H.E. Mr. Girma Wolde Giorgis
President of the Federal Democratic Republic of

at the World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa, 
September 2002.

Mr. Chairman, 
Mr. Secretary General, 
Distinguished Delegates,

It gives me a great pleasure to express appreciation to South Africa and to the United Nations for the wonderful preparation made for this historic summit.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development is indeed a landmark event that presents us with an opportunity to go beyond verbal commitment to sustainable development. During the decade since the Rio Conference, sustainable development has become one of the priority issues on the agenda of the world community. We are now better aware of the close link between development and environment. We now also know with little abmbiguity that unless the two are handled in a mutually supportive manner, our planet will have little hope.

The overall assessment of the implementation of Agenda 21 reveals that a lot remains to be done. In some cases, the situation has even worsened. Inequality and poverty are on the rise and environmental degradation continues unabated. Moreover, increasing globalization of the world economy has unfortunately led to the marginalization of developing countries. The growing threat of HIV/AIDS is also a major obstacle to sustainable development. The result of all this has been not less but increased poverty.

Poverty is not friendly to the environment. We thus need to eradicate poverty in order to preserve our planet for the present and succeeding generations. Protection of our environment should not be viewed as a constraint to development, and nor should it be viewed a luxury which only rich countries could afford. This is a common challenge humanity faces. On the other hand, though the challenge is common, it is only fair and realistic that responsibilities, for obvious reasons, be differentiated.

Mr. Chairman,

It is impossible to ignore the fact that the world's climate is deteriorating as a result of green house gas emission, diminishing biological diversity and desertification and soil degradation. We must find global solutions to these challenges. Obviously, humanity does not lack either the resources or the technology to do this. We agree fully what is missing is the political will. It is our hope that this summit would indeed represent a turning point in this regard.

Mr. Chairman,

Due to unchecked population growth, widespread poverty and mismanagement of resources, Ethiopia faces severe environmental problems, including the loss of fertile land and forests, lack of freshwater, drought, and diminishing biodiversity, especially in densely populated areas.

For us Ethiopians our future lies in changing rural Ethiopia where 85% of the population reside. That is why we have given so much emphasis to agricultural transformation in our development strategy. That is how we intend to reduce poverty which is so rampant in our country.

The Government of Ethiopia is also re-doubling its efforts in combating HIV/AIDS that focuses on prevention since the pandemic is an increasing menace to the well being of our society and a growing obstacle to our developmental efforts.

Sustainable development has a particular significance for Ethiopia. We believe that environmental degradation is both the cause and effect of poverty and underdevelopment.

Various non-formal education programs are carried out in our country to promote better understanding of the relationship between the environment and human activity and the protection and regeneration of the environment, with strong participation and involvement of civil society.

At the continental level, we have renewed our commitment to sustainable development in Africa when we launched the African Union just over a month ago here in South Africa and in the context of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Mr. Chairman,

It is our hope that this summit will succeed in coming up with a plan of implementation which is both realistic and serious and which takes into account how little time we have to avert a disaster to the only planet we have. I am personally encouraged by what I have heard yesterday and today by representatives of countries, including those who are in a position to make a real difference. I am hopeful that this will be a summit which will be long remembered as a gathering which made a real difference in protecting our planet.

I thank you