|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission on Sustainable Development
20th & 21st Meetings (AM & PM)
COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAYS GROUNDWORK FOR POLICY-SETTING DEBATE
NEXT YEAR, AS IT CONCLUDES 2008 REVIEW SESSION
Member States Unanimously Adopt Decision on Challenges Facing Small Island States
Laying the groundwork for its policy-setting session next year, the Commission on Sustainable Development today wrapped up its comprehensive and broad-based review of what delegations hailed as an “extremely relevant and timely” agenda: agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification, and Africa.
Before the 53-member body, whose sixteenth session began on 5 May, was the Chairman’s two-part summary of the discussions, which aimed to facilitate next year’s policy debate. With spiralling prices for food staples and basic commodities taking a toll on millions of poor and unemployed people around the world, there was general agreement among delegations on the priority need to find long-term solutions to the structural problems that had led to the crisis. Such solutions should take into account the future impact of global warming, especially on small island States and Africa.
The summary stated that, while noting a range of factors, including population growth, unsustainable consumption and the shifting of crops for biofuel production, many delegations had said that the crisis called for profound changes in the agricultural system, stressing that productivity must increase to meet long-term trends in the surging demand for food. At the same time, agriculture must be more sustainable, farming practices must promote better land and soil management and modern technologies must reach small farmers. Delegations had also emphasized the need to recognize the paramount role of women and to involve them in measures to boost productivity and sustainability.
According to the summary, many African economies were heavily dependent on agriculture and delegations had called for concerted efforts to help the continent better manage natural resources, boost agricultural productivity and modernize its infrastructure. Finally, delegations had noted that effectively tackling matters regarding land, agriculture, rural development, drought, desertification and Africa required an integrated approach that took into account interlinked concerns such as water and sanitation; public-private partnerships; re-energized official development assistance; and the successful conclusion of the long-stalled Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations.
The Commission, which also examined the unique development challenges facing small island developing States, unanimously adopted a decision on “Review of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (document E/CN.17/2008/L.3), which recalled the decision taken at the Commission’s thirteenth session to hold a one-day review of the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, and decided that the day should be devoted “exclusively” to that review.
Tabling the text yesterday, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, the representative of Grenada led strong criticism of the Commission’s decision to schedule this year’s “SIDS’s Day” event in parallel with a day-long review of decisions taken during its thirteenth session on water and sanitation. During SIDS Day, held on Monday, speaker after speaker noted that the relegation of small island issues to a single meeting, held in parallel with other important talks, was an example of the lingering resistance to address the special needs of that category of countries.
During the Commission’s high-level dialogue on the way forward, which began on Wednesday and concluded today, many of the more than 30 participants stressed the importance of a concerted international response to the global food crisis. Noting that food security challenges had never been so severe, one speaker emphasized that international and national measures to confront them must be equal in magnitude. The efforts made so far were not enough and there was a need for a drastic systemic change in the structure of food production and trade. Highlighting the crucial role that the United Nations system could play in that response, many speakers particularly welcomed the Secretary-General’s recently established Task Force on food security.
Throughout the dialogue, agriculture was repeatedly cited as the backbone of many developing economies, as delegates emphasized its central role in lifting rural populations and national economies out of poverty. “Agriculture is the mother of all other arts; when agriculture is well conducted all other arts prosper; when agriculture is neglected all other arts decay,” said one speaker, quoting Xenophon. Above all, delegates underlined the need to scale up agricultural productivity while balancing the urgent need for bigger harvests with the environmental degradation that could result from unsustainable, exploitative farming.
In closing, Commission Chairperson Francis Nhema of Zimbabwe assured civil society participants, especially the youth delegates, that the United Nations was not giving up on its pursuit of a sustainable future for all. There had been a sense of humanity among the Commission’s participants during its deliberations, he said, adding that the session had been a victory for the world community. The sixteenth session had proved that it was possible to put a human face on the work of the United Nations.
Also today, the Commission heard from representatives of major groups -- children and youth; business and industry; farmers; indigenous peoples; local authorities; non-governmental organizations; scientific and technological communities; workers and trade unions; and women -- on their contributions to the implementation of the goals and targets of the thematic areas. One representative called for the next session to move the discussions from “talk shop to workshop”.
In other action today, the Commission adopted the draft report of its current session (document E/CN.17/2008/L.4), as introduced and orally amended by its Vice-Chairmperson and Rapporteur, Sasa Ojdanic of Serbia, with a view to its submission to the forthcoming substantive session of the Economic and Social Council. It also adopted the provisional agenda for the seventeenth session (document E/CN.17/2008/L.2). The Commission also took note of a document from the Secretary-General on the proposed strategic framework for 2010-2011: sub‑programme 4, Sustainable Development (document E/CN.17/2008/14.)
