21/10/2002
Press Release
GA/EF/3006



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Second Committee

14th and 15th Meetings (AM & PM)


DESERTIFICATION, NATURAL DISASTERS, PLIGHT OF SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES


DOMINATE SECOND COMMITTEE DISCUSSION OF ENVIRONMENT, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT


Desertification was a major threat to every continent, affecting 100 nations and 70 per cent of the world’s agricultural dry lands, Namibia's representative told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today as it began considering environment and sustainable development.


He said that some 14 million people in Southern Africa –- where 50 per cent of the land was desert –- were facing starvation brought on by erratic rainfall, which had brought drought and food shortages.  Quoting the 2001 climate change assessment report, he added that the situation would likely worsen in the future, when many drought-infested areas could become even hotter and drier.


Libya's representative noted that developing nations, particularly in Africa, had made significant efforts to combat desertification and soil erosion.  However, lack of financing for those programmes blocked full implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, thwarting progress in sustainable development and poverty reduction.


He called on multilateral institutions to contribute generously to the desertification fund, and urged developed nations to increase financing and technology transfer, particularly to Africa, where the effects of drought and desertification were widespread and devastating.


Echoing that statement, Ethiopia’s representative said the Convention on Desertification was a vital tool that could help eradicate poverty eradication in the poorest and most marginalized rural areas of developing countries.  His country was now being struck by drought -– one of the effects of desertification –- almost every other year.  Loss of livestock and mass migration of the people had pushed the country’s few and weak institutions to the limit.  Stronger partnership was needed with the international community to implement Ethiopia’s food security programme in tackling the vicious circle of drought in a sustainable manner.


Introducing the report on desertification, the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification said the recent Johannesburg Summit had been a historical opportunity for the Convention to gain the highest political momentum needed to implement it.  In particular, it had focused on the substantial lack of financial resources which had hampered implementation of the Convention.


World leaders at the Summit had called on the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to address the monetary shortfall, he noted.  He was pleased to inform the

Committee that the GEF Assembly, which had just met in Beijing, had decided to serve as a financial mechanism for the Convention.


Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said one of the major outcomes of the Johannesburg Summit was its decision to carry out a ten-year review of implementation of the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action in 2004.  It was high time the international community lived up to commitments made in Barbados, he said, stressing that the review should agree on -- not merely take stock of -- specific measures to assist small island developing States in attaining sustainable development.


Reports were also introduced during the meeting on implementation of international disaster reduction strategies and on international cooperation to reduce El Niño’s impact; the Convention on Biodiversity; and sustainable development for small island developing States.


Addressing those environmental concerns, several speakers stressed that sufficient international cooperation, technology transfer and financing to help implement environmental conventions were still lacking.  Additional funds were needed, for example, to support programmes to significantly reduce loss of biodiversity by the year 2010, and promote fair and equitable distribution of benefits from biodiversity use.


Venezuela’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing nations and China, noted that the El Niño phenomenon had affected 110 million people, leading to economic losses worth over $340 billion during 1997 and 1998.  He urged developed countries to support the proposed International Centre in Guayaquil to study El Niño, and the Trust Fund for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, which had insufficient funds to carry out its work.


Other speakers noted the growing number of natural disasters, which had had devastating consequences in recent years, highlighting an urgent need to scrutinize links between climate change and energy production as well as its use.  The Rio Group had called for decisive action to lower high levels of greenhouse gas emissions which had exacerbated natural disasters.


Quoting a recent report by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and 295 financial institutions,Costa Rica’s representative noted that economic losses from natural disasters had reached $1 trillion in the last 15 years.  The report added that such losses doubled every 10 years, he said, destabilizing international financial centres as well as stock, property and investment markets.


Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Russian Federation, Libya, Mexico (on behalf of the Group of Like-minded Megadiverse Countries), Ecuador, Switzerland, Egypt, Benin and New Zealand.


Speakers this afternoon were the representatives of Australia, Guatemala (on behalf of the Group of Central American countries), India, Burkina Faso, Congo, Belize (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Brazil, South Africa, Israel, Myanmar, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), the United States, Tunisia, Algeria and Iran.


Also addressing the Committee were the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; the Director of the Secretariat for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction; the Principal Officer of the Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity; and the Chief of the Water, Natural Resources and Small Island States Branch of the Division for Sustainable Development.


Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also spoke.


The Committee will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to conclude its consideration of environment and sustainable development.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to begin its consideration of the environment and sustainable development.


Disaster Reduction


The Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. (document A/57/190).


The report notes that economic losses caused by natural disasters rose to $36 billion in 2001, compared to $30 billion a year earlier.  It states, however, that the Strategy’s Trust Fund for Disaster Reduction -- financed solely by voluntary contributions -- is still insufficient, thwarting efforts to carry out core programmes.


The report urges countries to give more to the Fund, create permanent Strategy posts and substantially raise the political profile and visibility of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction.  With its special focus on long-term solutions for natural disaster reduction, the Strategy should also consider the link between natural disasters and environmental as well as technological hazards.


In addition, the report recommends that sustainable development should be coupled with disaster reduction strategies, and suggests that strategy staff, governments and agencies review the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action.


The El Niño Phenomenon


Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on international cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon (document A/57/189).  Noting that abnormal climate changes caused by El Niño and other natural phenomena are hindering sustainable development, the report calls for science, technology and the United Nations system to join forces in improving public understanding of the phenomenon, its adverse effects and preventive measures.


