15/11/2002
Press Release
GA/EF/3026



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Second Committee

36th Meeting (AM)


SECOND COMMITTEE DELEGATES UNDERSCORE URGENT NEED FOR CONCRETE ACTION


TO PROTECT ECOSYSTEMS AND POPULATIONS IN MOUNTAIN REGIONS


Concrete action was essential to ensuring true sustainable development in mountains, where most of the world’s poorest people lived without food security, Costa Rica's representative told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning as it considered sustainable development and international economic cooperation.


Speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, he noted that mountains covered more than a quarter of the world’s surface and hosted more than 10 per cent of its population.  He called upon governments, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and the private sector to step up international cooperation and coordination to protect mountain regions.


Similarly, the representative of Kyrgyzstan called on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to ensure the effective management of mountain resources by solidifying environmental networks and setting up partnerships between the private sector and governments.  He stressed the need for a separate apparatus that would consider the social, economic and political aspects of trans-border mountain territories affecting development.


He added that documents arising from the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development would contribute to a wider understanding of mountains, highlighting the need not just for programmes of action, but also their actual implementation.  He expressed the hope that sustainable development for mountains would become entrenched as a general item on the General Assembly's agenda.


The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), stressed the vital importance of mountains in maintaining precious ecosystems in the region, noting that they provided watersheds that saturated rivers, which in turn fed dams, reservoirs and lush landscapes.  Mountains were also areas of important cultural diversity and heritage, as well as repositories of rich biological diversity.  For the sustainable economic development of the Caribbean’s mountains, he said the region's small countries must attempt first to fix their own economic situations before seeking international assistance if necessary.


Switzerland's representative said his country had been supporting such regional initiatives as the creation of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, a leading institution in the field.  Also, the International


36th Meeting (AM)                                      15November 2002


Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions was a promising initiative to effectively improve livelihoods, conservation and stewardship in coming years.  The partnership, an umbrella organization, could be divided into subgroups to deal with such specific themes as biodiversity conservation, food security, poverty alleviation, geographic regions, or mountain policy and law.


During the meeting, the Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) New York Liaison Office with the United Nations introduced a report on the International Year of Mountains, 2002.


Prior to taking up that topic, the Committee concluded its general discussion of the protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind.


In other business, the representative of Venezuela introduced a draft resolution on international trade and development on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.


Other speakers during the meeting included the representatives of Thailand, China, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Indonesia, India, Peru, Tuvalu, Andorra, Bhutan, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) and Slovenia.


The Second Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Monday, 18 November, to take up consideration of the United Nations University.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its general discussion of the topic environment and sustainable development: protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind, and to begin considering sustainable development and international economic cooperation.  It was also expected to hear the introduction of a draft resolution entitled Macroeconomic policy questions:  international trade and development.


International Year of Mountains


Before the Committee was the Interim report on the International Year of Mountains, 2002 (document A/57/188) by the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which describes national, regional and international progress in promoting and effectively implementing sustainable development in mountain regions; the role of the Year as a catalyst for long-term effective action; and the challenges beyond 2002.


While noting significant progress in that regard, the report says that much work remains and recommends that the General Assembly support the continued creation and development of national committees, focal points and other mechanisms for sustainable mountain development.  It supports national and international strategic plans for development and information sharing; communications programmes to shed light on the International Year of Mountains; and mountain disaggregated databases for research, decision-making and planning. 


The report also recommends support for capacity-building and education programmes to raise awareness of best practices in sustainable mountain development and relationships between highland and lowland areas; the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions; and the Bishkek Mountain Platform.  The report encourages donor and private sector investment.


Introduction of Draft Resolution


VICENTE VALLENILLA (Venezuela), introducing a draft resolution on international trade and development (document A/C.2/57/L.37) on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the text took into account the tenth session of the February 2000 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held in Bangkok.  The session had reaffirmed the Conference as the focal point for the integrated treatment of trade and development, and related finance, technology, investment and sustainable development issues.


He said the draft expressed concern about the adoption of several unilateral actions that had harmed the export potential of developing countries and had a considerable bearing on current World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.  It also addressed the current economic situation and stressed the need to reinforce the multilateral trade system and to couch WTO decisions in reality.


Statements


APIRATH VIENRAVI (Thailand) said the creation of the Special Climate Change Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Adaptation Fund would contribute greatly to efforts by developing countries to implement the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.   It was hoped that the three funds would soon be operating in a transparent and accountable manner.