Additionally, the Commission elected, by acclamation, part of its Bureau for the seventeenth session. Gerda Verburg, Minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands was elected Chairperson and Javad Amin-Mansour of Iran was elected as one of the Vice-Chairpersons. The remaining members of the Bureau, to be proposed by the African States Group, the Latin American and Caribbean States Group and the Eastern European States Group, would be elected at a subsequent meeting.
Making concluding statements that underlined the pertinence of the Commission’s work in elaborating a coordinated response to the food crisis and bolstering the principles of sustainability and environmental stewardship were representatives from Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Iraq (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Grenada (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Canada, China, Israel, Ghana and the Russian Federation.
Commission Chairperson Nhema presided over today’s high-level debate, in which senior ministers and Government officials from Estonia, Kenya and New Zealand participated.
Representatives of Nicaragua, Morocco, Colombia, Argentina, Iran, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Bahamas, Australia, Mexico, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Botswana, Venezuela, Guinea, Bolivia, Belgium, Poland, Italy, Belarus, Gabon, Peru, Tajikistan, Kuwait, Libya, Guyana, Algeria, Sudan, Benin and Syria also made statements.
Also participating were representatives of the observer missions of the Holy See and Palestine.
The Commission also heard from representatives of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), International Organization of Migration, Food and Agricultural Organization and the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-Algae Spirulina against Malnutrition.
Commenting on Part II of the Chairman’s summary were representatives of Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Switzerland, Mexico, Namibia, India, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Iran, Thailand, United Republic of Tanzania, Russian Federation, Colombia, South Africa and Egypt.
Meeting this morning on the final day of its two-week sixteenth session, the Commission on Sustainable Development was expected to conclude its high-level debate, which opened on Wednesday.
HARRY LIIV, Deputy Secretary-General, Ministry of the Environment of Estonia, associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said all countries should share their best practices in good faith. In considering sustainable and rural development, a particular focus on water was of great importance, given agriculture’s level of water consumption. While Estonia’s water use had declined, the country needed to exert greater efforts to improve sanitation and prevent water pollution. Thus, it had initiated several water projects for those purposes. Estonia was also implementing a number of programmes with cross-sectoral benefits to improve agricultural development.
JAMES L. OLE KIYIAPI, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment of Kenya, associated himself with the African Group and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and said the principles of rural and agricultural development were so intertwined they must be tackled in concert. Kenya was making efforts to target critical land resources that had broad effects on local economies. It was also coordinating land use initiatives to promote relevant principles, promote land and water conversation and boost cross-sectoral coordination. The impacts of climate change would greatly affect food security, given the agricultural sector’s reliance on rain for irrigation.
The twin objectives of supporting growth in local livelihoods as well as environmental projects must be targeted together, he said. To that end, the Government was focusing its efforts on local initiatives and strengthening governance mechanisms. Without strong efforts to eradicate poverty, rural development gains would be hard to measure. As a continent, Africa would benefit more by focusing on land management and rural development, and by using international mechanisms to build effective national and institutional structures.
MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) said pending challenges in rural agriculture, land use, drought and desertification, as well as the situation in Africa and the small island developing States were enormous. The urgent need to ensure food for life must be discussed, as the basic human right to food was paramount. Never before had food security challenges been so high. International and national measures to confront them must be equal in magnitude. The efforts made so far were not enough, and there was a need for a drastic systemic change in the structure of food production and trade. Explanations fell short in describing both the effects and causes of the crisis.
In view of that, a number of countries had agreed to coordinate an initiative on food security and sovereignty, which had resulted in the Managua Summit, she said, noting that a request had been made for that meeting’s outcome documents to be circulated. They called for an end to agricultural subsidies in industrialized countries and the provision to producers of tools, machinery and increased agricultural inputs. There was also a need to prepare a plan of action pointing the way to increased production. Nicaragua called for the incorporation of the topic of food sovereignty into the agenda of the sixty-third session of the General Assembly.
HAMID CHABAR ( Morocco) said his country’s Government was committed to a process of reform based on sustained economic growth and leading to broad overall development. The Government had instituted a democratic approach that involved ordinary citizens in national efforts to identify priority areas for action, including poverty eradication and rural and agricultural development. Indeed, the agricultural sector was one of the most important areas of Morocco’s economy and the Government had moved to bolster it even further to the benefit of the country’s growing population. Morocco had adopted a “green” agriculture plan that aimed to modernize production methods, attract foreign investment and ensure protection of the environment. That 10-year strategy was also designed to boost economic growth and employment, and would allow Morocco to fulfil many of its food needs.
JAIRO MONTOYA ( Colombia) said the issue of food security should be addressed in a comprehensive manner, taking into account such fundamental issues as the imbalance in the multilateral trade system, the increase in oil prices and the growing demand for energy. The negative impact of climate change on agricultural productivity should also be taken into account. The Commission should evaluate concrete policy options in the adaptation and mitigation fields that would promote competitiveness in the agricultural and livestock sectors, such as the application of minimum tillage methods, the implementation of agro-forestry systems, and strategies to lower dependency on fossil fuels. Biofuel production should be examined objectively in the context of rural development.
