29 October 2007
General Assembly
GA/EF/3189

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Second Committee

15th & 16th Meetings (AM & PM)


as Second Committee takes up sustainable development, Emergency Relief Coordinator


voices pessimism about chances of reducing disaster-related losses by 2015


Joint Inspection Unit Official Cites Lack of Transparency,

Accountability in Report on United Nations Response to 2004 Tsunami


Natural hazards and extreme weather threatened more people than ever before but the international community was not in a position to substantially reduce losses caused by such disasters by 2015, as proposed by the Hyogo Framework for Action, John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator warned the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) as it began its debate on sustainable development.


Mr. Holmes, who also chairs the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said massive floods across Asia and much of Africa, as well as recent natural disasters in Central America, Viet Nam and Haiti, clearly illustrated the link between climate change and the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather worldwide.  That made implementing the Hyogo Framework, a necessary stepping stone to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, more important than ever.


Thirty-eight countries had created national platforms to reduce disaster risk and 109 Governments had designated official focal points to implement the Framework, he said.  Stakeholders had also improved strategies and mechanisms to stimulate and coordinate disaster reduction and support actors at different levels.  Public interest was also growing, as demonstrated by the wide and active participation in the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.  Launched by the World Bank and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in September 2006, the Global Platform was a major instrument for helping low- and middle-income countries at high risk to increase investment in risk reduction and management.


Mr. Holmes, who introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and on the result of the Global Survey of Early Warning Systems, noted that the latter document concluded that, while some early warning systems were well advanced, there were numerous gaps and shortcomings, especially in developing countries and in effectively reaching and serving people at risk.  The survey called for the development of a globally comprehensive system, rooted in existing capacities, and proposed specific action to build national people-centred systems.


Similarly, Kwame Sundaram Jomo, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, stressed while delivering a statement on behalf by Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, the importance of helping small island developing States deal with their vulnerability to natural disasters, the socio-economic impact of climate change and the vicissitudes of global markets.


Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on that subject, he said assistance to small island countries must remain a top priority for Member States and the United Nations system, as well as regional and subregional institutions.  Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg outcomes, he said the international community should also strive to substantially increase renewable energy, which offered multiple benefits for sustainable development.  Renewable energy partnerships for sustainable development among all stakeholders could help further develop and more widely disseminate relevant knowledge and information, as well as expedite technology transfers to developing countries.


Tadanori Inomata of the Joint Inspection Unit, introduced that body’s report, titled “Towards a United Nations humanitarian assistance programme for disaster response and reduction:  lessons learned from the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster”, saying it identified several lessons from the December 2004 disaster.  They included the lack of a United Nations governance and management framework to cope with large-scale disasters and a lack of transparency and accountability in the use of resources.  The Organization currently relied on a fragmented system with partial governance provided by the Consolidated Appeals Process of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  Furthermore, the international community was still unclear about the use of $13.6 billion committed through the Tsunami Flash Appeals, particularly for the recovery and reconstruction stages.


Such findings confirmed that the current humanitarian system was structurally complex and must be consolidated, he said.  The system must ensure a seamless transition of assistance through the disaster-management stages and Member States must have ownership over the management of assistance.  Stable resource levels were also necessary to build up the United Nations Secretariat’s core capacity to better coordinate central support services and increase transparency and oversight of resources.


Halldor Thorgeirsson, Director of the Sustainable Development Mechanisms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), introduced, on behalf of Executive Director Yvo de Boer, the report of the UNFCC secretariat on the United Nations Climate Change Conference and its follow-up, noting that 2007 had been an exceptional year marked by greater political momentum on climate change.  The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Secretary-General’s High-Level Event on Climate Change in September had concluded with a strong call for increased funding for adaptation.


But he warned that, although good progress had been made under the 2007 Vienna Climate Change Talks and the UNFCC Dialogue on long-term cooperative action to address climate change, a comprehensive international response was urgently needed to follow the expiration of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.


The Committee also heard the presentation of other sustainable development-related reports by Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); Olivier Jalbert, Principal Officer for Social, Economic and Legal Matters of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (on behalf of Executive Secretary Ahmed Djoghlaf); Juanita Castaño, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) New York Office; Mohamed Omar, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office with the United Nations; and Suzanne Bilelli, Senior Public Information and Liaison Officer of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).


Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, also addressed the Committee.


Participating in the general discussion on sustainable development were the representatives of Pakistan (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Portugal (on behalf of the European Union), Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Iceland, United States, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Sudan, Russian Federation, Cuba, Benin, Namibia, Indonesia, Colombia, Switzerland, China, Malaysia and Iran.


A representative of the Observer Mission of the Holy See also spoke.


The Committee also heard from a representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).


Earlier, the Committee concluded its general discussion on international trade and development, hearing statements by the representatives of Libya, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Republic of Korea, Canada and Nepal.


A representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) also made a statement.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 30 October, to continue its debate on sustainable development.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to conclude its consideration of international trade and development issues under its agenda item on macroeconomic policy questions.  It also took up its item on sustainable development.


Under the latter subject, the Committee will consider implementation of Agenda 21, the programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development; the follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction; the protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind; the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa; and the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Under the same item was the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on its twenty-forth session, sustainable mountain development, and the promotion of new and renewable sources of energy.


Before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on oil slicks on the Lebanese shores (document A/62/343), which reviews the impact of the July 2006 oil spill on human health, biodiversity, fisheries and tourism, as well as its implications for Lebanon’s economy and the livelihood of its citizens.  The report states that the response of the international community has been swift and generous, but it also urges Member States, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to continue supporting Lebanon’s reconstruction efforts.


Also before the Committee was a letter dated 18 September 2007 from the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/62/356), which transmits the final document of the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development:  Challenges for International Governance, held from 4 to 5 September 2007 in Rio de Janeiro and presided over by Minister for External Relations Celso Amorin and Minister for the Environment Marina Silva.  The meeting aimed to discuss the current situation and options for advancing the debate on international environmental governance and sustainable development.


The Committee also had before it a letter dated 10 October 2007 from the Permanent Representatives of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/62/486), which transmits the Managua Declaration on the Gulf of Fonseca, a zone of peace, sustainable development and security.


Also before the Committee was a letter dated 5 October 2007 from the Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/C.2/62/2), which transmits the report summary of the first meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development held in Brussels from 9 to 11 July 2007.


The Committee also had a note by the Secretariat on the Non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests (document A/C.2/62/L.5).

Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (document A/62/262), which provides an update on actions taken by Governments, United Nations organizations and major groups in advancing the implementation of sustainable development goals and targets.


According to the report, those actions include developing a vision and a strategic focus, adopting principles to guide sector-specific plans, and taking an integrated and holistic approach, with an emphasis on linkages and whole systems.  Among examples cited are Bulgaria’s legal and regulatory frameworks for sustainable land resources management, Ghana’s National Action Programme to Combat Desertification, and Croatia’s Plan for Agriculture and Rural Development.


While recommending that Member States and the other stakeholders stay on track while aiming for accelerated progress, the report also provides an overview of recent implementation trends, a summary of the outcomes of actions by intergovernmental bodies and updates of ongoing inter-agency activities.


Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the International Year of Planet Earth (document A/62/376), beginning on January 2008, which notes that the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters illustrate that geo-science knowledge is indispensable in mitigating such disasters and benefits all of society all the time.  However, fewer students are selecting geo-science courses and that by the time rising prices encourage further exploration, historically low student recruitment may have already caused a collapse of geological educational infrastructure worldwide, with worrisome consequences, considering the central importance of earth sciences to global society.


According to the report, the International Year, a joint initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Union of Geological Sciences, has the potential to raise public and political awareness of Earth’s central place in everyday life and to enhance the application of such knowledge to foster a safer, healthier and wealthier society.  Fifty years ago, the International Geophysical Science Year achieved a similar reversal, and Germany’s 2002 Earth Sciences Year had measurable effects on student recruitment.  The massive support for the 2008 Year among the global geo-scientific community has thus far shown that many consider it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demonstrate the value of geo-science and to develop a new generation of experts equipped to support the service sector and industry.


