Minister of Agriculture and the Environment of Andorra


 4 September 2002


Mr Chairman, Heads of State and other authorities, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Most of us have journeyed thousands of miles to reach Johannesburg and take an active part in the debate on sustainable development. This is a considerable effort, particularly for the smallest nations or the developing countries. Our presence clearly shows the concern of all participants for the state of health of our planet and its inhabitants.

The countries meeting in Brazil ten years ago completed some difficult but in the end fruitful negotiations. The international texts adopted at Rio sealed the pact of good will which had inspired the whole process.

However, everyone is aware that this will was not always translated into deeds; this is why we are meeting here: to promote once more the application of those reference texts, whether Agenda 21 or the numerous agreements deriving from Rio.

The Johannesburg texts will also set out the framework for future work by our governments, even if one is aware that they are not legally binding. From this point of view, bearing in mind the general delay in implementing the Rio texts, one may relativize the importance of the various contributions of this summit. In any case, I believe that what is decisive is our will, the will to respect our commitments and protect our planet. These words are easy to say but difficult to put into practice.

It is enough to take the example of the Principality of Andorra. On a reduced scale, my country suffers the same contradictions that affect our planet. In a mountainous territory of 465 square kilometres, with a population on the increase, we can see two visions of the future world being defined and opposing each other: the first vision is based on quantitative growth and considers the natural capital as a supplementary asset to be used with exclusively economic criteria. The second is a vision affirming the need to change the values and principles that must guide our daily actions.

The so-called "change of paradigm" that should give priority to the latter vision may have begun but it seems to me too slow to put an end to the tendencies which are devastating our Earth. And as a result of talking so much about this change, it may well be that we are reacting too late. But I wish to be optimistic.

For Andorra the challenge is a double one. Absent in 1992, we need to take on board once and for all the spirit of Rio, officially recognize the validity of the principles reached by consensus there and set in motion the conclusions of Johannesburg which concern us.
Poverty is a calamity. In a world in which millions of people suffer hunger and malnutrition, I am aware that the Andorran community is very fortunate. The inhabitants of the Principality of Andorra live in dignity and peace, although the situation has changed enormously over the last century, transforming an isolated rural country into a rich modern land. Andorra is a very special case of successful development of a mountainous zone, showing all the possibilities tourism can offer as a source of revenue and development, although it also knows the pitfalls of unplanned 

Let me give you some examples:

  • We import 75% of our energy from the neighbouring countries.
  • On a normal day, 9000 vehicles cross our borders but on days of maximum tourist influx more than 35,000 may cross.
  • We have a resident population of 67,000 persons but in holiday periods we clean up the water of a population of 170,000 persons.
  • Tourism significantly increases our production of waste. Without tourists this would be 30,000 tons per year but with the tourists it       becomes 50,000 tons.
  • Last but not least, the building up of the territory has increased 381% in 50 years with the result of loss of ground and natural spaces.

Likewise, a considerable part of actions by the Ministry of the Environment are focused on the prevention and correction of pollution. For instance, the plan for cleaning up waterways in the country was passed in 1996. The carrying out of this plan, which will come to an end in 2004, has implied considerable investment in purification infrastructures but will enable us to reach water quality levels appropriate to mountain regions. We are also setting up an air quality control network.

As a developed country, Andorra is aware that it uses a large part of natural resources. The change in consumer and production models is more urgent than ever. We welcome the initiative of the European Union in activating a ten-year plan to improve the situation. In the spirit of Johannesburg and Type II-initiatives, we hope to take part in it and improve our work on achieving a rational, sustainable management of waste.

With regard to the protection and management of natural resources, the urban, tourist and human pressures on the Principality of Andorra places us fair and square in the problems described in the chapter N of the Action plan. We are working on a law for the preservation of nature that will set up the instruments to combat the loss of biodiversity and protect natural spaces. A Biodiversity Centre and an Institute of Earth Sciences have been created. We also plan to join the Convention on European Landscape, a step that will lead us to adopt a national policy for the preservation of the urban or high mountain landscapes which characterize my country. The protection of the landscape is not a purely aesthetic concern. The landscape determines people's quality of life and their identification with their surroundings as well as the desire to protect them.

In the same context, the Department of Agriculture of the ministry which I have the honour of leading is working to recuperate traditional systems of agriculture and cattle farming with the aim, among others, of reintroducing quality concepts and levels in food products and perfecting techniques to preserve the land with minimum possible pollution.

I should mention the meritorious work of local authorities in my country which have begun to apply their own Agenda 21 and contribute to strengthening the participation of all citizens, which I consider is an essential condition for sustainable development.

I also wish to mention the fact that Andorra, a small country, is aware of the need for solidarity between nations. This awareness takes the material form of varied contributions to the international bodies but also occurs in other spheres, as is shown, for instance, by the recent rationalization of the structure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which now has a directorate of multilateral affairs and co-operation for development as well as by the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee assigned to the subject. This action is strengthened by the work of Andorran civil society which is very active in this field and again shows that global trends also affect Andorra where work of civil society is growing as everywhere, improving democracy and showing administrations all that can be done with good will.

We do not wish nor may we shirk our responsibility for the very small part of the planet that is in our charge. But neither should we fail to note the enormous contradictions that hinder human progress and harm life on Earth. In Western countries, we are not well placed to give lessons on rightful globalization while we maintain all manner of barriers against outside products or while our "progress" is based on a model of energy use that continues to aggravate the future of human population.

Globalization unites and divides. On one hand, some of the most densely populated states in the world have opted for opening up their markets, while other ones maintain protectionist policies. Many nations choose to keep strengthening and improving democracy, while others keep seeing it as a merely western concept not relevant for them. Democracy is not an easy path, but if we want globalization to carry positive forces, democracy is one of them and must be a pillar of the process. We all need to learn from each other and this summit is the right place to do so and to act for the future generations.

As Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, it is my duty to transmit the message and the conclusions of Johannesburg to my government and to ask that Andorra, as a country, should integrate them into its work and promote a national strategy for sustainable development. I am willingly optimistic. I wish to believe that from out of the Johannesburg process and summit will come positive initiatives, that they will be useful to mutually strengthen our will as political leaders and that we shall return to our own countries with an extra dose of energy, courage and hope. I want to thank the government of South Africa for their tremendous effort and the excellent organization of this summit and I thank you all for your presence, your ideas, your criticisms and your attention.