in behalf of

H.E. Rt. Hon. Don McKinnon
the Commonwealth Secretary-General

World Summit on Sustainable Development
Johannesburg, 30 August 2002

Mr Chairman, 
Heads of Delegations, 
Distinguished Delegates,

We all want this Summit to be a landmark in the way we implement sustainable development policies, not a footnote in the history of false hopes the last decades have seen. Its success will be measured not by the number of declarations and agreements it produces, but by the real change it generates in the lives of people throughout the world. 

For this to happen, sustainable development must become a day-to-day reality for everyone-one of clean air and water, affordable shelter, accessible health services, thriving ecosystems, peace and stability, the opportunity to develop fully as individuals and communities, equitable and democratic participation, the rule of law, and most of all freedom from poverty and the terrible shadow of famine, which is now facing over 13 million people on this continent.

The poorest people in the Commonwealth and the rest of the world know very little about the issues of this Summit-many of them probably don't even know it is taking place. What they know is that their lives will only be improved by decisive action. This is why governments, civil society and the business sector have a responsibility to live up to the commitments made at the Summit.

With the Commonwealth accounting for almost a third of the world's population, our policy makers have an important contribution to make in implementing sustainable development. Essential to 'Making it Happen' will be a deep commitment to long-term partnerships, based on equity, and collaboration that show a spirit of generosity in their approach. This means that some countries may have to give more than they wish. But they should not do so reluctantly, as delivering a sustainable future will benefit everyone on the planet.

One of the great assets of the Commonwealth in the pursuit of sustainable development is its diversity, and the equal participation of its member states within the framework of shared fundamental principles. It is also a network of local governments, business, professional and civil society organisations that will be an asset in implementing the outcomes from WSSD. Long-term commitment to equitable dialogue of the kind that is promoted by the Commonwealth, is the essential ingredient for moving beyond the normal course of things, into new, innovative and creative, approaches to development-development that can give people real hope.

In order to strengthen the processes that underpin effective dialogue on priorities in sustainable development, the Commonwealth is strengthening national human rights institutions and democratic processes, and is firmly committed to a 'rights based approach' to development. 

People will measure the success of this Summit by the progress made in generating practical action. A Commonwealth example is the Iwokrama International Rainforest Programme, a partnership project between the Guyanese Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat. It is a unique and ambitious venture that demonstrates how tropical rain forest ecosystems can be managed sustainably while making a substantial contribution to national and international development. I hope that the Johannesburg Summit will provide the impetus for more initiatives of this kind.
WSSD must support the efforts of small states and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), who face the greatest constraints in their capacity to promote sustainable development. In particular, it should support the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), which highlights the links between sustainable development, democracy, good governance and human rights and has the potential to transform Africa. 

For small states, the critical need is to recognise and address their economic, social and environmental vulnerability. This will require appropriate policies on trade, investment, graduation and sustainable environmental management. The impact of September 11th has been particularly hard on this group of states. They will need a great deal of international support to meet fully their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1373. An effective process to review implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action will be critical for them. Progress in addressing the critical challenge of climate change is important to both small states and LDCs.

The Commonwealth initiates its own high-level consultations next month on `Delivering the Monterrey Consensus'. The deliberations by Commonwealth Finance Ministers in London in September will be informed by a consultative process with civil society. Continued international co-operation is needed to increase the flow of resources for sustainable development, including working hard towards the internationally agreed target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for developed countries for official development assistance. 

The Commonwealth is also exploring innovative use of official resources to promote private flows to a wider range of countries by lowering the threshold before which private equity will be attracted to countries with endowed handicaps. Moreover, the Commonwealth was the first international organisation to draw the attention of the global community to the plight of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries, and continues to work for still greater debt reduction to ensure a sustainable exit by these countries from the debt problem. 

Strong political will is needed in order to ensure a sustainable future for everyone on the planet. In particular, developing countries must have greater access to markets in the industrialised world; more efforts must be made to diversify developing countries' exports, reducing their dependence on commodities; and there must be a firm and time-bound commitment to phase out the massive agricultural subsidies in industrial countries, as these bankrupt vulnerable African, Asian, Caribbean and Pacific farmers by artificially depressing world prices. To preach trade liberalisation while maintaining such perverse subsidies is not tenable.

To talk about sustainable development without addressing some fundamental impediments to fairer trading patterns becomes a one-sided debate. President Mbeki's call for a programme of action on water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity is not only commendable; it is achievable, provided we have the will to make it happen.

We in the Commonwealth stand committed to supporting member states' efforts to implement the Rio Agreements and the outcomes of WSSD through a responsive programme of consensus building, technical assistance and capacity building initiatives. The investment in sustainable development made by Commonwealth states over the past ten years must now be furthered through the development of equitable partnerships between nation states, as well as between government, business, and civil society. We must ensure that practical steps are taken, in a true spirit of international collaboration, to create prosperity and equity for all, and reverse the continuing loss of environmental resources that underpin the foundations of our societies.