Citing the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, he said that, under paragraph 40 of that document, the Commission should deepen its commitment to international cooperation in combating illicit crops, the cultivation of which caused deforestation, desertification, destruction of valuable ecosystems, and depletion of water resources. For each gram of cocaine consumed, four square metres of tropical forest must be cleared. Rivers and soil were contaminated with sulphuric acid, ammonium and vegetal waste. The international community must provide greater support for the huge efforts deployed by countries like Colombia to combat that problem through programmes of eradication and alternative rural development.
JORGE ARGUELLO ( Argentina) said protecting the environment and the pursuit of broader development were completely compatible. The key was adopting targeted development strategies and supporting them with plans and programmes that kept production and consumption at sustainable levels. The challenge for all developing countries would be to pursue development paths in stark contrast to those chosen by the larger industrialized countries, which had chased after growth with little regard for the environment. The most industrialized countries must now bear their share of the responsibility to help countries in the global south adapt to the negative impacts of climate change.
Underscoring the need to exercise caution in the use of biofuels, he said the political implications of the current food and commodity price crisis must be taken seriously. The international community must avoid protectionist positions and work together to ensure that the crisis was resolved equitably to the benefit of people in both the developing and developed worlds.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said the agricultural sector was suffering from inadequate funding, a lack of access to new technologies, the influx of non-indigenous seeds and inadequate water supply. The current food crisis cast doubt on the sustainability of biofuel development projects. In developing countries, pastoralism and aquaculture played a major role in providing people with the necessary protein, but the livelihoods of fish-farmers and pastoralists were usually no better than those of others in the rural areas. In Iran, the unprecedented cold weather and the 30 to 40 per cent reduction in rainfall last year had damaged the agricultural sector and reduced the country’s water resources.
Pointing out that one third of his country was covered by deserts, he said the people living there possessed invaluable traditional knowledge that helped them tackle various challenges. However, more frequent and prolonged drought cycles over the last few decades had imposed severe conditions on them and hindered national efforts towards development and environmental protection. Desertification could lead to migration and thus contribute to unsustainable urbanization.
He said there were a number of constraints affecting efforts by the Governments of developing countries to improve the living conditions of their people. They included the inadequacy of financial resources in relevant international mechanisms to combat desertification and land degradation, the stalemate in the Doha trade negotiations, insufficient official development assistance, and lack of access to new and appropriate technologies.
SOPHIA NYAMUDEZA ( Zimbabwe) said the Commission’s decision to focus on land, agriculture and Africa, among other topical issues, had been timely, especially considering that 25 of the world’s poorest countries were in Africa, the continent struggling most to attain the Millennium Development Goals. Zimbabwe agreed wholeheartedly with the repeated calls made over the past two weeks for increased investment in agriculture, as such a scaling-up would help strengthen agricultural production and promote food security.
She went on to say that Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, was struggling to meet its water and sanitation needs due to vexing challenges posed by climate change and poor infrastructure. Indeed, people in large portions of the country were dependent on water from unprotected wells. The Government, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), was providing local communities with training and materials to build wells, and boreholes were under construction in some areas.
Zimbabwe and other African countries were facing implementation challenges which required increased and more dependable official development assistance and enhanced south–south cooperation, among other things, she said. Furthermore, the successful conclusion of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations would go a long way to answering serious questions of market access for products and goods from Africa.
MADHUBAN PRASAD PAUDEL (Nepal), associating himself with the least developed countries and the Group of 77 and China, said that, in his mountainous country, more than 80 per cent of the population was dependent on an agricultural sector that was vulnerable to soil erosion and drought, both exacerbated by climate change. In addition, the rise in food prices threatened food security. For those reasons, Nepal’s current development plan focused on shifting from subsistence farming towards cooperatives, agro-industries and commercialization. It also emphasized scientific land reform and management. Nepal viewed the management of forests, water and other resources in an integrated manner.
Given those economic changes and the country’s current political transformation, Nepal looked forward to enhanced cooperation with the international community in the days ahead. Massive investment was required for the development of basic infrastructure, such as roads, communication networks, public schools, health posts and water and sanitation services. The application of indigenous knowledge, community empowerment and a gender focus, in addition to enhanced technical cooperation and research orientation were crucial to the achievement of the goals of sustainable development and shared prosperity, in Nepal and the world as a whole.
NURBEK JEENBAEV ( Kyrgyzstan) welcomed the Commission’s timely consideration at the present session of agricultural and rural development, and the effective use of water and natural resources, which were critical to eradicating poverty. To ensure a higher quality of life for its citizens, Kyrgyzstan had adopted a development strategy in 2007 which would run through 2010. At the same time, it had undertaken a plan to achieve specific targets for the improvement of agricultural production that would, among other things, simplify access to rural loans. It was also creating a management plan for water resources and set up an association of water users to that end. To stabilize domestic food prices, the Government had established a food security commission, but constraints on the financial sector remained, including declining levels of development aid and insufficient technology transfer. Kyrgyzstan remained dedicated to the Commission’s work and would do its utmost to promote sustainable development.
