to meet the financial and environmental benchmarks set for them for environmental protection.  On the other, resources had not been available for developing countries to implement the relevant provisions aimed at environmental preservation as envisaged in Agenda 21.

CHUCHAI KASEMSARN (Thailand) said that, on the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the existing global and regional mechanisms with respect to multilateral environmental agreements should be strengthened in order to better serve Member States.  Attempts should be made to avoid the creation of a new institution or mechanisms which would cause duplication.  The role of UNEP should be further enhanced to provide guidance for the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements in a cost-effective and coordinated manner.

He added that his country fully supported the engagement and involvement of young people in UNEP activities.  That was an important step towards effectively creating public awareness and campaigning against environmental problems and degradation.  Without public awareness and strong support from all sectors of society, the implementation of Agenda 21 would hardly meet any success.  In that regard, Thailand was working to engage various stakeholders in the national preparatory activities.

JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, appealed for a strengthening of international cooperation through greater development of institutional and human capacities, a more dynamic transfer of technology and know-how, and adequate financial resources for the implementation of national policies and regional and international commitments in the field of sustainable development.  He sought complementarities between developed and developing countries and the strengthening of the framework of horizontal South-South cooperation.

The Regional Preparatory Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Rio de Janeiro on 23 and 24 October, adopted the “Platform of Action of Rio de Janeiro for Johannesburg 2002”, he said.  The document proposed that the Summit’s agenda give high priority to inter-sectoral issues, such as finance, science and technology, and capacity building.  It appealed to the international community to reaffirm its commitment and political will so that effective action could be taken at the local, national, regional and global levels to guarantee the implementation of commitments to ensure sustainable development.  It also proposed “Towards a new globalization that guarantees equitable, inclusive and sustainable development” as the central theme for the Summit.

He said that the viability of sustainable development in the region required a stable, predictable, open and inclusive international economic system.  In that regard, he expressed concern at environmental conditionalities, and urged the elimination of all forms of export subsidies and a meaningful improvement of market access.

JOSÉ ROBERTO ANDINO SALAZAR (El Salvador), speaking also on behalf of the Central American Countries, Belize and the Dominican Republic, said that the period of the Rio Summit was characterized by poverty and a prevalence of natural disasters.  That situation had not been alleviated, and with the onset of El Niño and La Niña in the 1990s, the environmental situation had become worse.  Related to environmental problems were issues of poverty and globalization.  Another major issue facing countries in his region was the loss of forests.  Due to that, thousands of species were facing extinction.  Solid waste disposal and air pollution problems also challenged the environmental capacities of the region.

A number of environmental projects had been started in his region, including measures to increase and save biological diversity, he said.  In those projects, the increasing role of civil society had been recognized.  The counties of the region were concerned with, factors such as, unsustainable consumption, contamination of waters and poverty.  Those problems threatened all countries of the world and global solutions.  Such solutions should come out of the Summit next year, where the international community should be mobilized for concrete action.

MARTINA MOTLOVA, Deputy Minister of Environment of the Czech Republic, said that her Government had reviewed its State Environmental Policy, which was now more elaborate in terms of integrating principles of sustainable development into sectoral policies.  It was about to finalize the National Strategy on Sustainable Development, based on a broad public debate and proactive involvement of different stakeholders.  It was also promoting a package of tools to encourage changes in consumption and production patterns.  Legal and institutional means were combined with economic instruments, voluntary actions, awareness and education campaigns.

She underlined the role of the scientific community in preparations for Johannesburg and its follow-up.  There had been an impressive growth in the level of scientific understanding since Rio and increased involvement of science in decision-making.  Nevertheless, science for sustainable development should further enhance its international structures to provide much-needed, authoritative and coherent advice to the intergovernmental process.  She was also concerned that biodiversity might not receive enough prominence in the Summit’s outcome, and hoped its importance for sustainable development at all levels would be fully recognized.

JULIA LOPEZ-CAMACARO (Venezuela) said the Commission on Sustainable Development should remain the main forum for consideration and furtherance of the Agenda 21 process.  Her country had recently presented a country profile, and that would be its national report to be submitted to the Summit.  Main sustainable development challenges for her country included the lack of financing for fulfilling Agenda 21 and a lack of capacities for technology sharing.  The Summit should be an opportunity to move forward, not to renegotiate Agenda 21 or introduce new themes.  It was hoped that there would be a new political commitment and support for the success of sustainable development around the world.

