His Excellency Mr. Costas Themistocleous
Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment
at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
Johannesburg, South Africa, September 3, 2002
All definitions of sustainable development encompass collective responsibility: national, regional, international responsibility.
Therefore, we all need to work together to secure a political transition of complementarity of objectives, which is essential in the search for the much needed transnational ethic of mutualism. In this respect, the fact that environment and fundamental human rights are indivisible should never be lost from sight. The right to an environment of high quality, has, after all, been recognized as a human right by the UN General Assembly. Neither can we forget that ownership of development strategies by sovereign states is a key to successful and sustainable development.
Major issues of global concern continue to relate to the need for the protection and rational utilization of freshwater resources; addressing unsustainable consumption; tackling the great challenge of climate change; and confronting the complex relationship between trade, the environment and sustainable development. The latter, does encompass economic growth, but a sustained economic growth, broadly based, its benefits fully shared. I would add, shared globally, shared intergenerationally, shared intragenerationally.
There is, thus, the pressing need to drastically address the underlying external factors that continue to undermine the quest for sustainability. Equity considerations need to be incorporated in regional and global policies, aiming towards a supportive international economic environment. There is, I believe, broad consensus that the major priority must concern the raising of the level of welfare of the people taking, however, into serious consideration the natural environment and all other factors which make up the essential quality of life.
Our success will depend on whether we will be able to create conditions of equitable terms of exchange between the various nations; and on whether we will alter the role of government as we have known it, in order to become sufficiently prepared to deal with the socio-cultural and political complexities the new development paradigm entails, through accountability, transparency, and credibility. We cannot ignore the positive side of the equation. The need for change has spread everywhere. Doha and Monterrey, the entering into force of the Conventions on Biological Diversity, Climate Change and Desertification, the agreement on Kyoto, present us with new opportunities. New partnerships have emerged. The concern for the environment has come out of the twilight zone. Grassroots initiatives are proliferating. People are not contended to go on being marginalized.
However, we do need to place much greater emphasis on the social, cultural and human dimensions of development, with priority on poverty eradication. This we cannot achieve without securing appropriate technical and financial support, at bilateral and multilateral levels, both from outside as well as from internal sources. We should also harness the international economic system and put it to the service of the real needs of people.
As regards our global partnership, our basic considerations should be to secure linkages and synergies between international programmes and processes, and a better integration of their priorities and objectives, which are not always convergent. We should aim to reach consensus on a system effective enough to strategically mediate between competing and conflicting demands, ensure inter-sectoral coordination, assist in the clearer definition of responsibilities and the roles of every actor, promote coherence in assistance, particularly at the regional level, building on the comparative advantages of donors.
We may have created high expectations for this Summit, but this was not a mistake. We are changing the coordinates of our final destination and the Summit is giving a new boost to the processes we have set in motion at Rio. Conflicts and hard choices are being tackled and, although not easy, we must reconcile differing concerns.
We should commit ourselves to our agreements, rather than calling on others to deliver. We should all return home with a shared understanding of sustainable development and inspiration to pursue existing initiatives with renewed vigour, to ensure a global environment conducive to human dignity. Conventional wisdom would, perhaps, dictate that change can only come slowly. However, we need to abandon this business- as- usual attitude, as it can offer no consolation to those less fortunate, defenceless and "invisible" who demand action, now.