It stresses that special assistance be given to small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, which are often extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.  It also suggests that disaster risk management and emergency response programmes, early warning systems for detecting abnormal weather and climate changes, and public awareness campaigns be created. 


The report strongly recommends reviews of ongoing El Niño programmes.  It supports the General Assembly’s resolution (56/194) on creating an international centre in Ecuador to study El Niño, as well as regional and subregional institutions devoted to studying natural disasters resulting from climate anomalies.


Drought and Desertification


The Committee also had before it a report (document A/57/177) of the Secretary-General on implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa.  


The report notes that 57 affected countries had drawn up national action programmes to combat desertification as of June 2002, and that most have been adopted by the respective governments.  Seven subregional and four regional action programmes have been also been completed.


In addition, the secretariat of the Convention has joined forces with the secretariats for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity in a Joint Liaison Group, the report says.  The Group’s aim is to strengthen coordination between the three instruments and explore options for further cooperation, including joint work plans to enhance synergies among them.


Biological Diversity


Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General submitting the report of the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/57/220).


The report focuses mainly on the outcome of the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention, held in April 2002, and the second and third meetings of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in October 2001 and April 2002, respectively.


The sixth meeting of the Conference revealed a double shift in focus within the Convention process -- from policy development to implementation and from conservation to implementation of the Convention's three objectives (conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and benefits arising from the use of genetic resources).


During the sixth meeting, the Conference adopted the Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits arising out of their Utilization, and the first plan of action for the International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators.


It also set up the International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Soil Biodiversity, and adopted the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, which lays down 16 outcome-oriented global targets for 2010.


The Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol launched the pilot phase of the Biosafety Clearing House (a mechanism providing thematic information on invasive alien species), the report continues.  The pilot phase aims to assist in developing a functional and accessible Internet-based Biosafety Clearing House, identify alternatives to the electronic system, and identify and address capacity needs of countries regarding the Clearing House.


The Committee also developed an action plan outlining a series of measures to increase the capacities of developing nations and transition countries in implementing the Protocol.  Other important issues the Committee considered included decision-making procedures by the parties of import; handling, transport, packaging and identification; liability and redress; and compliance.


Small Island Developing States and the Caribbean


Another report (document A/57/131) of the Secretary-General before the Committee was on implementation of the outcome of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; and promoting an integrated management approach to the Caribbean Sea area in the context of sustainable development.


The report covers international, regional and national efforts to implement the outcome of the Global Conference in such areas as climate change and sea-level rise; natural and environmental disasters; waste management; coastal and marine resources; freshwater resources; land resources; energy resources; tourism resources; biodiversity resources; national institutions and administrative capacity; transport and communication; vulnerability index; trade; implementation; monitoring; and review.


Reviewing international efforts, the report notes that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has continued to assist small island developing States in implementing disaster reduction and response measures through its tropical cyclone programmes.  Also, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is helping improve transport services with special stress on safety and environmental protection based on sustainable, energy-efficient and low-cost transportation.


At the regional level, the Indian Ocean Commission has contributed to a project on climate change and sea-level monitoring, assisting Indian Ocean countries with greenhouse gas emission inventories and vulnerability assessments.  It adds that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit for the Caribbean Environment Programme (CAR/RCU) is executing a regional component for a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/Global Environment Facility (GEF) project on rehabilitating contaminated bays in Kingston Harbour, Jamaica, and Havana Bay, Cuba.


The report also covers activities towards an integrated management approach to the Caribbean Sea area.  Organizations contributing to that effort included the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UNDP, the European Commission, the Economic Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), UNEP and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).


Other Matters


The Committee also had before it a note verbale dated 22 August 2002 from Permanent Mission of Jordan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, requesting Secretariat assistance in circulating the Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism during the current General Assembly session.


Also before the Committee was a letter dated 6 June 2002 from the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/57/84-S/2002/645), which includes resolutions adopted at the 107th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Marrakech in March; and a letter dated 10 July 2002 from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/57/202), transmitting the text of the Abu Dhabi Declaration on Agricultural Development and Desertification Control adopted in April.

It also had a letter dated 6 August 2002 from the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and the Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations (document A/57/329), submitting the New Delhi Declaration of principles of international law relating to sustainable development; and a letter dated 22 August 2002 from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/57/350) on the Koizumi Initiative (Concrete Actions of the Japanese Government to be Taken for Sustainable Development –- Towards Global Sharing) announced in Tokyo in August.    


Finally, the Committee had before it a letter dated 20 August 2002 from the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, transmitting the communique of the Pacific Island Forum's meeting in August (document A/57/331).


Introduction of reports


ARBA DIALLO, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa, introduced the report on implementation of the Convention.  He noted that the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties had decided to establish the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC).  The first session of the Committee would be held from 11 to 22 November 2002 at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome.  It would review 185 reports submitted to the Secretariat from country Parties and accredited observers.


He said the recent Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development had constituted a historical opportunity for the Convention to gain the highest political momentum needed to foster its implementation.  A key problem addressed by the Summit was the lack of substantial and predictable financial resources, which had hampered implementation of the Convention, and world leaders had called on the GEF Assembly to take a decision in that regard.  He was pleased to inform the Committee that the Assembly, which had just met in Beijing, had responded to the Summit call, and decided to declare its availability to serve as a financial mechanism for the Convention, should its Parties so decide.