There was still a need to find a balance between the environment and economic development, she said.  Major importance should be placed at the Summit on the eradication of poverty.  That effort would allow many countries to promote economic development and better conserve the environment.  Venezuela would continue to participate in the preparatory process and provide new impetus for the implementation of Agenda 21.  The Summit should allow nations to reach a consensus on the challenges that were keeping the world from reaching the Agenda goals.

STUART W. LESLIE (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said that the protection, preservation and sustainable use of the natural environment were critical for the region’s survival.  Vulnerability to natural disasters brought about a greater awareness of the effects of climate change and global warming.  The devastation caused by those disasters impacted heavily on the social and economic sectors of CARICOM countries, and could set back economic development by decades. 

The expectations of Rio had not been realized in the CARICOM region, he said.  The Governments of the region were working more closely with civil society and the private sector, and had mounted educational campaigns to promote public awareness of sustainable development issues to foster community participation in fulfilling the objectives of Agenda 21. 

He remained convinced that sustainable development was an achievable objective that required cohesive, coherent and long-term national and regional policies to foster higher quality of life for people.  Agenda 21 should not be renegotiated.  The CARICOM countries looked forward to a more focused Summit, not only with an emphasis on implementation but with a renewed and strengthened commitment to the provision of the resources required for the implementation of Agenda 21.  He hoped the Summit would lead to more determined efforts to effectively address sustainable development objectives.

GARETH HOWELL, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the success or failure of polices for environmental sustainability was closely intertwined with strategies for full employment.  Indeed, the concept of sustainability applied equally to economic, social and environmental policies.  Sustainability also called for a much closer integration of public policy making and implementation.  Agenda 21 set a clear framework for those linkages.  Questions of employment policy were of major significance for the development process.  Employment questions were particularly important in the sectors of energy, transport and agriculture.

Operationalizing decent work at the national level required close integration of labour and environmental policies, he said.  One of the most important ways to encourage such efforts was through social dialogue.  That served to highlight the synergies between poverty reduction and sustainable development.  The ILO’s long experience in the promotion of labour-intensive public works programmes offered many cases of projects that improved the environment while also providing basic income to the unemployed.  Moving from analysis of the linkages between patterns of growth, poverty and damage to ecosystem, to action, would require a major commitment and investment in labour market change.

THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland) said that the foundations laid in Rio remained sound.  However, it was necessary to reaffirm the commitment to sustainable development and re-examine the means to reach those goals in light of the experienced gained in the last decade, including changes in technology and the global economic and political systems.  It was clear that a renewed commitment to poverty reduction would have to be a central theme of the Summit.

As for maintaining the functional integrity of ecosystems, he believed that the role of the oceans in sustaining life on Earth and human welfare should be highlighted at the Summit.  In that context, he drew attention to the recent Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem.  The resulting Declaration committed States to incorporate ecosystem considerations into fisheries management, with the aim of reinforcing responsible and sustainable fisheries in the marine ecosystem.  The Declaration was a landmark contribution by the fisheries nations to the Summit.

The oceans, he added, in addition to their vital role in climate and geochemical systems, were prime sources of food for many nations.  Fighting the pollution of the oceans and ensuring sustainable use of living marine resources was a matter of importance, on a par with combating climate change and the loss of biodiversity on land.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that the Summit should maintain and implement the principles laid down in Rio for the promotion of global sustainable development, such as the integration of environment and development, common but differentiated responsibilities, and respect for sovereign rights over resources.  Secondly, the Summit should focus on a comprehensive review of the implementation of Agenda 21, identifying problems, obstacles and the gap between commitments and actions taken.  On that basis, it should further mobilize political will and formulate specific action-oriented programmes to solve existing problems and promote the full implementation of Agenda 21. 

Thirdly, he continued, the priorities of the Summit should be on helping developing countries overcome difficulties and obstacles in achieving sustainable development.  In addition to strengthening their domestic efforts, sufficient financial and sound technical support were indispensable for developing countries to promote sustainable development and implement Agenda 21.  Fourthly, discussions regarding the International Environmental Governance (IEG) should be conducted on the basis of a balance among the three pillars of sustainable development.  Any suggestions should be conducive to the full implementation of Agenda 21 and should serve to promote the realization of sustainable development. 

