GOVERNMENT HOUSE
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
 

Statement 

by 

H.E. Dr. Carlyle Corbin
Minister of State for External Affairs 
Government of the US Virgin Islands

World Summit on Sustainable Development 

Johannesburg, South Africa 
30 August 2002


Mr. President, Excellencies,

I have the honour of addressing you on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands. We thank the government of South Africa for its warm hospitality and excellent facilities for this Summit, and express our congratulations for the successful convening in Durban of the African Union in June. We in the Caribbean component of the diaspora are poised to play our role in this new era of African development.

Mr. President,

The convening of the 1992 Earth Summit served as a catalyst to heightening awareness of the interconnectiveness of the sustainable development continuum. Since Rio, the world has become increasingly mindful of the impact of human activity on the health of the environment of our planet, while also coming to the realisation that issues of poverty, economic and social development, protection of natural resources including marine resources, and globalisation must be interwoven into the fabric of our efforts to create a sustainable global society for the benefit of all of the peoples of the world. This Summit provides us with a critical opportunity to give new impetus to the implementation of the commitments made in Rio, Cairo, Copenhagen, Yokohama, Beijing, Istanbul, Havana, Nadi, Barbados and Monterrey.  We are all repeatedly reminded of the startling statistics on poverty and the urgent need for its eradication. To many, poverty is the single greatest impediment to sustainable development, and must be addressed through all means necessary. We recall the wisdom of our elder, the late Kwame Nkruma, that sustainable development means the development of the people. Accordingly, we concur with the expression contained in the Nadi Declaration on ACP Solidarity in a Globalised World, adopted at the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Heads of Government meeting in July, which reaffirmed the vision of sustainable development as being people-centred (with) best practices that would not undermine the prospects of future generations. We are also in accord with the view expressed in the Phnom Penh Platform on Sustainable Development for Asia and the Pacific in rejecting poverty as an acceptable human condition. We note with satisfaction favourable consideration of the proposal for the establishment of a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication. 2 Commitments made in the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Millennium Summit must be honoured, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) should be fully supported by the international community, beginning with the high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly on support for NEPAD.

Mr. President,

As a small island developing country in the Caribbean, we are acutely aware of the significance of the oceans and seas, and the central role that the marine environment plays in the sustainable development of small island countries, as reflected in the Secretary General's 2002 Report.  To this end, we welcome support for U.N. resolutions on "promoting an integrated management approach to the Caribbean Sea area in the context of sustainable development, " and express our gratitude to the U.N. Environment Programme for its capacity building exercises on the impact of climate change in our region, and its Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based activities. Sea level rise and ocean heat content continue to threaten small island shorelines, and in a number of cases, endanger the very
existence of countries. The impact on fresh water quality and availability as a result of climate change is of major concern. We applaud the Pacific Islands Forum which adopted in Fiji this month the comprehensive "Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy" calling for "urgent action to reduce greenhouse emissions and for further commitments in the future by all emitters. " The Forum also reiterated their grave concern - which is shared by Caribbean heads of government - for the shipment of radioactive material through our oceans and seas, and the potentially catastrophic impact of this practice in the event of an accident. As the Pacific leaders concluded, the oceans and seas "are the last great frontier and their conservation and sustainable use is vital to the well being and survival of the human race. " The preparatory process in Latin America and the Caribbean further highlighted small island concerns in reaffirming the continued relevancy of the Barbados Programme of Action and Agenda 21. The governments recognised that the continued economic, social and environmental vulnerability of small island countries "places constraints on the capacity of (these) countries to achieve sustainable development and regional economic integration." They called for the urgent completion of the vulnerability index for small island countries, and urged that the target of 0.7% of GDP for development assistance be met. We welcome the inclusion of concrete recommendations on small islands in the draft plan of implementation of this Summit, but it is only through the implementation of these measures that significant progress will be achieved.

Mr. President,

As a small island non-independent country, we have sought to answer the challenge of sustainable development given certain limitations of access to the international process. Many of our initiatives are carried forth in our Coastal Zone Management Programme which recognises that sustainable development can be achieved if there is a commitment to improve or to maintain resource conditions in consort with development initiatives. Our territorial legislature also convened in 2001 an economic development summit from which a draft sustainable development document was prepared. We have moved forward, in conjunction with our university and key non governmental organisations, with the development of the Virgin Islands Marine Park encompassing some 60 square miles. The private sector has contributed to the overall effort with the completion by a professional firm of a training manual to guide developers in the construction of sustainable tourism facilities, with this document published by UNEP.
We are concerned, however, that our marine park initiative may be compromised by recent action to remove from our jurisdiction over 30,000 acres of marine resources. In this connection, we welcome the recommendations of the U.N. Special Committee in June reminding the international community of consensus General Assembly resolutions in support of "the inalienable right of the peoples of (non self-governing) territories to own, develop, or dispose of the(ir) natural resources, including marine resources, and to establish and maintain control over the(ir) future development. ,  We ask that this mandate be respected.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, we thank the member States of the General Assembly for their support for observer status of the associate member countries in UN world conferences. We ask that our participation in the implementing programmes and activities be endorsed as well, if are to be equipped to further contribute to a sustainable future for all.

Thank you Mr. President