PAULETTE BETHEL ( Bahamas) said that, as a small island developing State, her country was acutely aware of the need for further implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy. The Bahamas faced tremendous challenges in balancing the economic, social and developmental aspects of sustainable development. Its economy was dominated by the service sector and relied heavily on tourism, banking and finance.
Against that backdrop, the country was striving to manage its limited natural resources in a sustainable manner, she said. Last month, the Government had appointed the National Energy Policy Committee, tasked with considering trends in energy supply and demand and identifying practical options for diversifying energy sources, raising public awareness and encouraging energy conservation. The country was also executing a project to develop a national land use policy. Other advances in sustainable land management included the incorporation of environmental sustainability into decision-making on direct investment projects.
She said her country was working with other Caribbean small island States on an invasive species project which included a tree management programme to protect biodiversity, guard against soil erosion and curtail losses in soil quality by replacing invasive alien species with indigenous plants. Despite those steps, however, the country’s land resources remained under threat and its groundwater resources were under stress due to such vexing challenges as climate change, waste management and human migration. The way forward would involve identifying appropriate techniques that were both feasible and scalable. Needing help in meeting that challenge, the Bahamas called for the complete implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy.
DEAN MERRILEES ( Australia) said the Commission’s discussions over the past two weeks had spotlighted the need for progress towards concluding the Doha negotiations, addressing the enormous challenges posed by climate change, and assessing the broad implications of the current food and commodity crisis. It was important that all countries work together to find appropriate solutions to all those serious challenges. Australia had responded by providing funds in response to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) recent appeal for emergency food to help those most in need.
Welcoming the Secretary-General’s recently established Task Force on food security, he stressed the importance of working towards solutions to the crisis in a concerted manner, including, and most importantly, through the efforts of the United Nations system. Food security was best achieved through self-reliance, based on increased local productive capacities and wider market access. To that end, it was important to remove trade distortions from world markets and to make significant headway in the Doha negotiations on agricultural trade reform, which was so important for delivering on the Round’s development promises. It was also important to work quickly on a global climate change response, an effort that should consider as a priority the needs of Africa, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), reaffirming his country’s commitment to achieving the sustainable development objectives of the Johannesburg Plan and Agenda 21, said there was a need to invest in the land and strengthen the technological development and research aspects of agriculture. The agricultural sector should take an integrated approach, using the best and newest technologies to respond to local conditions while seeking to achieve better production performance without expanding agricultural limits. Mexico was committed to the conservation of its national resources and sought to promote development through inclusive and balanced methods.
He said his country was not indifferent to the challenges of food security and had convened a regional high-level technical meeting for later this month to analyse and propose concert solutions to the current food price crisis. Those proposals would be presented to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Mexico had also launched a strategy, focused on its 300 poorest municipalities, to integrate into a single plan social policy actions and programmes for the purpose of fostering sustainable production projects and providing those communities with basic services. In light of the clear threats posed by climate change, drought and desertification, Mexico had also incorporated sustainable forest development plans and natural resource conversation into its national policies, increasing its investment in that effort by 2,400 per cent.
NEGASH KEBRET ( Ethiopia) said that, over the past several decades, development had been the objective of African countries in addressing widespread concerns about poverty eradication and economic stagnation. Though much had been accomplished in boosting the economic performance of many African countries, investment in agriculture and rural development, including outside investment, would be necessary in order to sustain that growth. Also, the current food crisis required a concerted international response, especially since it was forcing countries in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world to divert meagre resources meant for development to offset its effects.
He went on to urge the international community to involve the African Union and take into consideration the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), when crafting a global strategy to ensure long-term food security for all. Ethiopian projects aimed at ensuring sustainable development included a comprehensive programme launched at the celebration of the country’s third millennium, and featured the “Two Trees in 2000” project. That initiative, carried out with the help of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was intended to bolster the Plant for the Planet Campaign.
JAN HENDERSON, Director, Environmental Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, said that, in her country, which had set itself the goal of becoming the first to be truly and comprehensively sustainable, progress came down to people making choices and behavioural changes. However, many people did not have the luxury of choice. Those considerations underpinned New Zealand’s approach to development assistance.
She said that, because her country was too reliant on livestock agriculture, tourism and rural based industries, in the face of climate change, it was focusing on sustainable land management initiatives. New Zealand was also a leader in research on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, and invited other countries to join a network that shared the fruits of that work. The country wished also to share its strategy of taking the needs of rural communities into account at the beginning of any policy development process. In addition, the unique challenges faced by small island States must be recognized and addressed appropriately.