JOSÉ RAMON LORENZO (Mexico) said that environmental degradation generated poverty and contributed to increased destitution around the world.  At the same time, persistent poverty contributed to environmental degradation.  The Summit would be an opportunity for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, as well as assess progress in implementing the commitments relating to environmental protection and sustainable development.  It would be an ideal opportunity to identify new challenges.  Political will would be needed to reactivate the commitment to sustainable development.

Mexico, he said, was one of the 12 countries which hosted two thirds of the world’s living species.  It had signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and had recognized the importance of capacity building in the context of the Protocol.  The entry into force of the Protocol would allow for defining clear rules for the protection of biodiversity.  He also reaffirmed his commitment to the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol.  The agreements reached in Bonn were a valuable platform on which the international community could continue its work.  In the solution to climate change, there should be compatibility between economic and environmental policies, taking into account the needs and conditions of each country.

KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA, Director of the Environmental Department of the World Bank, said the combination of resource depletion and pollution growth placed sustainable development at risk in a large number of the poorest countries.  Some developing countries were losing 4 to 8 per cent of gross domestic product because of productivity and natural capital loss due to environmental degradation.  The genuine savings rate -– which factored a country’s natural, human and produced capital -– was negative in nearly 30 poor countries, and declining in another 20.  To address those issues, the World Bank approved a new environmental strategy in July.  It supported development that did not come at the expense of people’s health and livelihoods.

She added that conflict and violence remained among the most pressing social and economic problems in several parts of the world.  Conflict was a major constraint to development.  It impacted a country’s physical and economic capital, as well as its human capital and social fabric.  Conflict prevention and reconstruction were central to the Bank’s mission of poverty reduction.  It was currently working in 37 conflict–affected countries and supporting international efforts to break cycles of conflict and help war-torn populations resume peaceful development.

SERBINI ALI (Brunei Darussalam) said the environment was a broad and complex issue with political, economic and social dimensions.  The effective implementation of Agenda 21 required considerable resources.  Its management required a multi-faceted approach, as it was important to balance economic, social and environmental development.  Nations must also take into account regional and international impacts.  In that regard, developed countries needed to impart their expertise and experience to developing countries in building their capacity and knowledge in scientific and technology-based areas.

He added that there should be an element of ownership in the partnership between developed and developing countries.  The principle of common but differentiated responsibility in implementing international commitments was vital to developing economies.  Effective polices could be pursued only when there was a common understanding that domestic situations differed from one country to another.  What worked for one might not necessarily work for others.  Different considerations -- for example, the social fabric and orientation of national economic development objectives -- must be taken into account.

SEOK-YOUNG CHOI (Republic of Korea) said the Summit should be designed to revitalize political momentum for mapping out future actions.  It should be a forum to review progress made thus far and identify the major constraints in implementing Agenda 21.  It should by no means serve as a rewriting exercise of commitments made in Rio.  The Summit should also reflect the impact of rapid globalization.  While globalization opened a new horizon of development, growing disparity and marginalization presented enormous challenges.  In that regard, he supported “poverty eradication and sustainable development in the context of globalization” as an overarching theme for the Summit.

Since Rio, environmental activities had been institutionalized in various forms, and codification had also been precipitated to cope with diverse environmental challenges, he said.  It was therefore natural that, in order to enhance efficiency for better coordination, international governance on environment should be streamlined.  However, the establishment of new bodies, as well as redefining the relations among environmental organizations, should be considered from a long-term perspective, taking into account the complexity of the issues involved.

MOHAMMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) said the world must address global problems of the exploitation of natural resources and combat such regional scourges as desertification.  The Summit needed to discuss the three main themes of economic development, economic growth and sustaining the environment.  It should be based on the principle of shared and differentiated responsibilities, which must be the basis of the Rio process.  His country had set up a national commission on sustainable development, as well as various economic and social policies that aimed to preserve the balance of ecological resources and to promote new patterns of production.