Another report of the Secretary-General on Follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/62/279), highlights recent initiatives to promote the mainstreaming of the Mauritius Strategy into the development plans of small island developing States; efforts to mobilize resources for more effective support of regional and national programming; measures by relevant agencies of the United Nations system; and activities being implemented by the wider international community.


The report concludes that attention would be given in the coming year to increasing awareness among all stakeholders, and that work would continue on improving coherence in the delivery of assistance to small island developing States by the United Nations system and the donor community.


Also before the Committee was a note of the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Joint Inspection Unit, titled Towards a United Nations humanitarian assistance programme for disaster response and reduction:  lessons learned from the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster (document A/61/699-E/2007/8); and another note titled Towards a United Nations humanitarian assistance programme for disaster response and reduction:  lessons learned from the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster (document A/61/699/Add.1-E/2007/8/Add.1).


In their assessment of the Joint Inspection Unit’s report, the Secretary-General and the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) concur on the need to improve multilateral organizations’ existing agreements, regulations and guiding principles on international humanitarian and disaster response and reduction.  They refer to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, which attempts to reduce risk and improve response in disaster-prone and affected countries by helping them develop national capacity and encouraging them to implement global procedures and guidelines on disaster preparedness and management.


The report outlines the lessons to be learned from the Indian Ocean tsunami, covers the human rights dimension of natural disasters, and expresses concern over the overlapping mandates of various United Nations mechanisms dealing with man-made disasters, post-conflict reconstruction and overall preparedness, while stressing the need to coordinate their efforts.  The report does not sufficiently address the need for closer collaboration with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and the Common Country Assessment, among other existing development frameworks, in crisis management.


A report of the Secretary-General on Implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (document A/62/320) states that the increase in disasters -- driven largely by increasing vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change caused by rapid urbanization, unsafe land-use practices, environmental degradation, poverty and a lack of public awareness about disaster risk reduction -- threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of people and thwarts progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  From July 2006 to June 2007, a total of 366 disasters affected almost 200 million people and led to $30 billion in economic losses.  Urgent action is needed to step up efforts to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015:  Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters, since the world is not on track to achieve the aim of substantially reducing disaster losses by 2015.


According to the report, a high-level commitment to reduce risks, supported by sound policies, strong institutional capacities and adequate national and local government funding, is needed to reduce risks.  The first session of the multi-stakeholder Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held in June, was a good step towards expediting implementation of the Hyogo Framework.


The report charts national, regional and international progress in implementing the International Strategy and Hyogo Framework, and highlights trends in disasters and disaster risks.  Member States should make disaster reduction a core element of their development policies, establish national platforms, goals and public budgets for multi-year disaster-reduction programmes, and use the International Strategy system to chart progress.  Governments, donors and funding institutions are encouraged to step up investment in disaster reduction, including through greater contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund for Disaster Reduction.


Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the Global Survey of Early Warning Systems (document A/62/340), which states that between 1996 and 2005 disasters affected about 2.5 billion people and claimed the lives of 900,000.  Past experience has shown that early warning can be effective in saving lives and property.  While some efforts since the 2004 tsunami have done just that, more action is needed on early warning.  While some systems are well advanced, gaps and shortcomings exist, especially in developing countries.  The development of a globally comprehensive early-warning system, rooted in existing systems and capacities, is recommended, with Member States and major stakeholders contributing financial and technical support.


The Committee also had before it a letter dated 5 September 2007 from the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/62/371), which contains a copy of the Presidential Decree declaring a state of disaster in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua, in response to the emergency situation caused by Hurricane Felix; and a letter dated 26 September 2007 from the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/62/372), which contains the Appeal to the International Community handed to President Daniel Ortega Saavedra by the leaders of the indigenous Miskito, Sumu-Mayangna and Afro-descendant communities of the Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte (RAAN), and the Final Evaluation of damage and requirements for the revitalization of communities and families affected by Hurricane Felix.


A report of the Secretary-General on Products harmful to health and the environment (document A/62/78-E/2007/62), contains recommendations for consideration by the Economic and Social Council and reviews the publication of the “Consolidated List of Products Whose Consumption and/or Sale Have Been Banned, Withdrawn, Severely Restricted or Not Approved by Governments”.


Providing an overview of activities undertaken by United Nations entities and other developments in the area of environmentally sound management of chemicals since the previous 2004 triennial review, the report notes that the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and other partners continued their work on a globally harmonized system of chemical classification and labelling; the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has been promoting chemical leasing business models through a global cleaner production network in pilot projects in Egypt, Mexico and the Russian Federation; and the European Union, in December 2006, adopted a comprehensive law on manufacturing, marketing import and use of chemical substances, with the regulation becoming effective on 1 June 2007.


Among the report’s recommendations, it urges the Economic and Social Council to encourage Member States fully to implement national development strategies to achieve the 2020 target on the use and production of chemicals that would minimize adverse effects on human health and the environment; and multilateral and bilateral agencies to continue strengthening capacity-building and technical assistance activities in developing countries.  Donor agencies should provide additional financial resources in support of national efforts to ensure sound management of toxic chemicals.


Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on Implementation of United Nations environmental conventions (document A/62/276), which transmit reports submitted by the secretariats of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.


The report of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change states that, from 6 to 17 November 2006, the Conference of Parties met for the twelfth time in Nairobi, Kenya, where discussions showed a clear shift in debate, from regarding climate change policies as a cost factor for development to seeing them as opportunities to enhance sustainable economic growth.


According to the report, great strides made included the adoption of nine decisions, substantial advances to provide developing countries with the financial resources required to address climate change, and the United Nations Secretary-General’s launch of the Nairobi Framework, a collaborative effort by several entities of the Organization to build capacity in those developing countries not yet able to access the Clean Development Mechanism.  Critical outcomes include making the Special Climate Change Fund fully operational and adopting decisions to improve the delivery of financial support.


The report states that, at the concurrently held Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, 11 decisions were adopted on various issues, including market-based mechanisms and the treatment of new and emerging technologies.  Agreements were also reached on key features of the Adaptation Fund, which was set to become operational in 2007.


A report on the Outcome of the International Year of Deserts and Desertification notes that, while extensive progress has been made towards meeting the Year’s goals, desertification remains an important global problem, with far-reaching implications for the implementation of the Millennium Goals.  Follow-up action should take place at all levels to ensure continuing momentum beyond the Year.


The report assesses the outcome of events held worldwide on the basis of information received from 31 countries, and includes a list of activities, including the Beijing Conference on Women and Desertification (June 2006) and the Bamako Conference on Youth and Desertification (September 2006).  Recommendations cover seven core areas, including a commitment to manage and restore degraded lands, the formulation and implementation of supportive policies, and the empowerment of local people and equitable sharing of costs and benefits.


It states that the report of the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity notes that, for the first time in its history, the Summit of the Group of 8 discussed the challenges of biodiversity.  The Group of 8 adopted in June 2007 the Declaration on Growth and Responsibility in the World Economy, to increase their efforts for the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target.  As at 31 July, 2007, 190 States and the European Union were parties to the Convention, and the Cartagena Protocol has been ratified by 141 States.


The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on sustainable mountain development (document A/62/292), which notes that mountains and their fragile ecosystems are the source of most of Earth’s freshwater and the repositories of rich biological diversity, providing a direct life-support base for about 12 per cent of the world’s population and essential goods and services to more than half of humankind.  While significant progress has been made to raise awareness of their global importance, mountain communities and their environments are vulnerable, facing, among other things, the demands for water, pressures from industry, agriculture and mining in an increasingly globalized world, and climate change threats.  There is a clear need for higher levels of funding and investment, enhanced coordination and collaboration, and a stronger enabling environment with more supportive laws, policies and institutions.