MARIA FERNANDA ESPINOSA ( Ecuador) said her country was already seeing the effects of climate change in erratic rainfall patterns and the ensuing floods, which had spread death and destruction and left hundreds of thousands of citizens without shelter or means to make a living. Such disasters had increased rural poverty. Even as developing countries sought to implement rural development plans, they could not continue to put themselves in debt. The benefits provided by nature must be incorporated into international climate change plans.
Turning to the crisis in food prices, she called for national and international coordination in developing medium- and long-term policies to ensure food sovereignty. Also, with declining official development assistance levels endangering implementation of the Johannesburg Plan and Agenda 21, there was a need to increase foreign aid in order to help efforts to ensure food sovereignty. Collective international action must be based on the principles of shared but differentiated responsibilities.
TAPIWA MONGWA ( Botswana) said the challenges at hand were complex, multidimensional and globally interlinked, requiring the collective commitment of the international community. In that respect, the vital need to scale up efforts to meet the fast approaching targets espoused in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Millennium Development Goals could not be overstated. The Government of Botswana had taken deliberate steps to devise policy measures addressing the constraints faced by the country, in accordance with the sustainable development commitments contained in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan.
To that end, she said, the Government had formulated a strategy for the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements that would guide all sectors of the economy in the fulfilment of obligations arising from the agreements to which Botswana was a party. Within the framework of that strategy, the Government was undertaking initiatives to develop a national strategy for sustainable development that would guide each sector in terms of fulfilling sector specific sustainable development obligations.
Botswana was working hard to ensure an integrated approach to the implementation of sustainable development gaols, she continued. Since the realization of the Millennium Goals and other internationally agreed development targets would be difficult without a clear framework for environmental sustainability, Botswana accorded urgent priority to the implementation of its obligations under instruments on the environment, which provided a genuine global framework for international cooperation and therefore deserved the necessary resources to ensure their effective and sustainable implementation.
AURA MAHUAMPI RODRIGUEZ DE ORTIZ ( Venezuela) said the developing countries as a whole had for decades been facing the challenge posed by economic inequalities and market inequities which had been concealed by the developed world and international financial institutions so that the industrialized countries could avoid their responsibility to change their rapacious consumption habits. The finger-pointing characterizing the current food and commodity crisis was another example of the developed countries’ ongoing campaign to evade their responsibility to eliminate unsustainable production and consumption patterns.
Rather than changing their own habits, those countries were continuing their push for the adoption of biofuels, which many experts warned was responsible for degrading the environment and deepening food insecurity, she said. Venezuela wished to warn its fellow developing countries that the package of initiatives currently being proffered by international financial institutions on agricultural development and biofuel production did not guarantee the resources to build agricultural infrastructure that would address food security needs. Those programmes were based on the needs of large developed countries.
In order to succeed, such polices must focus on building the capacities of small farmers and produces, among other rural development concerns, she stressed. In responding to inequities, Venezuela urged the developing world to bolster south-south cooperation, especially since the countries of the global south had little or no voice in the work of the international financial institutions. Venezuela had developed a plan to store seeds, fertilizer and pesticides in order to bolster its agriculture sector. It had also adopted a plan that would ensure the availability of fuel and other necessities to local farmers and producers.
ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea), associating himself with the statements made on behalf of the least developed countries, the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that, in the context of the global food crisis, rising oil prices, the threats posed by climate change and natural disasters, his country had adopted the major international initiatives towards sustainable development. It had also adopted national plans of action for the environment, national biodiversity, desertification, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Guinea had also created a strategy to mitigate poverty and was attempting to fight climate change by establishing a national commission for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The Government had also set up a national food council that invited voices from all levels of society, and a partnership relating to rural agro-industry and farming.
HUGO SILES-ALVARADO ( Bolivia) said the Commission’s discussions over the past two weeks should lead every nation to consider how to reinvigorate national level sustainable development efforts on the basis of environmentally friendly growth. Man must be in balance with nature and the environment, especially if everyone wished to avoid the harsh consequences of water shortages, forest depletion, soil erosion, drought and other land degradation challenges. Humankind must stop pursuing economic growth without concern for nature and biodiversity.
For its part, Bolivia aimed to ensure a form of development that embraced collective ownership of, and respect for, biodiversity and natural resources, he said. The way forward, which was the theme of the Commission’s high-level discussions, provided a fresh opportunity for all nations to consider the best way to pull back from development models that promoted rampant consumption and dependency. Member States must pursue sustained development that was compatible with all nations and based on the developed world’s greater responsibility for environmental degradation.
OLIVIER BELLE ( Belgium) said the three grand crises of food, energy and climate affected poor people disproportionately, and it was the world community’s duty to assist them. Too many people and Governments neglected to consider the impact of current unsustainable consumption patterns, which damaged biodiversity and created pollution and waste. There was a need for strong political responses such as those of the Marrakech Process.