Such policies formed the base of national efforts for sustainable development, he said.  They were part of an overall strategy to reduce poverty and ensure social support, such as health care for all in his country.  A number of improvements had grown out of those policies, including an increase in life expectancy.  Nations must gather next year to increase their cooperation and support for sustainable development.  They also needed to promote new types of global partnerships, including through the transfer of technologies.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said the Regional Preparatory Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean for the World Summit was held in Rio, on 23 and 24 October.  That conference adopted the Rio de Janeiro Platform for Action, which recognized that, although significant progress had been made in terms of greater awareness and enhanced institutions, the conditions for sustainable development had not improved.  Among the obstacles in achieving sustainable development, identified at the conference, were the negative effects of globalization, such as economic and financial instability and the lack of technology transfer.

She added that a number of future commitments and actions were identified at the conference.  Among those were development of local, national and regional capacities through a participatory process and the strengthening of regional institutions.  The need to ensure an integrated approach in the design and implementation of policies to promote sustainable development was underscored.  The Regional Preparatory Conference also suggested that the Summit accord high priority to the cross-sectoral issues of finance, science and technology, capacity-building and vulnerability.

HAMAD AL-HAZEEM (Kuwait) said that his country had taken part in all United Nations conferences on environment and development, including the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), and hoped to take part in the Johannesburg Summit.  Kuwait had national bodies to promote environmental policies.  It was also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which had taken a great interest in the area of environmental protection.  At the Council’s Summit, held in Kuwait, it adopted a regulatory system for waste treatment. 

He was convinced of the existence of a close link between poverty and environmental degradation.  Therefore, measures for environmental protection must be accompanied by strategies to eradicate poverty.  He added that Kuwait, with the support of other Member States, intended to introduce into the Assembly’s agenda an item relating to an international day on preventing the use of the environment for military purposes.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said that opening up the preparatory process to different stakeholders had made it possible to identify various concerns, such as the alarming state of the environment, persistent poverty, lack of infrastructure

and scarcity of financial resources.  There was a growing understanding, especially in Africa, of the need for good governance, and peace and stability for the protection of the environment.  It was clear that the preparatory process had brought to the forefront the concerns of the developing countries, including the need for proper financing for sustainable development.

There was no doubt, he said, that the forthcoming stages of the preparatory process would be informed by the debate on the link between environmental degradation and the growth of poverty.  The overall development process would gain only if efforts focused on the synergy between the International Conference on Financing for Development and the World Summit.  The interdependence between countries and regions as a result of globalization required global responses within a global framework.  The United Nations should play a leading role in that regard.  He was confident that the international community would be able to identify all the reasons for the lack of implementation of Agenda 21.

VIJAY THAKUR SINGH (India) said that in Johannesburg, his country would seek to address issues related to the full implementation of Agenda 21, including the difficulties and constraints encountered in implementation, and exploring practical ways and means for further implementation.  The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities should continue to determine the nature of future undertakings and commitments.

Domestic action, he said, was important, but given the limited resources and lack of institutional capacity in developing countries, they required international assistance in their efforts to achieve sustainable development.  Hopefully, at Johannesburg, the international community could agree on time-bound commitments on the means of implementation, particularly the transfer of environmentally sound technology on favourable and concessional terms to developing countries and providing the necessary financial resources. 

Equally important, he added, was an enabling international environment supportive of development that ensured the participation of developing countries in norm-setting and economic decision-making processes, as well as a fair, rules-based and non-discriminatory trading system.

JELENA PIA COMMELLA (Andorra) said that, in addition to the commitment of governments, civil society must contribute to advancing the Rio process.  The analysis of regional round tables was a crucial exercise in focusing the agenda of the Summit and its preparations.  What was needed above all was a sincere examination of the progress made since Rio in implementing Agenda 21.  Without such an examination, moving forward on the agenda would be impossible.

She said the Summit should focus on such crucial issues as poverty and its eradication, capacity-building and cooperation, and ensuring the place of Africa in development efforts.  The subject of over-consumption was an important parallel issue to the Summit and should also be considered.  Her country had taken a number of steps in recent years to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, including through acceding to a number of environment-related global treaties.  In the preparatory process, it was hoped that nations would aim their efforts at moving forward and not at renegotiating the goals of Agenda 21.

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