A report of the Secretary-General on the Promotion of new and renewable sources of energy (document A/62/208) notes that worldwide investments in 2006 totalled a record $100 billion, according to a recent study.  Policy options were extensively reviewed by the Commission on Sustainable Development during its second implementation cycle, and its third implementation cycle will consider the thematic cluster of agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa.  Expanding access to modern energy services for sustainable development remains particularly urgent in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 26 per cent of the population has access to electricity and 575 million people still rely on biomass for cooking.


Also before the Committee was a Letter dated 15 October 2007 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/C.2/62/8), which transmits the Damascus Declaration on the role of renewable energy and energy efficiency for future cooperation between the European Union and the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.  It contains the conclusions and recommendations of the Fourth Middle East and North Africa Renewable Energy Conference.


The Committee also had before it the Secretariat’s note on the 10-year strategic plan and framework to enhance the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2008-2018) (document A/C.2/62/7); and the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (document A/62/25).


Statements


MOHAMED ALAHRAF ( Libya) said trade and development, the driving force behind development, was extremely important to countries like his own.  International trade fostered agriculture and industry, but developing countries shared a major concern that they did not play enough of an active part in it.  They needed economic growth to overcome protectionism, which was rife in developed countries, in order to compete on a level-playing field.  A multilateral system was needed to support development all around.


Expressing the hope that the stalled Doha negotiations would be overcome through the political will of the negotiating countries, he said if those talks failed, it would send a negative signal to the world regarding international trade and allow protectionism to grow even more.  The link between trade and international financial policies must be made, and sanctions against developing countries avoided.  There should be a move towards policies that fostered international trade and shared investment.  Developing countries should be able to join the World Trade Organization, which must lead developing countries off the sidelines.  South-South cooperation must be enhanced, and there should be as much trade as possible among countries of the South.  The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had encouraged developing countries with its studies on trade.  For its part, Libya had introduced measures to enable it to become part of the world market and help improve its domestic economy.


GENET TESHOME ( Ethiopia) cited growing evidence from studies by various international organizations that gains from liberalization under the Doha Development Agenda could total several billion dollars, with developing countries gaining much of the benefits.  But no country had developed simply by opening itself up to foreign trade.  It was now necessary to satisfy a long list of institutional requirements to maximize the gains and minimize the risks of participating in the world economy.  Market access alone would not enhance growth.


He said the international community should play a critical role in strengthening regional programmes to help craft policies and strategies that would enable developing and least developed countries to integrate into the global economic system.  Ethiopia was deeply concerned about the indefinite suspension of the World Trade Organization negotiation, which was a definite setback to the Doha Round.  The country relied on traditional exports to earn foreign currency, yet it had seen a marked rise in non-traditional exports, due to its policy stance and stable macroeconomic environment.  Exports, as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), had more than doubled from 9 per cent in 1994 to 19 per cent in 2004.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) had risen from 0.3 per cent of GDP in 1994 to 7 per cent in 2005, largely due to the Government’s incentive package for foreign and national investors.  Investment in the horticulture sector was now about $290 million, a result of the creation of 35,000 jobs, 75 per cent of them for women.


But governmental efforts were not enough, he said, adding that unless there was a collective effort to establish a mechanism to enable developing countries to benefit from their comparative advantages, unless the products of least developed countries were perceived and embraced within the existing international trade practices, and unless agricultural subsidies, tariffs and other forms of barriers by developed countries were eliminated, all efforts would be obscured and the growth and development of least developed countries would be “stranded”.  Ethiopia called on the international community to provide political, technical and financial support to facilitate the integration of developing countries into the world trade system.


FAHAD FALAH AL AJMI (Kuwait) said that, because trade had driven economic growth and development and was a tool for eradicating poverty, it was imperative to channel regional and international efforts into the creation of an adequate and positive atmosphere that would enable developing countries to reach the Millennium Development Goals through the improvement of the international economic system and its rules.  Freeing international trade and facilitating investment in developing countries would play a role in raising the pace of development and job creation.  Kuwait had signed the World Trade Organization Treaty and its Protocols in 1995, and had adopted ambitious economic and social plans, including privatization in numerous fields, the launching of huge pioneer projects, the construction and development of infrastructure and transportation lines, the building of new cities, and investment in oil and energy.


The Millennium Goals were not impossible to achieve, but developed and developing countries must maintain their joint responsibilities, he said.  Developing countries should confront economic and social development, political participation, the strengthening of good governance and the elimination of corruption, while developed countries fulfilled their promises to provide assistance, reduce debt and remove customs barriers.  That would establish a global partnership, leading to the creation of a financial and trade system marked by openness and equality under the World Trade Organization umbrella.


CHO HYUN ( Republic of Korea) said the dynamic growth of developing countries had led to a multipolar international trading system that symbolized a paradigm shift.  However, the growing application of non-tariff barriers had become a major concern to developing countries, and because of those and other dynamics, the question was no longer whether agreement on the Doha Round would be reached, but rather whether it would be reached in time.  Failure to do so would seriously undermine the multilateral trading system.  To achieve an even-handed outcome, the rules, service sector and market access issues should be addressed under a “single undertaking” principle.  Narrowly focusing on a small package regarding market access for agricultural and industrial goods would only produce an imbalanced and delayed result.


He said that, while his country hoped for a timely conclusion of the Round, it recognized the complementary role of free trade agreements.  The global reality of proliferating bilateral and regional agreements could be used to further promote international trade and help the multilateral trading system function more effectively.  Supporting the Aid for Trade initiative, the Republic of Korea suggested that its implementation should focus on productive and technological capacity-building of recipient countries.  Only by establishing its own capacity could a country avoid being marginalized in the international trade system.


JEFFREY HEATON ( Canada) said that, with the Doha Round at a critical juncture, World Trade Organization members must continue this autumn in Geneva to work towards an ambitious outcome that, if successful, would achieve tremendous improvements, including a more level-playing field for the agri-food sector, increased market access for goods and services, and improved and clarified rules on trade remedies.  The Round urgently needed strong leadership and the full engagement of all parties to bring about a successful outcome and to realize the full potential of the negotiations for all concerned, based on the promises of improving prospects for economic growth and development that had first been laid out at Doha in 2001.  If successful, that joint achievement would make a meaningful contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly Goal 8, on a global partnership for development.


He said the Second Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate collective support.  A General Assembly resolution on international trade and development should not attempt to tackle complex subjects still under discussion by expert trade negotiators in Geneva.  Instead, it should send a strong, overarching message of political support, underlining the importance of the early and successful conclusion of the Round for improving the prospects for economic growth and development.  At the present critical time, a consensual outcome on a resolution that sent a clear, succinct and strong message would be significant.


GOPAL POKHREL ( Nepal) said the impasse in the Doha Round negotiations exposed a weakness of the global trading system that needed the international community’s urgent attention.  Nepal hoped that a deal would be reached with the full participation of least developed countries and which addressed and incorporated their interests.  Nepal was alarmed that least developed countries had neither been able to translate growth into poverty reduction nor expand their share in world trade.  They would not be able to do so unless trade bottlenecks were addressed.  But after the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting’s agreement to provide duty- and quota-free market access to 97 per cent of exports from least developed countries, there was still no assurance that their exports, such as textiles and garments, would be covered.  It was critical that all exports from least developed countries be provided with duty- and quota-free market access into the markets of developing and developed countries.


