22/10/2002
Press Release
GA/EF/3007



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Second Committee

16th Meeting (AM)


POVERTY AND ISOLATION REMAIN INTRACTABLE PROBLEM FOR PACIFIC ISLAND FORUM


STATES, DELEGATE TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE


The “poverty of opportunity” resulting from the isolation and vulnerability of the Pacific island nations remained an intractable problem exacerbated by intensified environmental threats, the representative of Fiji told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning as it concluded its general discussion on the environment and sustainable development.


Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, he said that while the Forum was pleased with the outcome of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, particularly the commitments on oceans and small-island developing States, the Group was concerned that many fundamental issues would remain unresolved until those commitments were actually met.


Sri Lanka’s representative, noting the persistence of threats to the world’s environment 10 years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit), said that challenges to future generations included the growing occurrence of natural disasters like the recent floods in Asia and Europe and the severe drought in Southern Africa.  The world population’s vulnerability to natural, environmental and technological hazards was increasing as never before, he added.


Pointing to his country’s rich biological and climatic diversity, which made it one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hot spots, he said the Government of Sri Lanka had established a Legal Task Force on Biodiversity, which was preparing a draft act on the recommendations of the Convention on Biological Diversity for the regulation of access to genetic resources and the fair sharing of benefits.


A representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) stressed the importance of creating global sustainable energy partnerships to bring affordable, renewable and environmentally safe energy, as well as energy efficiency, to small-island developing States.  The UNIDO Initiative on Rural Energy for Productive Use included a chapter dedicated particularly to energy issues in such States, he said, adding that the organization, in cooperation with the Climate Institute, was developing a programme proposal for the Caribbean islands of Saint Lucia, Dominica and Grenada.  It would consider similar efforts for the Pacific islands, he added.


Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Iraq and Suriname.


The Director of the North American Liaison Office of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also made statements.


At its next meeting, at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 24 October, the Committee will hear the introduction of new draft proposals and begin discussing the Special Session on Children.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its general discussion of environment and sustainable development.


Statements


AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said the Pacific Ocean had supported generations of islanders as a medium for transport and a source of food, tradition and culture, upon which depended the present and future well-being of the islands.  Their ecosystems, from the world’s most extensive coral reefs to globally important fisheries, contained great biological diversity and an appreciation of that great responsibility had guided the islands' dialogue with the international community on sustainable development.


To the islands, sustainable development was a process that would ensure the quality of life and growth through good governance, within the limits of acceptable change, and without compromising opportunities for future generations, he said.  Quality of life meant healthy and resilient communities with access to basic necessities, development opportunities, fair access to natural and physical capital, as well as preservation of the Pacific identity.  Quality of growth allowed for inclusive and equitable development, changes within the limits of nature and society, an empowered population, economic security, environmental integrity, opportunities for future generations and respect for cultural identity.  Good governance was a holistic approach to development that was socially appropriate to the Pacific, establishing and developing appropriate institutional frameworks consistent with the principles of transparency, accountability, law and order, justice and liberty.


The Pacific Islands forum had taken from Rio 10 years ago a vision of achieving sustainable development that would improve the quality of life for all, present and future, he said.  Agenda 21 had provided the path towards that goal and the Johannesburg Summit had come at a critical time.  The Group was pleased with the outcome of Johannesburg, particularly commitments made on oceans and small-island developing States.  However, until those commitments were actually met, the Group was concerned that many fundamental issues would remain unresolved.  The “poverty of opportunity” resulting from the isolation and vulnerability of Pacific island nations continued to be an intractable problem and environmental problems had intensified.


SAID SHIHAB AHMAD (Iraq) supported the statement made on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China regarding the conventions on biodiversity, desertification, natural disaster reduction strategies, the El Niño phenomenon and small-island developing States.


He said that for more than a decade, two Member States of the Security Council had committed very serious crimes against his country in January 1991 when they emitted 800 tons of depleted uranium on Iraq, creating extremely serious environmental and health problems for thousands of Iraqis, particularly women and children, for generations to come.  Iraq had since reported increased cases of cancer, leukaemia and involuntary abortions, particularly in the southern provinces that had been hit hardest by the uranium, and more than 50,000 child deaths.


Moreover, he said, the attacks had caused thousands of United States and other foreign soldiers to contract the so-called Gulf war syndrome.  Global environmental, scientific and political experts had voted against the use of depleted uranium, which spreads over vast areas, polluting the air, water and soil.  Iraq had submitted a draft resolution to the General Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) calling for an environmental analysis of the effects of depleted uranium use and called on the international community to ban the use of such weapons, which led to genocide and widespread pollution and impeded sustainable development.  He also called for legally binding commitments within the Framework Convention on Climate Change, concerning greenhouse gas emissions.