Turning to Africa, he emphasized that many of its countries were priority recipients of Belgium’s official development assistance. Belgium had also undertaken strategies for cooperation on the environment, agriculture and food security, in addition to providing resources for water and sanitation, and gender equality. It had also launched a programme called “The Spring of the Environment” to speed up national and regional coordination with civil society. It focused on climate change, renewable energy, the environment and health, while seeking to accelerate transitions towards sustainable development plans. At home, the Government had implemented a support policy for agricultural diversification and was in the process of creating large scale agricultural mechanisms. In addition, Belgium was funding the participation of three young people in the Commission’s session for the second consecutive time.
ANDRZEJ TOWPIK ( Poland) welcomed the Commission’s decision to focus on its current thematic cluster, including the effects of climate change, which had the most devastating impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people and nations. Addressing climate challenges meant addressing wide ranging issues such as land, agriculture, drought and desertification. It was important to enhance the synergies between the three “Rio Conventions” on, respectively, climate change, combating desertification and protecting biodiversity.
With that in mind, Poland was pleased to host the next Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December. The Government hoped that Conference would make significant process in setting out concrete and equitable measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation, in particular the principles and functioning of the Adaptation Fund. It also hoped to identify better ways to provide access to technology transfer for the developing world. The Conference would be an important milestone towards reaching consensus on differentiated commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and crafting a post-Kyoto climate deal.
PAOLO SOPRANO ( Italy) also welcomed the Commission’s thematic focus saying its discussions would pave the way to concrete policy discussion during its next session. In light of the ongoing food and commodity emergency, Italy looked forward to the FAO-led food summit to be held next month in Rome.
He said the sustainable production of biofuels would be a major step forward in promoting food security and curbing the impact of global warming. Italy was committed to the global bioenergy partnership and to promoting shared technologies and skills training. The Commission’s seventeenth session would provide an excellent opportunity to identify concrete ways to integrate land degradation and agriculture policies into national sustainable development strategies. It would also provide an opportunity to bolster political support for enhancing implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification.
ANDREI DAPKIUNAS ( Belarus) stressed the need for increased investment in all areas under consideration by the Commission. Many developing countries, even middle-income ones, had trouble financing programmes for rural development, agriculture production and climate change mitigation and adaptation on their own. No less important than development assistance was the transfer of technology that would raise agricultural production and enhance the marketing of agricultural produce. The Food and Agriculture Organization should intensity efforts to make available to developing countries the necessary machinery to raise their agricultural production. In response to the Chernobyl disaster, Belarus had developed nutrients that could enrich soils and was interested in cooperating with other countries as well as the international community to make that technology available.
DENIS DANGUE REWAKA ( Gabon) underlined the Agenda 21 goal of increasing agricultural production, saying the present session of the Commission was an opportunity to review strategies for the implementation of that framework. Gabon was dependent on food imports and the increase in global food prices was currently affecting all levels of society, particularly the poorest. In response, the Government had created a committee on national food security and rural development. Yet the country still needed outside help. International solidarity should result in greater efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. Basic open market principles should prevail, and practices that restricted access to markets should be ended. There was a particular need to eradicate subsidies and open markets in the north to products from the south.
GONZALO GUILLEN ( Peru) said the Andean Community Secretariat had recently issued a report warning that, in the next decade, the Andes region might face a cost of nearly $30 billion arising from the effects of climate change. The sectors most affected would be fisheries, forestry and agriculture. In that context, a Ministry of the Environment was indispensable and the President had recently signed a decree creating such a Ministry and charging it with, among other things, ensuring that development was in keeping with sustaining the environment and protecting natural resources. At the same time, the climate change challenge provided some opportunities, especially in the area of strengthening local level and regional cooperation to tackle issues such as desertification, land degradation and agricultural development.
SIRODJIDIN ASLOV ( Tajikistan) said drastic increases in food and energy prices and the climate change related challenges were a matter of life and death for some countries and peoples. Only coordinated action led by the United Nations could guarantee successful solutions to the current global food crisis. The most vulnerable parts of Tajikistan’s population were affected by rising food costs and recent locust plagues that had wiped out crops in the south of the country. As a result, the Government was making every effort to ensure food security and reduce poverty through the expansion and improvement of microcredits for agriculture, the rational use of available resources and the provision to farmers of high quality seeds, mineral fertilizers and modern equipment.
Emphasizing that development was impossible without access to energy, he said there was a need to increase renewable energy sources like water, solar power and wind power. Such an endeavour would require the transfer of modern and advanced technologies geared to energy production and conservation. Tajikistan was making major efforts to harness its huge hydropower potential, but given the fragility of its water resources, new efforts were needed to increase water and sanitation services. Tajikistan would hold an international conference on reducing water related natural disasters next month and the active participation of the United Nations community would make a big contribution to its success.