Trade could be used not only for economic growth, but also for human development, he said, adding that the effective use of special and differential treatment must be enhanced.  Nepal had its own challenges in benefiting from trade.  As a World Trade Organization member, the country had regional and multilateral trade arrangements that triggered the nominal growth rate of exports, while its imports grew more robustly, thereby widening its trade deficit.  The Government had, therefore, placed an emphasis on economic diplomacy with a view to mobilizing economic cooperation and trade expansion and diversification.  As Nepal was currently undergoing a critical political and socio-economic transformation, the Government faced a big task of physical infrastructure reconstruction and economic restructuring.  Continued and enhanced development cooperation with the international community would be crucial to Nepal’s endeavour to sustain peace and advance the development discourse.


HASSAN BAHLOULI, Special Adviser, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said reinforcing trade capacities among developing countries was one of the agency’s three priorities.  UNIDO had helped developing countries to build production capacities, meet internationally accepted norms and standards, establish national capacities, and strengthen links through the rationalization of customs procedures and mechanisms to facilitate trade.  The agency also played an active role in working towards reinforcing trade capacities to better coordinate the United Nations system in those areas.


He said UNIDO had regional programmes, including one in the Mekong Basin and elsewhere in Asia.  It had also provided assistance in, among other things, management services, social responsibility standards and food-product standards, besides helping the cotton industry in Africa.  For developing countries to have better access to investment and technology, UNIDO was helping them establish a climate for investment.  For instance, there were 380 opportunities in Africa, which UNIDO had offered to Chinese investors in 2005, and, as a result, there were more increasing technology transfers between China and India and the African countries.  UNIDO was also organizing a conference for industry and trade ministers next month, under the theme “How to foster trade for the least developing countries”.


The Committee concluded its general discussion on international trade and development and took up sustainable development, with its Secretary drawing attention to a note by the Secretariat on the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests (document A/C.2/62/L.5), which was due for action at a later date under agenda item 54.


She said the Economic and Social Council, at its resumed substantive session on 17 October, had recommended a draft resolution on entitled “Non-legally binding instrument on al types of forests” to the General Assembly for approval.


Introduction of Reports


JOHN HOLMES, United NationsUnder-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, as well as Chair of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (document A/62/320) and on the result of the Global Survey of Early Warning Systems (document A/62/340).


He said more people were threatened by natural hazards and extreme weather today than at any other time in history, as had been exemplified by massive floods across Asia and much of Africa.  Central America, Viet Nam and Haiti were the most recent to suffer.  The link between climate change and the increased number and intensity of such extreme weather-related events seemed clear.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had stated that such changes were already starting to become evident in different parts of the world.


Urban settlements were also a growing focus of disaster risk, he said, stressing that the urgency of implementing the Hyogo Framework was more important than ever.  It was necessary to emphasize adaptation, of which disaster risk was a crucial part, as well as on the fundamental task of mitigation.  Despite some good progress at all levels, the world was not on track to achieve the goals of the Hyogo Framework, which were essential to meting the Millennium Development Goals.  At present, 38 States had set up national platforms to reduce disaster risk, and 109 Governments had designated official focal points to implement the Framework.  Stakeholders had improved strategies and mechanisms to stimulate and coordinate disaster reduction and support actors at different levels.


Still, the world was not yet in a position to achieve the Framework’s proposed outcome to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015, he said.   Clear targets were needed and the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which had met in June, was a notable step taken during the report period.  The Platform’s wide and active participation reflected the increasing public interest in the disaster-risk reduction.  Last year, good progress had been made with the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, launched by the World Bank in collaboration with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in September 2006.  It was a major new instrument for helping low- and middle-income countries at high risk to increase investment in risk reduction and management.  Also encouraging were new donor policies to increase funding for disaster-risk reduction.


He said the Secretary-General’s report on the Global Survey of Early Warning Systems concluded that, while some warning systems were well advanced, there were numerous gaps and shortcomings, especially in developing countries and in terms of effectively reaching and serving those at risk.  The survey recommended development of a globally comprehensive early warning system, rooted in existing systems and capacities, and proposed specific action to build national people-centred systems.


KWAME SUNDARAM JOMO, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, delivered a statement on behalf of Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noting that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change and Al Gore was the third time in four years that it had been awarded to individuals and organizations dedicated to sustainable development.  In recognizing the inextricable link between development and peace, the Nobel Committee had reminded the international community once again of the broader value and contributions of sustainable development.


He said this year also marked the twentieth anniversary of the Brundtland report “Our Common Future”, which had made a significant contribution to raising global awareness of sustainable development.  After Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and Johannesburg in 2002, the concept of sustainable development had evolved into an overarching framework for promoting economic growth, advancing social development, and protecting the environment.  The 2005 World Summit had reaffirmed that framework.


Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg outcomes (document A/62/262), he said Governments and others involved in implementation were focusing increasingly on interlinkages and cross-cutting issues.  They were ensuring broad participation in implementation, especially by local stakeholders.  Member States, the United Nations system and other implementation actors, including major groups, should stay on that implementation track while aiming for accelerated progress.


Turning to small island developing States, he introduced the report on that subject (document A/62/279), emphasizing that building their capacity to meet the challenges of vulnerability to natural disasters, to social and economic impacts of climate change, and to the vicissitudes of global markets should remain a top priority for Member States, the United Nations system, as well as regional and subregional institutions, with contributions from major group stakeholders.


He said the further development and increased use of renewable energy offered multiple benefits for sustainable development, and the international community should strive to substantially increase the global share of renewable energy.  Partnerships for sustainable development of renewable energy could play an important role in that regard, through facilitating further development of  renewable energy, wider dissemination of knowledge and information on renewable energy, and expediting transfer of renewable energy technologies to development countries.


At the fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in May, he recalled, significant progress had been made on energy and climate change.  However, delegates had remained divided on several issues, including time-bound targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.  For the first time in its history, the Commission had concluded its session without reaching consensus.  It was imperative that the international community, through the Second Committee, reaffirm its commitment to a strengthened Commission and to the important but difficult objective of achieving consensus.  The Commission’s work, with its emphasis on an integrated and balanced approach to thematic issues and its sharp focus on implementation, had never been more important.


LUC GNACADJA, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Convention, contained in annex II of document A/62/276, saying today’s major challenges to the treaty included making it a systemic and worldwide response to environmental issues affecting land and ecosystems, including linkages with the sister Rio Conventions, and translating political commitments into concrete and substantial actions.  The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was mostly known as an instrument for sustainable development at the national and regional levels in more than 100 countries where desertification was putting 1.2 billion people at risk.  However, it was also an instrument to tackle global environmental issues.


He said it would be crucial for the international community to recognize that desertification and land degradation must be addressed urgently to adapt countries to climate change, mitigate its effects and strengthen their resilience.  Combating land degradation, desertification and drought while preserving soil health not only contributed to sustainable livelihoods and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, it also provided a systemic basis to strengthen the resilience of ecosystems, secure delivery of their services, preserve wetlands, protect biodiversity, and promote mitigation and adaptation to climate change.


It was clear that under the emerging scenarios of climate change and related natural disasters such as flash floods, forest fires and sand storms, as well as national resources scarcity, the Convention to combat desertification emerged as a strategic response to address those challenges, he said.  Political commitments must, therefore, be translated into concrete actions to have a systemic and worldwide response to desertification and land degradation.


HALLDOR THORGEIRSSON, Director, Sustainable Development Mechanisms, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, on behalf of Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, introduced the report of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat on the United Nations Climate Change Conference and its follow-up (document A/62/276), saying 2007 had seen sea change in climate-change politics between the 2006 Nairobi event and the upcoming Bali Conference.  There had been much build-up of political momentum on climate change, including the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Secretary-General’s High-Level Event on Climate Change in September, which had concluded with a strong call for scaled-up adaptation, including increased funding for it, through mechanisms such as the Adaptation Fund under a future climate-change regime.