He said that unexpected severe storms, droughts and floods that had hit Thailand and other countries in recent years were clearly a result of climate change.  Thailand was committed to environmental protection and sustainable development and had incorporated those themes into national development strategies and educational awareness campaigns.  It had joined most major multilateral environmental agreements, having ratified the Kyoto Protocol last August, and had been an active member of the Climate Change Convention since 1995.


YANG JIANMIN (China) said climate change should be considered from the perspective of sustainable developme, in strict adherence to principles set out in the Convention.  Key elements should be addressed in a balanced manner that met the valid demands of the developing countries.  He stressed the need to intensify scientific research, analysis and assessment of the impact of climate change on developing countries; the question of climate change and equity; and the relationship between climate change and sustainable development.  That would help developing countries to improve their adaptation capacity.


Effective financial assistance and technology transfer were also vital in enhancing the capacity of developing countries to address climate change, he said.  The Special Climate Change Fund should become operational at an early date and negotiations on guidelines for its use should be concluded as soon as possible, so that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) could provide resources for relevant activities in developing countries, a vast number of which had already taken numerous measures, within their respective capacities, to respond to climate change.


MARK RAMSDEN (New Zealand) said his country was on course to ratify the Kyoto Protocol this year.  However, the Protocol’s ratification and entry into force did not mean the end of efforts to address climate change.  New Zealand was committed to the Convention’s ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gases at a safe level, a debt owed not only to itself but also to its Pacific neighbours, who were not responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, yet suffered greatly from their negative effects.


He underscored the need for developed nations to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the 2008-2012 emission-reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol and to assist developing countries in emission reduction.  All must strive for broad and balanced participation and action to address climate change beyond 2012, he added.


YURIY N. ISAKOV (Russian Federation) said that the decisions taken at the recent Conference of Parties to the Convention in New Delhi would help in elaborating and launching mechanisms for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.  The Russian Federation was preparing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and a set of appropriate measures was now being carried out.  As an active participant in the Kyoto process, it favoured further constructive development and consolidation of efforts by the entire world community in that area. 


The Russian President had taken the initiative to convene a World Climate Change Conference in Moscow from 29 September to 3 October 2003, which would be held within the overall framework of the Kyoto process, he said.  The Conference's main objective was to provide intellectual contributions from politicians, diplomats, scientists, businessmen and civil society to the constructive discussion of different aspects of climate change.  The Moscow forum would promote further development of climatic cooperation at its new stage, given that the practical implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would begin in the near future. 


He said his country had prepared a draft resolution entitled "World Conference on Climate Change" to encourage active and fruitful participation in the Moscow forum by Member States, relevant organizations and agencies of the United Nations system, other international and national organizations, scientific and business circles, as well as civil society.


MOCH OEMAR (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the destruction of crops and property by drought and floods, rising sea levels and spreading deserts, as well as health hazards and contamination of drinking water would take an enormous toll on the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries.  The Marrakesh Accords of last year had established rules, procedures and institutions for implementing the Kyoto Protocol.  Those agreements, together with the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Delhi Declaration, should greatly help the Kyoto Protocol to fulfil its major task of ensuring a 5 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries over the next decade.


Like the Johannesburg Summit, the recent Conference of Parties marked a transition from forging agreements to an increasing focus on implementation, he said.  Two major concerns of developing countries included access to financial resources and technological support.  The Delhi Declaration called for further development, dissemination of, and investment in innovative technologies as well as the strengthening of technology transfer.  Developing countries must integrate their concerns on climate change into their sustainable development strategies, which would involve the integration of rural electrification to replace the traditional firewood and charcoal sources, the cleaner use of fossil-fuels and promising innovations in technologies.


He said that his country was determined to achieve its objective of reducing emissions for the period 1998 to 2003 and had embarked on a strategy to increase energy efficiency, slow the growth of emissions and stabilize them.  For the period 2003 to 2020, the Government had decided to continue that strategy to include land transportation.  Steps had been taken to reduce and gradually phase out leaded fuel and to promote the increased use of gaseous fuels, particularly for public transportation.


CHAND GUPTA (India) said that policies to protect the climate against human-induced change should suit specific conditions in each country.  They should be integrated into national development strategies, taking into account the fact that economic development was essential to the adoption of measures to address climate change.  National sustainable development strategies should integrate climate change objectives more fully in such key areas as water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity, and build on the outcomes of the Johannesburg World Summit.