Another important decision of the GEF was to open a full-fledged focal area on land degradation.  From now on, it would be more involved in providing financial resources to tackle that issue.


SALVANO BRICENO, Director of the Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, introduced reports on implementation of international disaster reduction strategies and international cooperation to reduce El Niño’s impact.  He said the increasing frequency of natural disasters worldwide, particularly those of hydro-meteorological origin such as the recent floods in Asia and Europe and the severe drought in Southern Africa, illustrated the increasing vulnerability of the global population to natural, environmental and technological disasters.  Reduction of the negative impacts of climate anomalies such as El Niño was an integral part of sustainable development plans of action and policies at all levels.


The Johannesburg plan proposed specific actions for sustainable development and poverty eradication.  The ISDR secretariat of the disaster reduction strategy continued collaborative efforts with the WMO, the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and the UNEP, among other organizations. Partnerships with other United Nations specialized agencies and programmes as well as the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs were envisaged for the coming years.


The forthcoming review of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action must assess steps taken to reduce El Niño’s impact, creating close links between the findings of the 1998 El Niño Conference in Guayaquil and the 1998 International Conference on Early Warning in Potsdam. 


OLIVER JALBERT, Principal Officer of the Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity, introduced the report on the Convention on Biodiversity.  He said the past year had been an important and exciting one for the Convention. 

Of particular note were major advances made at the sixth meeting of the Parties, such as the agreement on an expanded programme on forest biodiversity.  Cooperation with other organizations had also been steadily enhanced, most notably with other Rio Conventions.  With 36 instruments of ratification deposited, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety had made considerable progress.


He said the high profile given to biodiversity at the World Summit on Sustainable Development was a welcome indication of the growing awareness of biodiversity.  The Summit’s Plan of Implementation would give new impetus to the Convention process, and commitments made there would guide its work for years to come.  He stressed that policy commitments made over the past year must now be translated into concrete work on the ground, which would be one of the main challenges to come.


MANUEL DENGO, Chief of the Water, Natural Resources and Small Island States Branch of the Division for Sustainable Development, said the two reports on sustainable development for small island developing States had been combined to provide a more comprehensive overview of the Johannesburg Summit’s outcomes and their impact on the implementation of 1994 Barbados Programme of Action.


He stressed the importance of the call in the reports for accelerated national and regional implementation, special economic zones, capacity-building, coastal management and tourism, as well as a full and comprehensive review of the plan of action in 2004.


The report highlighted bilateral, regional and international action.  It also pointed to the significant increase in integrated sustainable development management in the Caribbean Sea, where many governments and regional organizations had collaborated on programmes of action.  Improvements, however, were needed in local and national information-gathering and comprehensive reporting and feedback mechanisms that would enable Member States and regional organizations to become more active in report preparation and information dissemination.


ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Land-locked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the report on further implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.  He said the United Nations had long recognized the specific problems of those States, which were especially vulnerable to natural disasters, climate change and sea-level rise.  The interplay of such adverse factors as narrow resource bases, small domestic markets, high energy costs, infrastructure, transport and low and irregular international traffic volumes imposed constraints on their socio-economic development efforts.  Urgent action was needed by the international community to mitigate those problems.


Small island developing States faced formidable challenges regarding trade liberalization and globalization, he continued.  They were at risk of remaining marginalized unless urgent measures were taken to grant them greater market access, increased official development assistance (ODA), debt relief and capacity-building.  He stressed that the United Nations and multilateral financial and development institutions should move to enhance the development prospects of those countries by supporting human and institutional capacity, technology transfer and export and industrial base diversification.


One of the major outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development was its decision to undertake the 10-year comprehensive review of the implementation of the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action in 2004.  It was high time the international community lived up to commitments made in Barbados.  The 10-year review should not merely take stock of, but must agree on, specific measures to assist small island developing States in attaining sustainable development.  The preparatory process should be organized so that it attained practical and operational outcomes that could be effectively followed up at the global, regional, subregional and national levels. It should be seen as a joint undertaking and common rallying point for governments of small island developing States with their development partners to further galvanize international support aimed at mitigating the consequences of their geographical disadvantages.


Statements


VICENTE VALLENILLA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said developing nations had made significant efforts to implement the Conventions on Desertification and Biodiversity, the International Strategy for the Reduction of Natural Disaster and the Plan of Action for Small Island Developing States.  However, sufficient international cooperation, technology transfer and financing to facilitate implementation were still lacking.  Member States needed to fulfil commitments to provide increased ODA.


The recurring El Niño phenomenon had had devastating economic and social consequences on the Group of 77 and China, affecting 110 million people and creating economic losses greater than $340 billion during 1997 and 1998.  The Group urged developed countries to support creation of the proposed International Centre in Guayaquil to study El Niño, and the Trust Fund for the Strategy, which had yet to receive adequate voluntary funds to implement its work plan.


He also called for added funds to support programmes to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by the year 2010, and promote fair and equitable distribution of benefits from biodiversity use.  Moreover, he asked nations to promote sustainable development in the Caribbean through sufficient financial resources, the transfer of ecologically safe technologies and capacity-building, as well as fully support the 10-year review of the Barbados Plan of Action in 2004.