Although good progress had been made under the 2007 Vienna Climate Change Talks and the Climate Change Convention Dialogue on long-term cooperative action to address climate change, he said, a comprehensive, enhanced international response to climate change, complemented by national and regional efforts, was urgently needed after the expiration of first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.  At the High-Level Event, world leaders had broadly recognized that current levels of mitigation would not suffice and that there was a need for much deeper emission reductions by industrialized countries, which must continue to take the lead in that respect.  They had also noted the importance of reducing deforestation emissions and stressed the urgent need to scale up technological assistance to developing countries.  Many had noted that an enhanced carbon market could provide flexibility that would contribute to a cost-effective transition to a low-emission economy and mobilize resources to provide incentives to developing countries.  The Bali Conference would deal with the ongoing challenges to ending deforestation, implementing adaptation, implementation of the Adaptation Fund, and diffusing and transferring mitigation and adaptation technology.


OLIVIER JALBERT, Principal Officer, Social, Economic and Legal Matters, of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, on behalf of Executive Secretary Ahmed Djoghlaf, introduced the report of the secretariat (document A/62/276), noting that the Convention had entered a new phase of enhanced implementation and strengthened collaboration with the United Nations regional economic commissions.  Partnerships with other biodiversity-related conventions were growing, as evidenced by the adoption of the Joint Work Plan with the Convention on Wetlands.  The Convention’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice had decided progressively to integrate advice on the potential impact of climate change on biodiversity into each of the Convention’s work programmes.  It had also taken up the emerging issue of biofuel production and its potential impact on biodiversity, and adopted a procedure to introduce and consider such issues to ensure timely advice on biodiversity developments.


He said the Working Group on Review of Implementation of the Convention had held its second meeting in July and adopted several recommendations on developing and implementing national biodiversity strategies and action plans, including the need to link them to other national and sectoral planning processes.  A total of 143 countries were parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which aimed to ensure the safe transfer of living modified organisms.  Progress was being made on developing a liability regime under the Protocol.  In March, representatives from 21 cities worldwide had adopted the Curitiba Declaration on Cities and Biodiversity, which recognized the importance of municipal governments to maintain healthy ecosystems.  Mayors worldwide planned to form a Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity, to be presented at the Ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention in June 2007.


JUANITA CASTAÑO, Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) New York Office, introduced the report of the agency’s Governing Council at its twenty-fourth session (document A/62/25), recalling the recent launch of the UNEP Global Environment Outlook at the United Nations and in some 40 locations worldwide.  The intricate links between human activities, development and the environment created the opportunity to use increasing knowledge of those linkages for the transition towards sustainable development.  Financing for development also came into play, as only sustainable development and the sustainable use of natural resources could provide a way forward.


She said the twenty-fourth session, attended by ministers and heads of delegations from 140 Member States, had debated the themes of globalization, the environment and United Nations reform.  The deliberations had sparked suggestions concerning UNEP following up on trade and the environment, and the uses of economic instruments to achieve sustainability.  Among the many decisions taken at the session was one asking the General Assembly to declare 2010-2020 the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification.  UNEP was taking United Nations coordination and collaboration seriously, and had embarked on a close alliance with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to address the poverty and environment nexus.  Deliberations in the General Assembly would be crucial for creating and maintaining momentum for change and establishing a road map with clear and timely signposts to help meet the challenges ahead.


MOHAMED OMAR, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office with the United Nations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the status of sustainable mountain development (document A/62/292).  He said that as diverse as mountain ecosystems were, they were exceedingly fragile.  Every day mountains were threatened by the effects of climate change, exploitative mining and unsound agriculture practice, while mountain people struggled to meet their food needs at high altitudes.  A disproportionate number of the world’s more than 840 million chronically undernourished people lived in mountains habitats.  According to FAO data, as many as 245 million rural mountain people in developing and transition countries were at risk of, or actually experienced, hunger and food insecurity.  Despite growing awareness and many positive results, mountain regions faced key challenges to achieving sustainable development and alleviating poverty in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals.  Fragile mountain systems faced growing demands for water and other natural resources, the consequences of global climate change, tourism growth, increasing rates of migration, conflict and the pressures of industry, mining and agriculture.


FAO continued to help countries find solutions to mountain problems, he said.  During the International Year of Mountains, the agency had supported the creation of 78 national committees in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Near East and North Africa, and North America to lead observance of the Year and initiate concrete action at the country level.  The same national committees had been evolving into more permanent bodies and national mechanisms to effect change on the ground.  Opportunities to forge change in the world’s mountains had never been greater, and the Mountain Partnership, launched at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development, was a framework for enhancing long-term cooperation and commitment to sustainable mountain development.  As of October 2007, 48 countries, 15 intergovernmental organizations and 81 major groups had joined it.


SUZANNE BILELLO, Senior Public Information and Liaison Officer, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the progress of preparations for the International Year of Planet Earth, 2008 (document A/62/276), and said science was an essential component in the continuing development of a modern knowledge-based society, and that Governments and policymakers worldwide were confronted with rapidly changing social and natural environments.  Meanwhile, with fewer students selecting geosciences courses, earth scientists feared a pending collapse of the geologic educational infrastructure worldwide.


She said UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences were taking the lead in preparations for the Year by raising public and political awareness of the central place that Earth materials held in everyday life.  They had issued a joint statement, invited intergovernmental, international, national and private space organizations to make their observations systems available to support the Year, and encouraged industries, international organizations and foundations to join the initiative.  In addition, a secretariat for the Year had been created and a website launched.  As of September 2007, national committees on the Year had been established in 50 countries and regions around the world, with preparations to reach another 20 or more countries.


TADANORI INOMATA, Inspector, Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations System, introduced the Secretary-General’s note transmitting that body’s report, “Towards a United Nations humanitarian assistance programme for disaster response and reduction:  lessons learned from the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster” (documents A/61/699-E/2007/8 and Add.1).  The review aimed to strengthen the Organization’s capacity to coordinate and support humanitarian assistance for disaster reduction and response through integrated programmes, resource management and coordination, and by streamlining and standardizing operational, administrative and financial practices.  The report identified several lessons learned from the tsunami, including the Organization’s lack of a governance and management framework to cope with large-scale disasters, its fragmented system of partial governance provided by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Consolidated Appeals Process, the dichotomy between relief and recovery through mitigation stages that hampered the transition to recovery, and its lack of transparency and accountability in the use of resources.


He said humanitarian resources had ranged from $1.6 billion to $4.1 billion annually over the first part of the present decade, accounting for almost 30 per cent of United Nations system resources for operational activities for development.  The international community was still unclear about the use of $13.6 billion committed through the Tsunami Flash Appeals, particularly for the recovery and reconstruction stages.  Such findings confirmed that the current humanitarian system was structurally complex and must be consolidated.  The system must ensure a seamless transition of assistance through the disaster-management stages, Member States’ ownership over the management of assistance, stable resource levels to build up the core capacity of the United Nations Secretariat to better coordinate central support services, and increased transparency and oversight of resources.  The report proposed several reforms in that regard.


The Committee then began its general discussion on sustainable development.


Statements


ILYAS AHMED BILOUR (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said simultaneous action was needed to address challenges related to the three pillars of sustainable development.  The fact that poverty was rampant globally and rising in some countries only led greater urgency to the quest for sustainable and development-oriented solutions to the problems of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment.


He said the speedy implementation of Agenda 21 and other agreements was of key importance.  Hopefully, the Commission on Sustainable Development would be able to agree on development-oriented policy options and actions with a built-in mechanism for follow-up.  On the follow-up to the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, the Group of 77 was concerned, among other things, that no action had been taken to implement the General Assembly’s mandate to strengthen the Small Island Developing States Unit in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which would provide the assistance those countries needed to implement the Strategy and the Barbados Programme of Action.  Regarding the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, developed countries should help developing countries by providing support, resources and capacity-building.


On the protection of the global climate for present and future generations, he demanded urgent global action and responses to the serious climate change-related risks and challenges facing least developing countries, small island developing States, landlocked developing countries, countries in Africa and disaster-prone developing countries.  On the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Group of 77 requested that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and its agencies work with countries to build capacity to facilitate ease of access to GEF funding.  On promoting new and renewable sources of energy, the increased use and promotion of those sources for sustainable development could make a significant contribution towards the achievement of sustainable development and the internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Goals.