He stressed the need to promote international cooperation in developing and distributing innovative technologies with respect to key sectors of development.  Technology transfer should be strengthened, including through concrete projects and capacity-building in all relevant sectors.  Concerned countries should implement fully their commitments under the Convention relating to financial resources, technology transfer and capacity-building and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


RAUL SALAZAR (Peru) noted that from 1985 to 1999, 55 per cent of natural disasters had resulted from climate changes.  Its devastating impact was caused by unsustainable production and consumption of fossil fuels, particularly in developed countries.


Citing the recurrence and intensification of El Niño along the Pacific Coast, he said the phenomenon had harmed the coastlines, water supply systems and fragile mountain ecosystems of Peru and other Latin American countries.  In 1997 and 1998, El Niño had impacted 110 million people and caused economic losses of more than $134 billion in those countries.  During the Johannesburg Summit, Peru had called for the inclusion of provisions to address global climate change.  Peru also supported the Kyoto Protocol and urged its rapid entry into force.


ENELE SOPOAGA (Tuvalu), noting that climate change was severely affecting countries in his part of the world, underlined the real necessity for action by the international community.  It made no sense to envision sustainable development when the very basis of that vision was at risk due to the irresponsible actions of others.  Welcoming the outcome of the Conference of Parties, he nevertheless expressed concern about the clear lack of urgency on the part of some States parties, particularly developed countries.


He stressed that the burden of adaptation could not be left to those who had contributed little or nothing to climate change.  Industrialized countries must shoulder the burden of responsibility for climate change by committing themselves to serious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  He also appealed to industrialized countries that had not yet done so to ratify and implement the Kyoto Protocol.


As the Committee concluded its general discussion on that topic, it took up the question of sustainable development and international economic cooperation.


Introduction of Interim Report on International Year of Mountains, 2002


FLORENCE CHENOWETH, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) New York Liaison Office, introduced the Director-General's interim report on the International Year of Mountains, 2002, saying that the Year would shed light on the fragility of mountain ecosystems and their impoverished inhabitants.  Noting that armed conflict, global climate change, exploitative mining and unsustainable forestry and agricultural practices threatened the well-being of mountains daily, she said that the protection of the world’s mountains -- the source of half of all freshwater consumed by mankind -- was imperative.


A disproportionately high number of the world’s 800 million chronically undernourished people lived in mountains, she said.  A recent FAO study showed that as much as half of the mountain population in developing and transition countries -- approximately 250 million to 370 million people -- were vulnerable to food shortages.  The creation of conditions for sustainable development in mountain regions could end that shortage, she said, calling for greater collaboration between governments, United Nations agencies and private sector organizations to improve the well-being of mountain dwellers.


KAMIL BAIALINOV (Kyrgyzstan) said his country had held many meetings on the various aspects of sustainable mountain development in preparing for the International Year of Mountains.  A series of reports on the subject, which had been further developed through intensive consultations, had also made a great contribution.


He called on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to ensure the effective management of mountain resources by further solidifying environmental networks and establishing partnerships between the private sector and governmental structures.  A separate apparatus was needed for trans-border mountain territories, which would take into account the implications of their social, economic and political aspects on development.


Documents that had arisen for the Johannesburg Summit would contribute to a wider understanding of mountains, he continued.  It was also hoped that they would highlight the need not just for programmes of action but also for actual implementation.  It was also hoped that the issue of sustainable development for mountains would become entrenched as a general item on the General Assembly’s agenda.


JENO STAEHELIN (Switzerland) said that his country, in partnership with other mountain countries, particularly landlocked ones, had been supporting such regional initiatives as the creation of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, a leading institution in the field.  Switzerland was most impressed with the platforms created between communities and political and business groups to devise ways to improve the lot of mountain people worldwide.


He said that the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions was a promising initiative to effectively improve livelihoods, conservation and stewardship in the coming years.  The partnership, an umbrella organization, could be divided into subgroups on specific themes, such as biodiversity conservation, food security, poverty alleviation, geographic regions, or mountain policy and law.


BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, noted that most of the world's poorest people lived in mountain areas without food security.  He stressed that the importance being placed on mountains was not a mere whim, as they made up more than a quarter of the world’s surface and hosted more than 10 per cent of its population.  Concrete action must be taken to ensure true sustainable development of the mountain resource, he said.