ELLEN MARGRETHE LOJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the World Summit on Sustainable Development had identified new challenges and opportunities.  It had recognized that the overarching objectives of international efforts towards sustainable development were to ensure a multidimensional approach to poverty eradication, change unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and protect and manage the natural resource base of economic and social development.  It emphasized the strong need for targets, policies and measures at the national and international levels to provide guidance and help to all nations in responding effectively.


Regarding the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, she said the international community must consider the risk of natural disasters and the devastating impact they could have on already vulnerable societies.  She supported the Secretariat’s preventive approach aimed at building more disaster-resilient communities and thereby laying one foundation from which development efforts could be successfully pursued.


Turning to the Desertification Convention, she said the fifth Conference of the Parties, held in Geneva in 2001, had marked the beginning of a new phase in its implementation, which aimed at real progress at the national level, and the mainstreaming of national action programmes into poverty reduction and other national strategies for sustainable development.  With respect to the Convention on Biodiversity, she noted that the variability of ecosystems, species and genes was the biological life insurance of humankind.  She welcomed the Johannesburg agreement to achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity by 2010.


Citing the Secretary-General’s report on natural disaster reduction strategies, BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica), also speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the statistics were alarming.  Last year alone, 700 natural disasters had caused 25,000 deaths.  An estimated 100,000 deaths and $300 billion in economic losses annually would occur by 2050.  A recent report by the UNEP, and by

295 financial institutions, revealed that economic losses had reached $1 trillion in the last 15 years, and such losses could double every 10 years, destabilizing international financial centres as well as stock, property and investment markets.


Last year’s report on global climatic change warned of the devastating consequences of extreme, erratic climate changes due to human activity in the next century, warning temperature increases between 1.4 degrees and 5.8 degrees celsius and of more severe global climatic events.


The growing magnitude and recurrence of natural disasters in recent years, with devastating consequences particularly in developing nations, underscored the urgent need to scrutinize links between climate change and energy production and consumption.  The Rio Group called for decisive action, in particular enforcement of the Kyoto Protocol, to lower the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, which had exacerbated natural disasters.  It also supported creation of the proposed international centre to study El Niño in Guayuquil.


YURIY ISAKOV (Russian Federation) said one of the most important aspects of international cooperation was in preserving the environment.  The Convention on Desertification in particular was a vital means of social and economic development, as well as an instrument for combating poverty in Africa, and he was pleased at the serious progress made in implementing the Convention.  The recent decision of the GEF to cooperate with the Convention would give further momentum to its activities in preventing erosion of the soil.


Natural disasters which had stricken many regions this summer had stressed the need for the international community to join in combating such catastrophes, which should be one of the most important cornerstones of sustainable development.  In that regard, he said, he saw an important role for an inter-agency task force in reducing the potential for disasters.  Strategies for disaster reduction should focus on early warning systems, minimizing the consequences of those disasters, the development of strategies for reducing loss of life and property, and the distribution of information on the mitigation and consequences of natural disasters.


JABER ALI RAMADAN (Libya) said developing nations, particularly in Africa, had made significant efforts to combat desertification and erosion.  Still, inadequate financing for those programmes stood in the way of full implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, thwarting progress in sustainable development and poverty reduction.


He appealed to multilateral institutions to contribute generously to the desertification fund, and to developed nations to increase financing and technology transfer, particularly to Africa, where the effects of drought and desertification were widespread and devastating.  He also stressed the importance of programmes to slow the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010.


ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico), also speaking on behalf of the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries (Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Venezuela), noted that more than 70 per cent of the planet’s biological diversity and 45 per cent of the world’s population lay within the countries of the members of his Group.  That heritage offered broad development opportunities, but also gave the Group the great responsibility of ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of its biological resources, as well as a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from biodiversity.  It also must ensure that the interests of the countries of origin of biological resources and those of indigenous and local communities were adequately addressed.


One of the main objectives of the Group, he said, was to seek the creation of an international regime to effectively promote and safeguard the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biodiversity and its components.  In that regard, he welcomed the commitment in the Johannesburg Plan of Action to negotiate -- within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity -- an international regime on the sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.


GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGO (Ecuador) stressed the importance of making disaster reduction strategies a priority of the United Nations.  He reiterated the need for technology transfer, information sharing and capacity-building, early warning systems to enable nations to prepare for disaster, and programmes to evaluation climate change.


     In 1998, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific and the Ecuadorian Government held the first meeting of intergovernmental experts on the El Niño phenomenon.  A total of 450 representatives of the international scientific community participated, calling for the creation in Ecuador of an international centre to study El Niño.  In 2001, the Ecuadorian Government and the WMO signed a memorandum of cooperation to create the centre, now scheduled to open 10 January 2003.  He called on the international community for technical, scientific and financial assistance to enable the centre to fulfil its mission.


STEFANO TOSCANO (Switzerland) said natural disasters, which jeopardized vast ecosystems, could also be caused by human hands.  He stressed that the negative consequences of such disasters could be diminished through better risk management. The international community should not just set global long-term objectives, but take steps to achieve those aims.  Noting that integration of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction into the United Nations system had continued in an encouraging fashion, he said the Strategy was the catalyst for international, regional and national activities.