Implementation had become the “Achilles heel” of the global development agenda, he said, noting that, ironically, the implementation of what had already been agreed upon globally remained the biggest challenge to sustainable development.  It was critically important to scale up efforts to rectify that and to reach an early, successful and development-oriented conclusion to the Doha Round.  It was to be hoped and expected that the challenges of global sustainable development would be addressed in an integrated and coordinated manner.


Ms. CASTANO, United Nations Environment Programme, said, in response to a question by the representative of Pakistan regarding the delay in distributing the Secretary-General’s report on the oil slick on Lebanese shores, that there were two reasons, the first being that it had taken time to compile the findings of multiple agencies.  The second delay had resulted from the time required for further consultations with stakeholders in Lebanon.


CHEICK SIDI DIARRA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the 2005 Mauritius meeting recognized that the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action had faltered and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals depended on effective implementation of the Mauritius Strategy.  The UNCTAD economic vulnerability index had classified small island developing States as 34 per cent more economically disadvantaged than other developing countries, largely due to their exposure to natural disasters and a high concentration of their exports.  Since the Mauritius meeting, hurricanes, cyclones and tsunamis had ravaged small islands, serving as a stark reminder of their vulnerability.  International cooperation and partnerships were critical to their success.


While coordinated actions were needed at the national, regional and global levels to ensure implementation of the wide-ranging Barbados Programme of Action, he said, intergovernmental regional organizations, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Indian Ocean Commission and the Pacific Islands Forum, also played a pivotal role.  This year, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) had embarked on preparations to address the concerns of small island developing States at deliberations that would result in a post-2012 climate change regime.  Such issues as adaptation, mitigation, technology and finance to address global warming and sea-level rise must be addressed at the Bali Conference in December and the proposed 2009 meeting in Denmark towards reaching a post-Kyoto international agreement on climate change.


MIGUEL SILVESTRE (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said a framework to meet the challenge of stabilizing the Earth’s atmosphere must be built on the shared vision that global mean temperature increase must be limited to no more than 2degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and that global emissions must be reduced to at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.  The European Union had already made a firm commitment to reduce emissions by at least 20 per cent by 2020.  It was also willing to commit to a 30 per cent reduction compared to 1990, as it contributed to a global, comprehensive agreement for the period beyond 2012, provided that other developed countries committed to comparable reductions and more economically advanced developing countries contributed adequately.  He said the European Union was actively integrating its climate change and energy strategies by adopting clear and ambitious targets for renewables and energy efficiency, enshrined in the Energy Policy for Europe and in the Energy Action Plan for the 2007-2009 period.  Although challenging, those goals were technologically feasible and economically affordable.  It was also important to increase sustainable rural development, combat desertification and drought, strengthen rural-urban links, and enhance the integrated planning and management of land resources in conjunction with vigorous efforts to reduce poverty, improve the global environment and tackle climate change.  All those challenges were interlinked, particularly in Africa.


The European Union was already constructively engaged in preparing the upcoming sixteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development to ensure that future cycles led to clear, action-oriented outcomes, he said.  It was regrettable that it was not possible to adopt the programme and budget for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought for the 2008-2009 biennium, but the European Union was confident that all parties were committed to a speedy solution during the November session in New York, so that the Secretariat could start implementing the agreed decisions and reforms.  The European Union called for urgent action to combat destructive practices and immediate threats to biodiversity, taking into account existing institutional and legislative frameworks.  Special attention was needed for adaptation and technology to help small island developing States mitigate the effect of climate change.  The European Union was promoting the Global Partnership Alliance, particularly to help small island States and least developed countries in that regard.


JANINE COYE-FELSON (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning it with the Group of 77 and China, said the region’s economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being derived from natural resources.  Its ecosystems not only provided food, fresh water and fuels, but also contributed to the maintenance of defences against natural disasters.  Climate change had exerted, and would continue to exert, severe pressure on island biodiversity, and the debate on climate change was, therefore, an existential one.


Given the region’s extreme vulnerability to climate change, she said, efforts were under way to mainstream adaptation in development.  CARICOM called upon the United Nations and the international community to increase support for those efforts through additional and predictable financial and technical resources.  The region also needed ease of access to adequate financing and support for the new programme of work on island biodiversity under the Convention on Biological Diversity.  CARICOM also urged the removal of barriers to the use of renewable energy, for the fostering of its development and commercialization, and for the development and transfer of disaster-risk reduction technologies.  It also called for support for the Caribbean Renewable Energy Programme.


She said renewable energy sources in small-island and low-lying coastal developing States presented a special case for environment and development for which the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy were of vital importance.  While CARICOM welcomed efforts within the United Nations system to mainstream the Mauritius Strategy, the Small Island Developing States Unit was yet to be strengthened, despite a General Assembly mandate.


HJÁLMAR HANNESSON ( Iceland) said climate change and desertification remained inextricably linked and had cost his country 50 per cent of its vegetation and 95 per cent of its tree cover over the last century.  Iceland had gradually reversed that process and had recently decided to fund an international training programme in land restoration and soil conservation.  A three-year-long pilot project had begun this year, and in 2008 six to eight experts from developing countries would take part in a six-month training programme in Iceland.


Improving energy services in developing countries was one key to eradicating poverty, with the increased use of renewable energy offering economic, environmental, security and reliability benefits.  Iceland’s own journey from poverty to economic growth had been fuelled by harnessing the country’s renewable resources, and today geothermal energy and hydropower accounted for more than 70 per cent of its primary energy consumption.  The country had a long-standing commitment to international cooperation on sustainable energy use, and had supported the development of geothermal potential in Uganda and Nicaragua.


However, more must be done to address critical climate change challenges facing small island developing States, he said.  The Government of Iceland was organizing an upcoming high-level forum for officials, business leaders, scientists and university experts on Iceland’s and small island developing States’ approach to the sustainable use of natural resources.  An Icelandic investment fund, Reykjavik Energy Invest, had invested $150 million in geothermal development in Africa over the next five years, starting with Djibouti.


GEORGE PATAKI ( United States) said climate change and energy security, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, and the question of international environmental governance were important sustainable development issues.  As a major economy and greenhouse gas emitter, the United States had taken the climate change challenge seriously.  Last month, at the request of the President, the Secretary of State had hosted the inaugural Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security, a process through which the United States would work with the world’s largest energy users in developed and developing countries.  At the first meeting, the President had proposed the creation of a new international clean technology fund to help developing nations harness the power of clean energy technologies.


He said all sustainable development plans should incorporate disaster-reduction strategies, and the United States looked forward to hearing more about the International Strategy’s new work plan to better identify and support specific disaster-reduction projects.  The United States also supported incorporating environmental concerns into development work.  The current system of international environmental governance, with its independent treaty bodies and institutions, had several strengths, including flexibility and efficiency, and a new environment institution was not needed.  The existing system of multilateral environmental agreements reflected a good balance of coordination and decentralization, and there was no benefit in creating a supranational authority to add an additional bureaucratic layer to interfere with the work of those agreements.  While some argued that there was a lack of coordination among the various agreements, there was indeed “spontaneous” cooperation and coordination among them, and the Second Committee should fully respect their independent legal status.


DUONG HOAI NAM ( Viet Nam) said the number of multifaceted natural disasters and hazards had tripled over the past three decades, and decisive global action must be pursued in the context of the international development agenda.  The implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 set clear priorities to strengthen the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.  Institutional pillars supported disaster-risk reduction by reinforcing partnerships between governmental and non-governmental organizations and between the public and private sectors, with the United Nations playing a leading role in making the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction system a real multi-stakeholder vehicle for promoting and catalysing widespread engagement.


