Summit on Sustainable Development
Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
26 August-4 September 2002
4 September 2002
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL, KOFI ANNAN, AT CONCLUSION OF WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I am pleased to join you here and to share a few thoughts with you on the Summit.
Obviously, this is not Rio. Rio put sustainable development on the global agenda.
This Summit has instigated global action among a wide range of actors.
This Summit makes sustainable development a reality.
This Summit will put us on a path that reduces poverty while protecting the environment, a path that works for all peoples, rich and poor, today and tomorrow.
Governments have agreed here on an impressive range of concrete commitments and actions that will make a real difference for people in all regions of the world, in particular in the five priority areas (WEHAB) that I have identified. Actions in these areas will be instrumental to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
These commitments are made by Governments. But with regard to their implementation, we must realize that we must include everyone who can make a difference: not only Governments, but also civil society as a whole, including non-governmental organizations, local Governments, local communities, the business sector, the academic community and individuals all over the world. What is needed is a collective effort on a global scale.
The Summit represents a major leap forward in the development of partnerships, with the UN, Governments, business and civil society coming together to increase the pool of resources to tackle global problems on a global scale.
The legacy of this Summit goes beyond the political commitment to accelerate action for sustainable development. Instead of concluding only with the adoption of political agreement, the Summit has generated real action through partnerships by and between Governments, civil society, business and others that will make a real difference on the ground.
The Summit continued the momentum of the recent meetings to address issues related to development and poverty in Doha and Monterrey and at the Millennium Summit in New York. Johannesburg has provided the basis for more resources to be committed to the goals of environmental protection and poverty reduction on a sustainable basis.
Last, but not least, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to President Thabo Mbeki, the people and the Government of South Africa and the city of Johannesburg for their hospitality, their generosity and for the efficient and effective organization. I would also like to thank the employees of this Convention Center and the whole volunteers corps who have worked long hours to make this a success. They have done a superb job and they deserve our appreciation.
Thank you very much.
I am pleased to take a few questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, many people here see a very big gap between the words we have heard over the last ten days and the real commitment that are in the document. What makes you hopeful and optimistic that those words get to transfer into action? I am only allowed to ask you one question so I ask you for another remark regarding the situation in Iraq after your talk with Powell. And let me take the chance to thank Sue Markham and her team for the magnificent support we got.
SG: You've asked two questions and made one comment instead of one question, but I will deal with it. Let me say that I know there are those who are disappointed and we did not get everything we expected to get here in Johannesburg. But I think we have achieved a success and I am satisfied with the results. Sustainable development is firmly back on the agenda. We realize we need to maintain that delicate balance between development and the environment. We have mobilized people around the world, the NGO community, the business sector, the Governments. And I think they have taken engagements here that they will have to go back and implement on the ground. And people are becoming aware of these concerns and there will be pressure. We should also not look at this conference in isolation. It is one in a series. We had Doha which promised to open up trade and we need to live up to the promise of Doha and press ahead; Monterrey that came up with additional resources for development assistance; and we have the Millennium Development Goals which are also sustainable development objectives. And those goals are going to be monitored monitored, and annual reports issued. And with the WEHAB, we have created a framework to generate action amongst people and publics around the world. In addition to that, we have created partnerships. And as I said, I hope we build on this and turn these into alliances for progress and work at the country level, and at the regional level, as well as the global level. But we should all realize that we have our roles to play -- individuals, civil society, private sector and government. All hands on deck. And lets keep the momentum from here on.
On Iraq, yes I did speak to (United States) Secretary of State (Colin) Powell, and I understand (United States) President (George W.) Bush will be making a statement today on that issue. And I suspect if we are all a little bit patient, we will hear before the end of this afternoon what his position and his plans are on this issue. As you know, I also met with Tariq Aziz yesterday, where I indicated to him that the inspectors must go in. They should comply with UN resolutions. And I am not the only one encouraging them to do this. The leaders in the region and most leaders around the world are asking them to comply, including governments that are sympathetic to the Iraqi position. Thank you.
Q: When you speak now it sounds that you have things under control. I wonder have you spoken to many of the people-based or scientific-based NGOs? Because what we read in the papers say, in fact we hear from them (that) this is step backwards from Rio. So it's quite a lot worse than what you tell. On the other hand, we see that America, they did not want it in the first place, but they're not displeased; the EU (European Union), they're quite pleased with the Summit; and the big business(es) are very happy. They're pledging to eradicate poverty and save the planet and everything. Now, in your opinion, to buy this whole scheme, isn't it a bit naïve? It is those people that have caused much of this in the first place.