Turning to desertification, he said that problem had become a serious challenge, especially for marginalized areas.  Its causes were complex and linked to such other areas as climate, forest, biodiversity and social and economic development.  He stressed that local communities should be directly involved in efforts to combat it in order to ensure a change in attitude.  Regarding biodiversity, he said the Johannesburg Summit had given new momentum to the related Convention.  The international community should support objectives set last year in The Hague, which aimed to put a stop to the loss of biodiversity between now and 2010.  That effort would require consistent policies as well as renewed political will.


IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt) said the international community should use the momentum created at the Johannesburg Summit to implement action plans, with clear-cut financing and timetables, for combating desertification.  The Summit had underscored the importance of desertification efforts in the coming years.  Still, inadequate financial resources were thwarting progress.  He called for a new phase of implementation.


He said the desertification Convention had proved to be very effective and crucial to sustainable development.  He further urged developed nations to increase international financing and technology transfer on a preferential basis to developing countries, in order to slow the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010.  Egypt supported the development and fair use of genetic resources towards that end, as well as the Cartagena Protocol for Biosafety and appealed to the international community to give the issue its due priority.


Egypt, he said, supported programmes to study and reduce the impact of El Niño.  A basic link existed between the results of the Barbados Programme of Action and the Rio Summit concerning sustainable development in the small island developing States.  He stressed the need to closely study this link during the 10-year review on the Barbados Programme of Action in 2004 and subsequent General Assembly meetings on the subject.


ROGATIEN BIAOU (Benin) said the main concerns of the least developed countries were reflected in the implementation plan of the Johannesburg Summit. What remained was to materialize the plans and objectives of the plans of action and implementation.  China had already considered one of the Johannesburg outcomes by inviting the second GEF meeting to take a decision on the recommendation that desertification be given priority status for GEF intervention.


As a result, he continued, the GEF had recently decided that soil degradation, deforestation and desertification should be a new priority area for its preparedness to serve as a financial mechanism for implementation of the Convention on desertification.  That decision signified progress, since the Convention had no real funding mechanism of its own.  However, it could not have been taken if members, especially those from Africa, had not shown resoluteness and determination.  The decisions were milestones on the long road to harmonious achievement of sustainable development in countries affected by drought and desertification.


MARK RAMSDEN (New Zealand) welcomed the inclusion of the section on sustainable development of small island developing States in the Johannesburg Summit, noting it was a clear acknowledgement by the global community of the vulnerability and unique developmental challenges facing the small island developing States.


He supported the 10-year review in 2004 of the Barbados Programme of Action, suggesting that the review’s preparatory process be short and effective.  Countries had already submitted progress reports.  The reporting process could therefore be short and well-focused, employing pro-forma country reports, based on an easy to fill in matrix.  In that way, useful information could be compiled on small island developing States, without putting unnecessary burdens on reporting Member States.  There was no need for further negotiations of the Barbados Programme.  The outcome of its 10-year review should focus on further implementation of existing plans and agreements.


MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said desertification was a major threat on all continents, affecting 100 nations and 70 per cent of the world’s agricultural dry lands.  In some countries of the Southern African region, more than 50 per cent of the land area was desert.  About 14 million people in the region were currently on the verge of hunger or starvation, as a result of erratic rainfall that had caused drought and the subsequent shortage of food in many nations.  Indications were that the situation was likely to worsen in the future.  The 2001 climate change assessment report indicated that many dry-land areas could become even hotter and drier over the twenty-first century.


Tackling environmental issues was not a new undertaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), he said.  As early as the 1980s, it had established the Soil and Water Conservation and Land Utilization Sector.  That was changed at the meeting of the Council of SADC Ministers in 1991 to the Environment and Land Management Sector, coordinated by Lesotho and charged with the overall responsibility for environmental issues in the SADC.  In 1997, the SADC Council of Ministers designated the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia as the centre of excellence for research, networking and training on the implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification, and had mandated it to implement regional activities.


SADC members stood ready to cooperate with the international community in implementing the Convention to mitigate the effects of drought as well as other effects of climate change, he continued.  Most SADC countries had already completed their National Action Programmes to combat desertification, and others

were finalizing them.  However, several countries faced difficulties in mobilizing the needed financial resources from their development partners.  The level of funding from donor countries was still not commensurate with the needs and expectations of affected countries.


When the meeting resumed this afternoon, GUY O’BRIEN (Australia) said his country was a committed party to the Convention on Biological Diversity and took its aims very seriously.  However, Australia had lodged a formal objection to the draft decision on alien invasive species, particularly with regard to three references in the text that were not in line with the Convention’s objectives.  As such, his country did not consider the draft decision to be validly adopted.  All Convention Parties should note that the status of the decision remained in dispute.


JOSE BRIZ GUTIERREZ (Guatemala), speaking on behalf of the Group of Central American countries, said Guatemala’s location in a tectonic belt characterized by various dry and wet regions, made it highly prone to floods, landslides and droughts.  Deforestation resulting from commercial development, overuse of agricultural lands, and urban growth without proper environmental management further exacerbated the problem, causing pollution and outer grave social and economic consequences.


He said the report on the implementation of the international strategy for disaster reduction pointed to the need for inter-institutional coordination.  Many regional organizations and institutions were doing their part to finance disaster prevention and management programmes.  That made it possible to hold workshops and educational meetings as well as create international networks and a broad implementation plan. 