SANJEEWA KAVIRATNE (Sri Lanka) noted that 10 years had passed since the Summit on Environment and Development, yet threats to the world’s environment persisted.  Challenges for future generations included the growing occurrence of such natural disasters as the recent floods in Asia and Europe and the severe drought in Southern Africa.  The vulnerability of the world’s population to natural, environmental and technological hazards was increasing as never before.


Pointing out that his country was blessed with rich biological and climatic diversity, as well as a wide range of agro-ecological regions, she said they included rainforests, grasslands, rivers, wetlands and freshwater as well as coastal and marine ecosystems.  Sri Lanka also boasted more than 3,800 flowering plant species, of which 23 per cent were endemic.  It had also inherited rich faunal diversity with a large proportion of endemic species, making it one of the 18 biodiversity hot spots in the world.


He said that under the Convention on Biological Diversity, Sri Lanka had established a Legal Task Force on Biodiversity, which was preparing a draft act on the Convention’s recommendations for regulating access to genetic resources and sharing benefits fairly.  The Biodiversity Secretariat had prepared national regulations for transferring biotic material form Sri Lanka overseas to prevent illegal practices in that regard.  A National Database on Biodiversity was also being established.


MURIEL HELD (Suriname) said that more than 80 per cent of her country's original forest remained intact and that the Central Suriname Nature Reserved surface, spanning 7 per cent of the land surface, was included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List, because of its vast areas of primary tropical rainforest, high diversity of flora and fauna and interesting geological formations.


Stressing that protection of natural resources was vital to Suriname’s future and economic welfare, she said the Government had implemented laws to ensure the sustainable exploitation of renewable natural resources like forest products and marine and freshwater fish, as well as non-renewable natural resources such as gold, bauxite, crude oil and water.  Suriname was also developing a land-use planning programme, she added.


Countries like Suriname, with an abundance of freshwater and “ancient water” needed sustainable management, she went on.  The Government had adopted legislation to preserve the country’s water reservoirs and ratified the conventions on biodiversity and climate change.  It was in the process of ratifying the Cartagena Protocol and the Convention on Desertification.  Suriname was committed to continuing its tradition of paying special attention to environmental protection and taking practical steps to implement decisions and commitments made at the Johannesburg World Summit.


ENCHO GOSPODINOV, Representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the Federation was assisting in risk reduction at the community level, and advocating the inclusion of risk reduction as a component of all development strategies, programmes and plans.  A good example of the Federation’s risk reduction work was a programme undertaken by the Nepalese Red Cross Society, which was setting up a network of district trainers and trained volunteers.  Those individuals helped communities draw up their own preparedness plans and had suggested ways to improve the communities’ longer-term coordination with Government organizations and non-governmental organizations.


He said the Federation had been focusing on individuals and communities, seeking to help them recognize and understand the hazards they faced and the capacities they needed to reduce risk and enhance their ability to overcome adverse events.  That work could only be carried out effectively through a country’s institutions.  The Federation worked closely with its member societies in that programming, usually by investing in the recruitment and training of their volunteers and in professional support structures that they required to deliver effective responses to disasters.


GRZEGORZ DONOCIK, Senior Liaison Officer of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), stressed the importance of seeking and creating global sustainable energy partnerships to bring affordable, renewable and environmentally safe energy, as well as energy efficiency, to small-island developing States.  The organization had forged such partnerships with the European Union and the United Kingdom, linking the UNIDO Initiative on Rural Energy for Productive Use with the European Union Initiative on Energy for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development and the United Kingdom Initiative on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Sustainable Development. 


The UNIDO Initiative included a chapter dedicated particularly to energy issues in the small-island developing States.  It was also collaborating with the E-7, the largest utility of the Group of 8 industrialized countries, on possible technical cooperation in developing countries, particularly small-island developing States.  In addition, UNIDO and the Climate Institute were developing a program proposal for the Caribbean islands of Saint Lucia, Dominica and Grenada, and would consider similar efforts for the Pacific islands.


VERA WEILL-HALLÉ, Director of the North American Liaison Office, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), noted that as many as    75 per cent of the extremely poor lived in rural areas, where land, water and other natural resources played a central role in livelihood strategies.  Thus, desertification was not only a threat to rural poverty alleviation, but also a significant obstacle to achieving the Millennium Goal of halving extreme poverty overall by 2015.


In that context, she said, sustainable land management and rural poverty reduction must move forward hand in hand.  Protecting vulnerable lands meant empowering the rural poor to break free of the vicious cycle of poverty and degradation.  To do so, the rural poor needed improved access to assets, such as land and water, finance, technology, efficient markets and supportive


institutions.  The IFAD was financing projects and programmes to tackle desertification, and also supporting implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification.


* *** *