SG: I think it is important that those who cause the pollution, as you say, have to be here and have to part of the solution. I do not believe that we can achieve the objectives that we have set ourselves if we decided not to work with business who are the ones running the factories, who are the ones producing the cars that do not meet emission standards. They don't have to wait for Governments to pass laws for them to come up with green technologies or use green technologies. We have to engage them. Yes, the civil society and NGOs have been our traditional and key partners. We are getting into areas where we need to bring in other stakeholders and to work with them. You talk of a setback. I think we have tried at this conference to make sure that agreements that were reached in Rio and other conferences were not rolled back. There were attempts to roll some of it back, but there have been strenuous efforts to make sure there were no roll-backs. So let me say that there's a time for purity and there's a time for a practical approach. We need to be idealistic. We also need to be practical and realistic and move forward, move forward with those stakeholders who can also bring something to the table. Let me repeat, this is an era of partnerships. Government's cannot do it alone. The UN cannot do it alone and I am afraid NGOs cannot do it alone, and business can't. We need to work together. And I hope we will work together at the national level, at the regional level, and at the international level. Thank you.
Q: Secretary-General, you have stated that this Summit has been a success so far and this is the last day. Can you tell us what are the agreements beneficial to the poorest countries that can back up your statement that it has been a success? And if yes, can you tell us how in terms of agriculture, education or water, and also in terms of money?
SG: I think we will be issuing a press sheet that will give you an idea of some of the achievements of this Conference. But I think the issue of alleviation of poverty has been very much on the agenda and on the top of our minds. We had an agreement on water that we should reduce the number of people who do not have clean water by 50% in 2015 and that was agreed in the Millennium Development Goals. Here we have added a target of sanitation. And so today, in addition to the water target in the Millennium Development Goals, we add sanitation. There is a commitment to try and provide energy to the poor. There are commitments, the donor commitments made by Governments and partnerships, that I hope would also make a difference on the ground. And there is a commitment to sustainable consumption and development. We cannot continue to exploit the resources the way we have been doing and expect to have a healthy planet. It is important that not only Governments take these engagements seriously, but the corporations that manage the factories and exploit these things become partners. And you as consumers also have power. You can bring pressure to bear through your choices of what you buy and what you do not buy. You can lobby your governments to put pressure on the corporations to move for green technology. And so I think when you look at the whole package of programmes that are proposed here, it is not everything but it has not been a failure. I think I am satisfied with the results but what is important is not what happened in the conference hall, but what we do when we get back to our communities to try and put these engagements and these ideas into practice.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, in preparation for the Conference, the Centre for UN Reform in New York has prepared a (inaudible) book which links sustainable development to the global public goods and to the global commerce contacts. My question is first if the book was sent to all governments, if it reached you and if you have any comments in case if you did. And as a follow-up question, here in Johannesburg the International Sustainable Energy Organization was launched last Wednesday and if you are ready to back this as part of the UN system, is this going to be based in Geneva?
SG: Energy is one of the major areas of concern for us and I am sure the UN agencies will be happy to work with you in that direction and whatever you can do to press to ensure that energy gets to the poor and that they have access to sustainable energy and renewable energy, is something that we will support and I applaud you and your work.
Q: What about the (inaudible) book, did it reach you?
SG: I beg your pardon?
Q: Did the book reach you in hand? It was sent .
SG: I can't see it from here. Why don't you send me a copy.
Q: Secretary-General, you have been saying several times in the last few months that this Summit is the last chance for the developed nations of the West and the North to take responsibility for imposing the non-sustainable patterns of over-consumption and non-sustainable lifestyle. Now, this does not seem to have happened at the Summit. So what do you think will be the future for the developing countries and the countries in transition like the ones in Central and Eastern Europe? Thank you.
SG: I think we have to be careful not to expect conferences like this to produce miracles. But we do expect conferences like this to generate political commitment, momentum and energy for the attainment of the goals. And I would hope that, given what we have all lived through here in Johannesburg and what we have discussed, we will go back and press for a real fair and equitable round of the WTO-Doha commitment. It has to be a round of trade negotiations that will open up the markets to the poor, and a really development round. The poor would much rather trade themselves out of poverty than live on handouts. In Monterrey, I hope the money that was promised would also be delivered. We are going to press ahead with the Millennium Development Goals and we are going to pursue the engagements which were made here. We have to look at this in a concerted manner. There are linkages. It is not one isolated conference that is going to do this whole thing. What happens is the energy that we create here, the commitments that have been made, and what we do on the ground as individuals, as civil society, as community groups and as governments and private sector.