Efforts had also been made to promote the strengthening of national risk-prevention capabilities.  The Central American Initiative was a good example of such endeavours.  He expressed his hope for adequate financing and management of the disaster reduction trust fund, and appealed to all Member States to support the strategy for mitigating disasters.


     JAIPAL REDDY (India) supported funding for new technological and technical resources to developing countries for slowing and reducing biological diversity losses by 2010, as called for in the Biodiversity Convention.  He also welcomed an international regime to promote and safeguard the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resource use.  That regime should include mandatory disclosure of the country of origin of genetic resources in Intellectual Property Rights applications.


India also supported the protection of traditional knowledge to ensure the equitable sharing of benefits of its commercial use and the creation of a liability and redress system for biodiversity damage.  He welcomed Malaysia’s offer to host the seventh meeting of the Conference of Parties, and hoped the international community would take steps to implement the Johannesburg Summit’s goals in biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and fair equitable sharing of benefits.


CAROLINE LEWIS, representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the organization's primary goal of promoting universal access to decent and productive work was threatened by natural disasters.  Decades of development efforts could be erased, literally, by the wind.  The existence of productive jobs could create a powerful route to recovery after disasters, but rebuilding livelihoods through employment creation was not sufficiently emphasized or mainstreamed into national policies and measures adopted after natural disasters.  Nor did international and local media cover job losses, thus limiting the attention paid to the issue by donors as well as national policy makers.


The promotion of decent work must be an essential component of the relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development process, she said.  A first step in lifting recovering economies out of depression was to decentralize management of the reconstruction process and create local labour-intensive infrastructure rebuilding programmes.  Employment training could also be crucial to post-disaster plans, as job diversification could mitigate the impact of future disasters.  Moreover, the ILO recognized the valuable role played by the Inter-Agency Taskforce on Disaster Reduction in facilitating the spirit of post-disaster partnership and coordination between agencies.


DER KOGDA (Burkina Faso) said soil erosion and desertification affected one-third of the world’s surface, much of which was in Africa.  Many African countries had frequent droughts with devastating socio-economic consequences, which explained why they had joined together in persuading the international community to draw up the Desertification Convention.


His country had initiated a strategy to combat desertification, which called for resources to promote food security, improvement of the economic environment to reduce poverty, and improvement of desertification awareness.  The strategy utilized indicators that could be used nationally and locally, and had led to legal texts for the creation of environmental management structures.  It also supported initiatives to combat desertification by regional institutions.


If nothing was done to combat desertification, he said, the future drop in yield for arid zones would force millions of people to leave their homes in search of a better environment.  Combating desertification meant reducing famine and helping countries to pave the way for sustainable development.  He stressed that the international community must support implementation of the Convention, particularly on strengthening capacity and in providing financial assistance.


JEAN-MARIE BOSSINA (Congo) said companies in many African countries were more concerned with profit than biodiversity protection.  Deforestation had hit the Congo and the Congo basin countries very hard.  Vast forests covered 200 million hectares in the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and the Central African Republic.  That forest basin was the second largest in the world after the Amazon, and was a main source of development.  However, today, in a rejection of past practices, development should be guided by concern to protect future generations from disaster.


The Congo basin’s flora and fauna were in danger because of uncontrolled development, and needed national and subregional conservation measures.  The Congolese Government had created a new forest policy calling for protection of forest resources, biodiversity promotion, greater knowledge and understanding of biodiversity and promotion of accessory forest products.  Congo had also enacted a forest code in 2000, revised laws regarding fauna protection and created new units to control development.  It had worked in partnership with neighbouring countries to promote sustainable forest development, preservation and management.


He also cited the biodiversity and sustainable development partnership between the United States and five countries of the Economic Community of Central African States, expressing hope that this new feeling of solidarity would prompt further conservation efforts in Africa.


STUART LESLIE (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said that sustainable development for those States would come to nothing if their efforts were thwarted by climate change, which would affect small island developing States in dramatic and catastrophic ways.  Coastlines would be eroded by sea-level rise, with some islands completely inundated; higher sea temperatures would cause coral bleaching and produce changes in the fish nursery function of the reefs, possibly altering migration patterns for tuna.  Changes in the patterns and intensity of rainfall would affect agriculture as well as people’s health. Tourism would also be affected, putting the entire economic base of small island developing States at risk.


The Convention on Biological Diversity continued to be a valuable tool for small island developing States in understanding the maximum value of conservation, management and sustainable use of natural resources, he continued.  National consultative processes and reports had empowered many communities to take charge of their resource base.  There were continuing concerns, however, over the protection of intellectual property rights.  Also, small island developing States must ensure they were not exploited or disenfranchised by the actions of unscrupulous investors.


     DARMANSJAH DJUMALA (Indonesia) stressed the critical role of effective regional, subregional and national strategies to reduce and mitigate the social and economic impact of natural disasters.  Those strategies required financial and technological support and capacity-building, he said, calling on donor nations and organizations to contribute to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Fund.


Inadequate resources were a major impediment to the Desertification Convention.  Indonesia applauded the decision of the Second Assembly of the Global Environmental Facilities to designate land degradation, particularly desertification and deforestation, as a new focal point.  He added that the establishment of the Convention review committee reflected the serious commitment of all parties to ensure the Convention’s full implementation.