JASEM IBRAHIM AL-NAJEM ( Kuwait) said current challenges required a new examination of constraints to development in the developing world, especially in light of the current food and commodity price crisis and global warming. That effort must begin with increased investment in rural and agricultural development in the developing world, and include sincere and urgent measures by the developed countries to fulfil their official development assistance commitments and ensure an equitable international financial and trade architecture. There was also a need to provide new and additional sources for, and remove existing constraints to, the transfer of technology to developing countries. Kuwait also called for greater attention to the development needs of people living under occupation.
MOHAMED A. A. ALAHRAF ( Libya) said his country was pursuing sustainable development on a path that would ensure protection of the environment and arable lands as well as socio-economic growth. At the same time, Libya faced serious challenges in combating desertification and offsetting ongoing water shortages. The Government had responded with community level water and sanitation projects and other initiatives to upgrade and ensure better management and preservation of rivers and other freshwater sources. While pressing ahead with its sustainable development efforts, Libya reaffirmed the need for the international community to address the development challenges facing other African countries, especially lagging productivity and lack of access to modern technologies. The international community must work with the African Union and other regional organizations to provide assistance to the continent in addressing its pressing challenges.
NAVIN CHANDARPAL (Guyana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Alliance of Small Island States, said the ongoing global food crisis highlighted the world community’s collective failings to address agriculture, rural development, land, drought and desertification. Agriculture, the backbone of global food security, had not been accorded sufficient importance on the international agenda. The tools needed to increase production were largely unavailable to small farmers, a situation compounded by unjust global trade arrangements. Moreover, climate change was intensifying the pressure and the continuing dramatic rise in the cost of fuel threatened to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
To address the food crisis, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was moving to develop a strategy for regional agriculture, he said, adding that the President of Guyana would play the lead role. The Jagdeo Initiative had identified 10 major constraints that must be addressed. Guyana was offering neighbouring countries lacking sufficient arable land the opportunity to invest in land and agricultural production in Guyana. To reverse the current food crisis, urgent efforts would be needed to conclude the Doha negotiations.
He stressed that the Global Fund for Adaptation to Climate Change must provide adequate assistance to poorer countries and simplify its administrative procedures, and international financial institutions should provide credit on concessionary terms for small agricultural producers. There was also a need for sustained and scaled-up investment in agriculture at all levels. A special fund to support access to appropriate technology, new crops and training for small-scale agricultural producers should also be created.
YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) voiced support for efforts to ensure sustainable development through three pillars: economic development, social development and environmental protection. Algeria was very vulnerable to climate change, the effects of which were exacerbated by the country’s already arid climate and historic lack of groundwater sources. Addressing those challenges was therefore at the heart of the national sustainable development strategy.
Turning to the Commission’s work, he said its discussions over the past two weeks would provide a basis for the further implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The Commission’s focus on the situation in Africa was important, especially since that continent was struggling to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. To that end, Algeria welcomed the decision to hold a special meeting on development in Africa during the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD ( Sudan) stressed the importance of the Commission and the topics it had chosen to discuss during the current cycle, especially since they highlighted the need to balance socio-economic growth with environmental protection. Speakers had highlighted the current world commodity and food crises, which must be addressed through collective action because they would certainly affect the world’s poorest countries most adversely. The crises also required commitments to reinvigorate development in Africa and scale up official development assistance.
He said the solution to the food crisis lay in reviving agricultural sectors and investing in a green revolution for Africa. The Sudan was known for its agricultural and animal resources that could provide food security for millions around the world. The Government had therefore decided to give priority to agricultural development and a national level green revolution project. Those plans would also help address water management issues throughout the country.
The Sudan was challenged by weak infrastructure, desertification and poverty eradication, he said, adding that the Government had set up a special agency to monitor the effects of climate change. The Sudan, like many other countries, was struggling under a crippling debt burden and called on developed countries and global financial institutions to live up to their commitments to provide assistance in that regard.
JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU (Benin), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the least developed countries and the African Group, emphasized his country’s endeavours to create an environment favourable to sustainable development. To make its constitutional right to life concrete, Benin had established economic growth strategies targeting poverty eradication initiatives and agricultural development. It aimed to become an economic Power in West Africa and had implemented a strategic plan for relaunching its agricultural sector through greater competition and the diversification of exports. Benin would establish a sustainable financing mechanism and launch a review of financial conditions that were not conducive to agriculture.
Stressing his country’s political stability and its efforts to achieve sustainable development, he said Benin was a “moderate investment risk” and the Government was, therefore, confident that its development partners would continue to support it. Indeed, it was important to redouble assistance efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Reducing rural poverty depended on improved rural conditions, without which the rural exodus would continue. The links between rural development and the threats of drought and desertification must be kept in mind. “Agriculture is the mother and nourisher of all other arts; when agriculture is well conducted, all other arts prosper; when agriculture is neglected, all other arts decay, on the land and on the sea,” he said, quoting Xenophon.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the food crisis should not be measured merely by the rise in prices throughout the international food markets, but also by the physical, mental and spiritual costs to those unable to provide for themselves and their families. Investing in long-term, sustainable agricultural programmes at the local and international levels remained central to the development prospects of many. That investment should address the prices of food commodities as well as the distribution and production of food around the world, particularly in Africa. Greater efforts must be made to mitigate the negative aspects of changing environmental and financial realities.