Q: Mr Secretary-General, some Heads of State took the opportunity to talk about the situation in Zimbabwe. Can you comment on that?
SG: Yes, I had a chance to talk to quite a few Heads of State about it and I had a long meeting with President (Robert) Mugabe and several of his Ministers. I have been in touch with the Government of Zimbabwe right from the beginning. The Government knows my position that yes, land reform is necessary, but it has to be done in an organized and legal way, and fair compensation has to be paid to those who lose their farms. And in my discussions with President Mugabe who explained to me how the process was going, I did stress that there were three groups that we need to be concerned about: the poor farmers that he is trying to look after; the migrant farm workers; and the commercial workers the commercial farm workers who should be treated fairly, legally and get compensation for what they have lost. It is important that it is handled legally, that they are compensated and it should be seen to be fair in order to bring this issue to closure and not poison the commercial environment in Zimbabwe and for the region. And I think we all have to be careful as to how this is handled. Of course this is also happening at a time when there is threat of famine in the region and we at the United Nations are working very hard with the donor community to ensure that there is enough food to feed the needy. But the land reform issue has to be handled properly and fair compensation has to be paid. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on a scale of ten, how would you rate the success of this Summit? What according to you are the two greatest achievements of this Summit and two great failures? Thank you.
SG: First of all on the question of asking me on the scale of one to ten, I don't get into these things. What I will tell you is what I have said already: that we came here to get commitments, to generate energy and support for sustainable development and for the environment. And we invited the leaders of the world to come here and commit themselves to sustainable development, to protecting our planet, to maintaining the essential balance and to go back home and take action. It is on the ground that we will have to test how really successful we are. But we have started off well. Johannesburg is a beginning. I am not saying Johannesburg is the end of it. It is a beginning. And if we maintain the momentum, and we all keep pressure on the stakeholders with ability and capacity, and we play our role, I think this Conference would have made a major contribution.
Q: Mr. Le Secrétaire Général vous êtes d'accord avec moi que il ya pas de développement durable sans paix. Il se peut qu'il y a une situation qui est en RDC qui handicappe le developpement durable non seuleument de la RDC mais d'une grande partie aussi de l'Afrique. Quels sont les mesures concrètes que vous avez à proposer pour cela. Merçi.
SG: Je suis d'accord que ce n'est pas seuleument les pays moins développés qui ont des problèmes, d'autres pays aussi ont des problèmes mais comme je viens de le dire tout à l'heure, si nous travaillons ensemble, si nous travaillons en partenariat, si tout le monde s'y met on peut faire du progrès. Et tellement il y a des gens qui sont venu èa Johannesburg expectant qu'on va résoudre ces problèmes içi, ce n'est qu'un début mais un début important. En rentrant chez nous, si tout le monde décide de s'organiser, et vraiment pousser à fond, je crois que d'içi quelques années, on va accepter que Johannesburgh a fait une grande contribution pas seuleument pour les pays les moins développés même pour les autres. Et même pour les pays développés, ils vont se rendre compte que c'est dans leur propre intérêt de soutenir le développement des pays non-développés.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you said that this is part of a process. Johannesburg is part of a series of meetings. Tell us, where do we go from here? In another ten years, if there is a world summit on the environment and sustainable development, what would have been accomplished as a result of this Summit and what would be the remaining challenges?
SG : I think what would have been accomplished and what would be the remaining challenges ten years from now depends on us. We at the United Nations as part of the Millenium Declaration have indicated to the Member States even at that time that we have lots of agreements. What we need is implementation and action. If we leave Johannesburg determined to take action and to implement the agreements and the understandings that have been reached here and elsewhere, in ten years time we would have made a difference. And here I insist we all have to work in partnership. What we have also done at the United Nations is to tell the governments that when these agreements are made, they cannot leave it for us at the United Nations to implement it. It is up to them to organize themselves, their societies to do it at the country level where it counts. What we have agreed to do is monitor implementation and produce annual reports annual reports on how well we are doing, where we are succeeding and where we are failing and where pressures are to be brought. So you will see annual reports on our attempts to achieve the goals, the Millenium Development Goals. And in fact what has happened here is also part that feeds into those achievements. It's very complimentary. And if we maintain that pressure and governments and people work with us, I think in ten years time we would have made a difference. Even if we do not achieve all the goals, we should be able to make a substancial progress.