Noting that his country was located in a natural hazard-prone region, he recalled that Typhoon Lekima had recently slammed into Viet Nam’s central coast, killing 10 people and destroying hundreds of houses.  Fully aware that disasters could destroy decades of development gains, the Government had given high priority to disaster-risk reduction efforts, investing enormously in strengthening public infrastructure, coastal facilities and homes to ensure they could withstand extreme weather, flooding and rising water.  It had improved its land and water management policies and expanded its disaster-education programmes.  At the same time, the Government was working with countries in the region and with United Nations specialized agencies to establish early warning systems.


ISMAT JAHAN (Bangladesh), noting that his country was particularly vulnerable to climate change due to its location, said that, as a low-lying delta in one of the world’s highest-rainfall areas, Bangladesh was chronically prone to flooding.  This year, one of the worst floods in recent times had inundated one third of the country, a phenomenon that would reoccur unless its causes were addressed.   Bangladesh had developed a comprehensive framework to make climate-risk management and adaptation mainstreaming operational, but there was a strong need to address its challenges globally, regionally and subregionally.


Forecasting, early warning and information-sharing could be very effective in reducing the damage inflicted by natural calamities, she said.  By some estimates, a one-metre rise in sea levels would submerge about one third of Bangladesh, uprooting 25 million to 30 million people.  The first step must be to recognize the responsibility of all nations to assist refugees from climate change.  The post-Kyoto regime should ensure they were granted the necessary legal rights for recovery and rehabilitation.


She called for drastic measures to reduce emissions from energy, transport and other sectors, stressing the need for urgent measures to mainstream climate concerns into development planning.  Bangladesh urged all major emitters to collectively set up and implement a global target to stabilize the atmosphere.  The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, though critically important, was not reaching all developing countries equally.  The Nairobi Framework should help build capacities in developing countries that were not yet able to access the Mechanism.  There was a need for renewed efforts to promote “carbon neutral” economic growth.


HASSAN YOUSIF NGOR ( Sudan) said desertification was among the world’s most pressing challenges and welcomed the adoption of the 10-year strategic plan and framework to enhance implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2008-2018).  It was to be hoped that the 2008 extraordinary session of the Conference of Parties would reach fruitful conclusions.  Desertification was the greatest environmental challenge owing to the degradation of nature’s life-support systems, which posed imminent threats to domestic, regional and international stability by impeding efforts to eradicate poverty and sparking competition over scarce resources.


He said his country, as part of the Sahel region, had suffered from drought and desertification for more than three decades, losing an average of 589,000 hectares of forest per year between 1990 and 2000.  Those forests had been depleted largely to meet the growing demands for fuel wood and timber or for agricultural lands.  Those problems had been exacerbated by factors including the impact of climate change, rapid population growth, civil war and the influx of refugees from neighbouring countries.


The Sudan was a founding member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development [IGADD, now the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, or IGAD], he said.  That body had been created in 1986 by the Heads of State and Governments of six Eastern African countries following the severe recurring droughts and natural disasters that had plagued the region between 1974 and 1984.  The most important lesson learned from IGADD was that drought and desertification could not be effectively dealt with in isolation from other economic, social and political dimensions.


ALEXANDER PANKIN ( Russian Federation) noted the positive developments in the Committee’s discussions on the need to enhance and improve environmental governance.  The seventh session of the United Nations Forum on Forests had made important decisions on implementation of the non-legally binding instrument, and the recent High-Level Event on Climate Change had illustrated the existence of political will for joint international efforts to counter climate change.  The upcoming session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Bali Conference would play an important part in providing a road map to guide the field after 2012, and the Russian Federation was ready to be an active player in that regard.  It supported the continuing search for effective solutions and welcomed the results of the most recent conferences of parties to the Convention on Biodiversity and Climate Change Convention.


International cooperation was vital in order to cope with the growing number and scale of natural disasters, he said.  It was necessary to retain the formal, non-politicized nature of the dialogue and to set up effective working relationships to mitigate the negative effects of natural disasters and reduce risk.  The Russian Federation supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation on integrating activities on disaster reduction into the United Nations system as a whole, particularly into the work of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  The Russian Federation also supported the World Bank’s move to set up a global facility on disaster reduction and recovery, since partners in international cooperation should work together to improve awareness of problems.


LLANIO GONZALEZ ( Cuba) said the world must act now to deal with pressing global climate-change issues.  Glaciers were withdrawing, water for human consumption was becoming contaminated, and scarce, non-renewable vital resources were being squandered.  However, there was no sign that the countries with the largest financial and technological resources had the intention and necessary political will to reverse that situation.  Developed countries consumed 61 per cent of the world’s oil, emitted 63 per cent of its carbon dioxide and were responsible for 76 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions that had accumulated since 1850.  Those countries must meet their commitments without further delay.


He said that alongside the lack of financial resource and insufficient environmental financial mechanisms, technology transfer and capacity-building continued to be the main challenges and obstacles preventing developing countries from achieving their Agenda 21 objectives.  To achieve effective and adequate implementation of Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Millennium Goals, it was essential to work within a framework of true and genuine international multilateral cooperation, based on the principles of solidarity, complementariness and mutual benefit.  Special interest must be paid to small island developing States, taking into account their lack of water resources, vulnerability to natural disasters, and limited national capacities to deal with sanitation and sewage treatment.  The development of technology and capacity-building, as well as the improvement of human resources, was needed.  “The ecological debt we have to humanity involves us all”, he said.  “It is a collective duty to pay it off.”


JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU ( Benin) said his country had taken bold steps towards addressing environmental problems and sustainable development, including the creation of an Environmental Action Plan.  But combating poverty required political will and the fair use of available, predictable and adequate resources.  Desertification, particularly in Africa, exacerbated the problems of poverty and led to migration and food insecurity.  Climate change, desertification and the impoverishment of biodiversity were worldwide problems that affected Benin, as well as other developing countries.


He said his country was adopting the legal, financial and social measures to address those issues.  The Government supported investment in the environment sector in the form of raising awareness, integrating environmental strategies, and decentralizing the sustainable management of the environment.  It was necessary to redouble efforts to bolster capacity and financial resources in order to adapt to climate change.  Technology transfer was also needed with regard to energy sources.  Climate change challenges should not remain on paper.  Resources were needed to push forward efforts to implement environment-related conventions, so as to enable countries to create the conditions for sustainable development in all its social, economic and environmental dimensions.


CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, stressed the importance of grasping the underlying moral imperative that all, without exception, had a grave responsibility to protect the environment.  The environmental crisis was a moral challenge that called people to examine how they used and shared the goods of the earth and what they passed on to future generations.  It exhorted people to live in harmony with the environment, which was inseparable from such questions as energy and economics, peace and justice, national interests and international solidarity.  It was necessary to consider that, in most countries, the poor and powerless bore most directly the brunt of environmental degradation, living in polluted lands, near toxic waste dumps, or squatted on public lands and other people’s properties without access to basic services.  The efforts of subsistence farmers to eke out a bare existence perpetuated the vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation.  Extreme want was not only the worst of all pollutions; it was itself a great polluter.


However, encouraging signs of greater public awareness of the interconnectedness of the challenges of mankind had been emerging, he said.  Environmental degradation caused by certain models of economic development made many realize that development was not achieved through a quantitative increase of production, but through a balanced approach to production, respect for the right and dignity of workers and environmental protection.  It was incumbent upon the authorities to ensure that promising signs translated into public policies capable of arresting, reversing and preventing environmental decay.  Laws were not enough.  Behavioural change required personal commitment and demanded a more equitable relationship between rich and poor countries, with special obligations on large-scale industrial structures, in developed and developing countries, to seriously adopt environmental protection measures.