It was vital that Costa Rica maintain the experience and knowledge it had accumulated in the last few years about mountain sustainable development, he went on.  International cooperation must be stepped up for mountains, as must constructive cooperation between governments, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and the private sector.  Acknowledging the work of the focal groups on mountains, he said they provided the opportunity for a valuable exchange of experiences between developed and developing countries.


JELENA PIA-COMELLA (Andorra) said her country had created a National Committee for the International Year of Mountains to collaborate with the Bolivia 2000 project for sustainable mountain development, particularly in eco-tourism, which had been a major theme at the international environmental conference organized by the Andorra Centre for Biodiversity in July.  As part of a national mountain awareness campaign, the National Committee had stocked all public libraries with books on mountains and organized school tours, seminars and study groups to familiarize children with mountain ecosystems.


She said that the National Committee, in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment, had developed a political-economic strategy to maintain animal husbandry, biodiversity conservation, the quality of pasture lands, safety for mountain people subjected to fires and avalanches, and people involved in eco-tourism, a major source of Andorra’s national income.


LENNOX DANIEL (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the region’s mountains were essential to the maintenance and even survival of precious ecosystems.  They provided watersheds that saturated the rivers, which in turn fed dams, reservoirs and lush landscapes.  In addition, hydroelectricity could be harnessed in abundance.  Mountains were popular destinations for climbs, hikes and other recreational tourism, as well as areas of important cultural diversity and heritage and repositories of rich biological diversity.


The sustainable economic development of the Caribbean mountains was vital, he said.  Many of the required solutions could only be accomplished effectively if small countries first analysed their own economic situations, attempted to fix them and then sought assistance from the international community.  They must implement national strategies for sustainable mountain development, as well as enabling policies, laws and mechanisms for environmental goods and services tapped from mountain regions.  For the sake of Caribbean countries, those who would love to them, and the sake of generations to come, it was vital to protect and sustain the ecological integrity and economic and social viability of the mountain regions.


TSHERING GYALTSHEN PENJOR (Bhutan) noted that mountains covered

26 per cent of the world’s land surface and were home to 10 per cent of its population.  They provided almost half of the world’s freshwater supply, the most vital resource for mankind’s survival, which, however, was catastrophically low in some regions.  Sustainable mountain development must continue to be an integral part of the global sustainable development agenda.


Bhutan, nestled in the eastern Himalayas, was highly vulnerable to the slightest disturbance of its mountainous and fragile eco-system, he said.  The country was very active in celebrating the Year, having hosted the first International Conference on Mountain Women, held in October.  The Thimphu Declaration adopted at that event focused on five core themes:  natural resources and environment; entrepreneurship; legal, political and human rights; health and well-being; and cultural and indigenous knowledge.  He urged the international community to intensify its efforts to implement sustainable mountain development in the coming years.


PETER GEBERT (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the section on mountains in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation showed the importance of sustainable mountain development.  The role of mountainous regions as the world’s water towers and treasure houses for unique fauna and flora, as well as their vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change, merited special attention and protection.

Welcoming the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions, initiated by Switzerland and introduced at the Johannesburg Summit, he expressed the hope that the enthusiasm generated at the Summit including in mountain regions, would spur action beyond the International Year of Mountains.


MARY VERONIKA TOVSAK (Slovenia) said her country was a convergence point of the Alpine and Dinaric ranges and that 35 per cent of the country's surface was 600 metres above sea level.  Mountains represented an important ecosystem of cultural, scientific and recreational value, as well as a "water tower" for domestic use, agriculture and industry.  The Slovenian mountainous area was an example of perfectly integrated land-use, where traditional interacting landscape patterns had been developed throughout the centuries.


Slovenia had worked to achieve the objectives of the International Year of Mountains, and was among the first countries to have established an interdepartmental working group and implement a National Programme on the International Year of Mountains.  Slovenia promoted solidarity and cooperation to achieve sustainable development of mountains and local communities.  Civil society could play an important role in that process.  It had been actively involved in the regional process of the Alpine Convention.  The "Alpine Process" contributed to sustainability in the mountain area of Slovenia and in the whole Alpine region, and provided a framework for a wide range of networking and strengthening of regional cooperation.


She supported the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions, launched during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, as well as the Bishkek Mountain Platform and the principles of the Berchtesgaden Declaration.  As sustainable mountain development should be a common goal, her country also supported activities and actions to improve the well-being of local people and ensure protection of the environment.


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