Indonesia, a vast archipelago comprising more than 17,000 islands, shared many of the development challenges and environmental constraints faced by small island developing States.  He supported the ongoing efforts of the United Nations system for sustainable development of those States, and called for a full and comprehensive review of the Barbados Programme of Action in 2004.


JOSE MIGUEL SOSA (Dominican Republic) recalled that his country's region, the Caribbean, was an area subject every year to hurricanes, which left hundreds homeless and led to loss of life as well as severe damage to infrastructure.  His Government had created the National Commission on Disasters to strengthen coordination with agencies offering assistance on natural disasters.  It was also investing in road infrastructure, drinking water and housing.

However, it was necessary for developed countries –- by assisting with early warning systems for disasters -- to invest in an improvement of national capacities in developing countries, he continued.  He called on donor countries and financial institutions within the United Nations system to increase such assistance in order to mitigate the effects of natural disasters in developing countries.


MARIA LUISA ESCOREL (Brazil) welcomed the steps taken at the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development to strengthen the role of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR); to create effective regional, subregional and national disaster management strategies with scientific and technological support; to create early warning systems and information networks; to strengthen and promote international research; and to enhance the ability of countries to cope with disasters.  She said preventive actions -- including personnel training, information networks and meteorological services –- required particular attention and additional resources.


Brazil, usually associated with the rainforest, the Amazon basin and beautiful beaches, was actually a country of contrasts.  Its populous, semi-arid Northeast region was seriously affected by desertification, resulting in $300 million in economic losses annually.  Brazil, therefore, welcomed the Johannesburg commitment to the ISDR.


She appealed to developed countries to fulfil their pledge to mobilize financial resources, facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies, ensure market access for developing nations’ exports, and contribute to capacity-building to ensure full implementation of the programme emerging from the Johannesburg Summit.  


XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa) said the Johannesburg Summit had advanced the debate on sustainable development in many areas of concern, and stressed that the challenge in coming months was to implement its decisions.  Noting that biodiversity was being lost at an alarming rate in many parts of the world, he said the loss posed a major challenge in part because of its role in sustaining humanity.  South Africa attached great importance to conservation and sustainable use, and he welcomed the Summit’s reaffirmation of the international community’s commitment to implement the Convention on Biodiversity, which focused on conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing.


Capacity-building for developing countries in reaching sustainable use was vital, he continued.  Recent studies had shown that emissions of greenhouse gases were increasing, sea levels continued to rise, natural disasters had become more frequent and drought was threatening many nations.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had noted that developing countries would be most vulnerable to those changes because of their inability to adapt.  In that respect, the Johannesburg Summit had reaffirmed the Kyoto Protocol’s importance, and he urged all nations to implement it.  He also called on all nations that had not done so to ratify the Convention on climate change.


ALI YAHYA (Israel) said his country had been experimenting with dryland development for 54 years, had succeeded in developing it in a sustainable manner, and was committed to sharing its expertise in combating desertification with other countries.  A programme called IPALAC (International Programme for Arid Land Crops) had been launched to help create "cyber-communities" of like-minded agricultural researchers fighting desertification around the world.  Its goal was to act as a catalyst for biodiversity utilization by bringing together existing national and international research institutions, non-governmental organizations and other parties to form coalitions to develop, evaluate and implement plant-base environmental and development projects. 


IPALAC's focus was Africa-oriented, he added, because the problems of desertification there were existential in magnitude.  However, the know-how and technologies for increasing agricultural income and productivity already existed; the challenge was to put the necessary tools into the hands of those who could benefit from them.  Irrigation was probably the most effective means of intensifying agriculture, but in Africa a number of factors worked against conventional large-scale irrigated agriculture.  Instead, gravity-fed drip irrigation could solve many of Africa's problems, as it brought the benefits of high-technology systems to small farmers, at a fraction of the cost.


U KYI TUN (Myanmar) said that this year Asian countries, including Myanmar, had experienced severe flooding of major rivers.  While welcoming United Nations international and regional strategies to lessen the impact of natural disasters, he called on countries that had yet to contribute to the disaster reduction trust fund to do so.  The international community should also focus seriously on the causes of natural disasters over the long term.  Countries in the equatorial Pacific that expected to be affected by El Niño this year should be prepared to deal with floods, droughts, tropical cyclones and landslides.


Myanmar was very concerned with land degradation and desertification, particularly in the semi-arid areas of the country’s vast central dry zone.  The Government had implemented an integral greening and tree-planting plan for the zone during 2001-2002 and 2030-2031.  Assistance from UNDP's Human Development Initiative Programme had helped Myanmar fund environmental conservation and management aimed at increasing food production and generating income for rural peoples.


JUNE CLARKE (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said she was pleased to learn that the ISDR was progressing satisfactorily.  She urged, however, that current efforts to build regional strategies designed to encourage national constituencies to implement the ISDR should fully consider the special circumstances of SIDS in the region.  In such States, risk and vulnerability reduction concerns would need to be mainstreamed into other relevant programme areas.


She said CARICOM wished to renew the call repeatedly made in the Second Committee for financial resources to be made available to countries affected by natural disasters, so that they could implement post-disaster activities.  She was particularly concerned that the Trust Fund for Disaster Reduction, which relied solely on voluntary contributions, had not received the needed resources to allow the Strategy’s secretariat to cover its core requirements or carry out all of the initiatives in its work plan.