XENIA VON LILIEN-WALDAU, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said environmental damage could be halted if ways were found to pay poor farmers for the environmental services they provided, including dryland management, for instance.  Good land management not only mitigated climate change, but was also an effective way to reduce rural poverty and increase development.  Hopefully, the strategic plan to enhance implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification would focus attention on land degradation.  Notably, that same plan had assigned priority to simplifying the reporting process of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention, so that its reports could be comparable across regions and over time.


Reiterating IFAD’s commitment to host the Global Mechanism [which works with States parties to increase the effectiveness of existing financial mechanisms], she noted that GEF had expanded IFAD’s access to resources, in recognition of its capacity to work in such areas as biodiversity and climate change.  The recent inclusion of land use, land-use change and forestry in the GEF “climate change window” opened interesting prospects for affected countries to mitigate the effects of climate change.  Hopefully, a link could be made between certain land-use practices and carbon emissions savings.  With soil being the largest reservoir of terrestrial carbon, poor rural farmers were a critical part of the solution to the world’s environmental crises.  The Desertification Convention should use upcoming sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development to highlight the issue of sustainable land management.


PINEHAS N. ALUTENI ( Namibia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that for his country, implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification was a matter of life and death.  Namibia had established projects that could result in ecological restoration as a solution to degraded lands.  Integrated ecosystem management strategies were needed to address the underlying causes of land degradation.  The Government, with support from GEF and non-governmental organizations, had established the national Country Pilot Partnership for Integrated Sustainable Land Management, with the goal of reducing and reversing the land degradation process, and thus delivering significant benefits to local communities.  However, Namibia’s deserts sustained numerous exotic species and provided opportunities for adventurous tourists.


He said development would always be elusive until the poor, particularly the rural poor, gained access to energy services.  For Namibia, there were possibilities for new and renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and biomass energy, and the Government was presently implementing its Barrier Removal to Namibian Renewable Energy programme.  The programme intended, among other things, to provide rural people with access to off-grid solar energy, promote solar water heating, increase the use of solar water pumps in the agricultural sector, and raise public awareness of the benefits and cost-effectiveness of new and renewable sources of energy.  Because one of the country’s main challenges was the high initial investment required, the Government had established a solar revolving fund that offered subsidies to microfinancing.


R.M. MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said it was difficult to get people to “live sustainably” when their main concern was survival and escaping poverty, and noted that threats posed by climate change only added to that challenge.  Hopefully, the upcoming conference in Bali, Indonesia, would launch a new era in climate change, by securing long-term political investment for tackling the problem.  Indeed, action on climate change required changes to the way in which people lived and called for a balanced response between mitigation and adaptation.


He said developed countries should continue to take the lead in deepening their commitments to carbon reduction and underscored the necessity also to support the efforts of developing countries to become “clean economies”.  For its part, Indonesia had convened a meeting on tropical rainforests during the September High-Level Event on Climate Change, to highlight deforestation within the context of a future climate change regime.  Equally important was the need to strengthen the disaster-risk reduction capacity of individual countries through the provision of predictable and stable financial resources.  For some countries, the economic costs of disasters had “severely constrained the achievement of internationally agreed development goals”.


CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said sustainable development constituted a challenge and priority imposed on countries on the basis of their wealth in natural resources, as was the case with her own country.  Colombia’s special location between the tropics, the multiplicity of its different geographical spaces, its climatic variety, and the profusion of its water and forest resources were among the factors that allowed the country to host such a diversity of life, ecosystems and species.  Colombia’s domestic policies were oriented to the sustainable use and management of natural resources, but they urgently needed more recognition by the international community and support from a global perspective.


Climate change had direct effects on the economic and social development perspectives of countries like Colombia, she said.  The Second Committee’s discussions must promote major international support for the adaptation needs of developing countries, and the international community should pay special attention to the promotion of renewable energy sources.  Regarding the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Colombia supported the strengthening of national efforts through the intensification of bilateral, regional and international cooperation, which would include technical and financial assistance, the promotion and strengthening of national institutional capacities countries, and contributions to the development of early warning systems.


THOMAS GASS ( Switzerland) said the final draft document of the fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, which had not been adopted, contained positive elements, but it was not sufficiently balanced and had fallen short of the sustainable development commitments already adopted by the international community, notably at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.  That lack of a result should be a warning to the international community on the need to breathe new life into the Commission so that it could fulfil its mandate.


He welcomed the decision to set up a working group to examine and evaluate options for stronger voluntary measures and the use of existing or new international legal instruments on mercury.  The adoption of a UNEP water strategy that stressed the importance of land-based ecosystems for the integrated management of water resources was also welcome.  Innovative economic instruments would become increasingly important in water management.


More efforts were needed to integrate disaster risk reduction, including ecosystems management and climate change adaptation, into sustainable development and poverty-reduction strategies, he said.  There was a need for an inclusive, multi-stakeholder approach that would build on each partner’s strengths while addressing substantive gaps at all levels.  Mountains were an important source of biodiversity, flood and soil protection, water quality and supply, carbon sequestration, avalanche protection, cultural landscapes and other outdoor recreation.  It was important to devise and strengthen pro-poor national and international policies and financing to compensate mountain peoples for such advantages.


LIU ZHITYONG ( China) said that, while Member States had made strides in coordinated economic development, the trend of global environmental degradation had yet to be reversed, and the lack of funding, technology and capacity in most developing countries remained the weakest link in global sustainable development.  At the national level, Governments should formulate sustainable development strategies, while the international community and developed countries fulfilled their commitments in financing and technology as soon as possible.  At the United Nations, the role of the Commission on Sustainable Development should be enhanced to provide better policy guidance and more effective programme coordination.


Regarding implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, he said, small island developing States still encountered special difficulties that must be addressed by the United Nations and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States.  Helping them realize sustainable development was a component of China’s South-South cooperation programme.  On the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, there was a need to improve and strengthen cooperation and policy coordination among the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.  China called on the international community to implement the Convention to Combat Desertification.


DATO RAZALI ISMAIL ( Malaysia) said the deteriorating environment, biodiversity loss, water crises, hazardous technologies and spreading desertification existed alongside a relentless pattern of unsustainable consumption.  The international community’s urgent commitment was needed at the highest level for the achievement of sustainable development goals.  A post-2012 agreement at the forthcoming Bali Conference would reflect the ability to address climate change and sustainable development issues.


Regarding natural disaster reduction, he said his country recognized that a majority of developing countries lacked the capacity and financial resources needed to minimize the impact of disasters.  Malaysia urged relevant entities of the United Nations to strengthen their coordination with Member States.  Developed countries should provide funds and facilitate the transfer of technologies to help developing countries address the loss of biodiversity, and Malaysia urged them, as well as GEF, to take a more proactive role in providing financial support for capacity-building.


On biopiracy, he said an equitable solution should be developed among those with abundant biodiversity resources and those with the financial means, scientific knowledge and technological expertise.  Desertification could only be reversed if far-reaching changes were made at the local and international levels, and countries affected by it should continue to receive assistance to implement programmes leading to sustainable land use.


JAVAD AMIN MANSOUR (Iran) expressed regret that the fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, held in May 2007, had failed to reach a consensus on setting policy options and practical measures on energy, industrial development, climate change and air/atmospheric pollution.  Future sessions were of key importance to success in achieving the Millennium Goals and required the international community’s attention.


Reaffirming UNEP’s central role on environmental issues, he noted, however, that the Bali Strategic Plan needed further attention, and that the international community, particularly developed countries, should extend financial assistance to the agency to implement that plan.  The recent High-Level Event on Climate Change had presented an important opportunity for the international community to exchange views, but any solution to the problem of climate change should not hamper social or economic development.  Iran welcomed the adoption of the 10-year strategic plan and framework to enhance the implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification by the Conference of Parties.  Concerning disaster reduction, Iran called for balanced treatment of all natural disasters, including geophysical and hydrological ones.


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For information media • not an official record