Q : In your talks with President Mugabe, did he provide any assurances on either human rights or compensation for the land distribution you were talking about?
SG : We did raise the issue of human rights and I did raise the concerns and the reports in the press that distribution of food is being politicised. The President assured me that that was not the case, that there was no politicisation. And in fact I am sending to the six countries affected, Mr. Jim Morris, who is the head of the World Food Programme, and my personal envoy on the drought and the famine situation in the region, and he will look into some of these issues. On the question of compensation, I think the President realised that compensation should be paid, but obviously feels that it should come from external sources.
Q : Mr Secretary-General, indigenous peoples are among those who are most influenced by ecological damages. But the President of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples is not invited to this Summit and he does not have a budget for a plane ticket. Is his absence a symbol of the position of the indigenous peoples within the UN system or do we have the opportunity to meet him at the next big UN event?
SG : I wasn't aware that he wasn't here. You know, we met with them in New York and we've established a Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples. And in fact you are right, for an environmental conference he should have been here. They have a lot to teach us about the environment. They know more about living in harmony with nature than most of us and I regret his absence. But we will make sure that it does not happen.
Q : Although the reference to environmental agreements being consistent with WTO rules was removed from the text, there are still many other references to the WTO in the draft implemetnation plan. Does this mean that WTO rules will override any agreement that comes out of Johannesburg?
SG : I would hope not and of course the WTO rules are part of the realities we live with and attempts are constantly being made to update these rules. and there are lots of discussions going on and I will not be surprised if as part of the next round, some of these issues are taken up. But I think the decisions that are taken here are overriding and I would not want to see any individual agreements overriding what we do to protect the environment and the planet. They may have an impact of slowing them down which we should try and do something about, but not to override it.
Q : I would like to find out from Mr. Kofi Annan what measures are being put in place concerning our leaders on HIV/AIDS in the sense that our leaders have come here and have been here for some time, probably two or three weeks or even a month. I just want to find out what measures are being taken concerning their wives -- if at all they are travelling with their wives -- and if measures are going to be put in place to make sure that they are sustained because if they are not sustained healthwise, the whole thing will not be sustained and I appreciate that you came with Mrs. Annan.
SG : I think the issue of AIDS is an important problem for all of us. And in fact when you look at WEHAB, health is one of the key areas that we focus on. And in my discussions with the leaders here, both from the North and the South, the issue of HIV/AIDS has been one of the key concerns because as you rightly point out, if we are not able to stop the epidemic, it will wipe away any economic and social development that we can achieve. Therefore we need to tackle that issue urgently and seriously and I, in my contacts with the Heads of State, have asked them to lead the fight against the epidemic in their own societies and in their own countries. And that we should not only seek to get more financial support, but above all, we should remove the stigma and the discrimination that is attached to the disease. And the leaders must be seen to lead the struggle and they should speak up because when it comes to AIDS, silence is death.
Q : Mine is a follow-up question on Zimbabwe, Secretary-General. I just want to know why the United Nations has not taken any concrete or firm action on the situation in Zimbabwe. You will appreciate that other bodies that have been disenchanted with the abuses in Zimbabwe -- like the European Union, the Commonwealth and individual governments -- have acted. You have preferred to engage the Government in discussions. For two years now that has not worked and the policies have not changed. Why are you not taking a step further? The other issue in Zimbabwe is on the elections that were held in March. There was consensus among respectable organizations that the election was rigged in broad daylight and there must be a re-run of the election. I wanted to know from you what your opinion on that is because this is a sticking point. Without a legitimite government in Zimbabwe, the NGOs, the civil society are saying we cannot proceed.
SG : Let me start on the question on Zimbabwe. We have been engaged right from the beginning and I have sent two teams to Zimbabwe which have talked to the Government, civil society, farm workers, and the farm owners, and the labourers. We tried right from the beginning to work with the Government to try and set up a credible land reform programme, a land reform programme that will be phased, funded, legal and fair to everybody. Things moved very fast and we could not get that done. I have had many contacts with your leaders and, in fact, I issued a statement which I am not sure you have seen on this issue. And I would make sure that you do if you contact my Spokesperson, she will give you a copy stating very clearly my position on the land reform. As to the question of the elections, I know that you have a case in court and the opposition has taken the election results to court and is being adjudicated in the courts. And I would prefer not to comment on that.