Regarding the Convention on Biodiversity, she noted that the short-term focus should be on implementation, with specific priorities and clear targets for the Convention’s three objectives –- the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components; and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.  In the area of tourism, a key engine of economic activity in the Caribbean, she welcomed the decision to review work being done on sustainable tourism and looked forward to the completion of draft guidelines on the basis of consultation.


DANIEL DON NANJIRA, of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), referring to today's reports on El Niño, disaster reduction, combating desertification, biological diversity and sustainable development for small island developing States, praised the scope of the topics discussed -- a notable and commendable approach by the United Nations.


The Rio Conference, he said, was broadly considered a success by many, producing tangible and measurable results.  The WMO had actively and constructively participated in its main processes and activities, and called for implementation of the Conference outcomes.  He stressed the need to turn those efforts into concrete and practical actions, essential steps for sustainable development, poverty eradication and human security. 


Sustainable development required active involvement to mitigate and reduce natural hazards, rationally develop and use energy resources, undertake studies and issue regular updates on the El Niño phenomenon.  The WMO had been instrumental in creating the future international centre for the study of El Niño in Guayaquil, Ecuador.  It had established subregional and regional mechanisms in Latin America, Asia and Africa, where drought-monitoring centres provided important advisories for early prediction, warning and monitoring of natural disasters.  Moreover, it was helping developing nations design their own systems to deal with global warming, sea-level changes, degradation and marine management.


HERBERT TRAUB (United States) said the world community should realize that the international calendar was overcrowded with ministerials, conferences of parties to treaties, subsidiary bodies, intersessionals, preparatory meetings and ad hoc meetings on various aspects of sustainable development.  All countries, large and small, found it extremely difficult to keep up with the schedule.  One of the key conclusions of the extensive United Nations deliberations on the environment this past year was that such overcrowding hindered the effectiveness of international policy-making efforts.


He also drew attention to a procedural issue which had arisen during the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, about the meaning of consensus.  He was pleased that the United Nations Legal Counsel affirmed that “consensus” meant the absence of formal stated objection to the adoption of a decision.  At the sixth meeting, Australia had made formal objections to a decision, but the chair allowed the decision to be adopted anyway. The United States believed that a formal objection to the adoption of a decision was sufficient to block it.  Consequently, it felt that the decision in question was not legally adopted by consensus and could not stand.


MOHAMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) echoed the statements of previous other speakers calling for comprehensive and full implementation of desertification reduction strategies, sustainable development and poverty reduction.


Drought was a major problem in Tunisia, annually destroying thousands of hectares of land and wreaking havoc on local populations.  In 1998, the Tunisian Government had launched a 20-year national desertification programme.  Tunisia welcomed the results of the Johannesburg Summit, particularly the Convention on desertification.  It supported long-term funding of the Convention and regular monitoring of its progress and implementation.


Tunisia also supported the Biodiversity Convention and international cooperation to reduce biodiversity losses significantly by 2010, as well as the 2004 review of the Barbados Plan of Action.  He called on the international community to provide the required financial and technical resources to reach those goals. 


TERUNEH ZENNA (Ethiopia) said the Johannesburg Summit had highlighted the United Nations Convention on Desertification as a distinctive tool that could be used to promote poverty eradication in the poorest and most marginalized rural areas of developing countries.  The Summit had also called for adequate financial resources to implement the Convention.  In that connection, he welcomed the decision made by the GEF to make itself available as a financial mechanism for the Convention.


For Ethiopia, scrupulous implementation of that Convention was a matter of survival.  The country was now being hit by drought –- one of the ramifications of desertification -– almost every other year.  This year’s drought had induced famine, affecting close to 12 million people.  The loss of livestock and mass migration of people had pushed the country’s few and weak institutions to the limit.  Stronger partnership was needed with the international community to implement Ethiopia’s food security programme and to address the impact of the vicious circle of drought in a sustainable manner.  The recurrence of drought had depleted biodiversity, hastened land degradation and reduced moisture and water levels to a point that had compromised the land’s ability to sustain life.


BELKACEM SMAILI (Algeria) said desertification and drought seriously threatened the viability of vast areas in Africa, wiping out essential resources for the continent’s populations.  The Secretary-General’s report on desertification was a clear expression of the collective resolve of the United Nations system to defeat the menace.  Africa had made combating desertification a priority.


Still, implementation of the convention on desertification had not received the same support as conferences on biodiversity.  The GEF would pave the way for much-needed resources and technologies as well as greater efficiency and implementation.  He called for a comprehensive follow-up of strategies to combat land degradation discussed at the GEF’s October meeting in Beijing.  He expressed hope that the next conference of parties to the convention would give rise to a permanent instrument for implementation.


HOSSEIN MOEINI MEYBODI (Iran) expressed support for the United Nations efforts and goals in desertification, international disaster relief, biological diversity and sustainable development for small island developing States.  However, he said the Second Committee should be careful not to go beyond the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  For example, the proposal to link climate change and disaster reduction should be left to the proper channels for such issues.


He supported the recent second assembly of the Global Environment Facility in Beijing, which had confirmed the conclusions of the convention on

desertification and its role as a financing mechanism for the convention.  Iran

also supported the ten-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action to be held in 2004.


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