He said policymakers in the agriculture field must rediscover the path of reason and reality in order to balance the need for food production with the need to be good stewards of the earth. Care must be taken to meet people’s fundamental needs and avoid reducing the dialogue to self-interested and ideologically driven economic and environmental extremes. While the current food crisis presented an immediate threat to development, there must be a continuing effort to address persistent and imminent challenges such as climate change, harmful subsidies, fair trade, environmental degradation and land reform, with increased concern for the most vulnerable.
AMMAR HIJAZI, Observer for Palestine, noted the special circumstances facing the Palestinian people, saying they were denied access to their own land and to commercial and other activities that contributed to rural development. They also faced growing threats from drought and desertification, which were further exacerbated by the occupation, which was putting a hand on Palestinian lands through illegal settlements while also erecting barrier walls and creating checkpoints.
Meanwhile, Palestinian cities were being transformed into areas for dumping toxic waste, he said. Across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, degraded lands provided evidence of the harm that the occupation caused and the misery in which many Palestinians lived as a result. The international community had a responsibility to protect the right to development of the most vulnerable people, particularly those living under occupation. The abandonment of those people was not acceptable and the actions of the overseeing Powers could not be overlooked.
CANDICE STEVENS, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said that, in light of the last two weeks of discussions, sustainable development policies must integrate all other policies to surmount the water and food crises. Environmental ministries could not do it alone; integration and policy coherence across all sectors of Government were needed. Sustainable development further depended on involving all stakeholders in a transparent manner. To that end, OECD had brought together its 10 directorates to provide a guide and “library” of lessons learned for social and gender development, as well as policies for sustainable economic development. The organization urged delegations to use it.
LUCA DALL’OGLIO, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said migration was often a survival mechanism for those affected by climate change or sudden national disasters, even if there was no consensus on whether or not it represented an adaptation to occurrences or a failure of adaptation strategies. In that light, research activities and policy discussions conducted by IOM and its partners showed that gradual environmental changes such as drought and desertification were a less obvious “push factor” for migration than extreme, sudden onset environmental events.
However, gradual changes displaced a larger population in the long term, he noted. With such displacement occurring more often internally rather than internationally, national development strategies could focus on how migration could be a positive adaptation strategy that contributed to development. The relationship between migration and environment would have implications in every State and certainly affect some countries more due to their geography or level of development. The problem was anticipated to worsen so it must be addressed in an immediate and effective manner.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), underscoring the issue of foreign occupation in the context of sustainable development, said the outcome documents of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development highlighted the acute challenges faced by people living under occupation, especially in coping with the effects of drought, desertification and rural development. Syria called on the Commission, therefore, to emphasize the impediments faced by people under occupation and urged the Chairman to spotlight the issue in his Summary of the discussions. The Commission’s work would not be successfully completed without giving due regard to that issue.
ALEMNEH DEJENE, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), highlighted a number of initiatives that the agency had launched to combat soaring food prices and the global crisis. It was helping local farmers in a number of developing countries to scale up production and working with regional development banks, donors and the private sector to provide funding means for small- and medium-sized farmers. FAO was also reinforcing its capacity to help national Governments raise productivity by expanding its food market information system to disseminate information to those Governments. The agency would contribute to the work of the Secretary-General’s Task Force on food security and was working with partners and other United Nations agencies to enhance their response. By coordinating the work of its research arm, FAO was also working to make improved seed varieties available to farmers. Moreover, it was working on a proposal for a global plan of action on soaring food prices, which it hoped would provide a comprehensive framework of action for global food security.
REMIGIO MARADONA, observer delegation of the Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina against Malnutrition, said that, while the Commission’s session had been captivated by the current food and commodity price emergency, all the talking had been going on at a time when words could not describe the suffering of millions of people around the world living on the edge of starvation. There was an urgent need for feasible and practical solutions to malnutrition and the Institution could be a critical link in the international community’s chain of actions to address that issue.
With that in mind, he said spirulina offered remarkable health benefits to an undernourished person, being rich in beta carotene, which could overcome eye problems caused by Vitamin A deficiency. Indeed, one tablespoon a day could eliminate iron anaemia, the most common mineral deficiency. Spirulina was also the most digestible protein food and was especially important for malnourished people whose intestines could no longer absorb nutrients effectively. Perhaps most importantly, in light of the Commission’s discussions of the past two weeks, spirulina did not require fertile land for cultivation and therefore conserved fertile soil.
* *** *For information media • not an official record