to the Plenary Session of the World Summit on Sustainable Development
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,
May I first thank the President and Government of South Africa for their outstanding work in hosting and chairing this major event.
What we seek to achieve in Johannesburg is profoundly important to the world community. What we conclude here does matter and can make a vital difference. There is an enormous responsibility on all of us to play our part to the fullest both at national and international level.
At the time of Rio ten years ago, there was a serious food crisis in southern Africa. A potentially devastating famine in the region was only narrowly averted.
Ten years later, southern Africa is, once again, threatened with famine.
We are acutely conscious of the depth of human suffering, and the threat of famine, in the immediate neighborhood. The food security crisis in southern Africa is a very visible failure of sustainable development. My Government has allocated emergency funding amounting to almost 8 million Euro in response to the humanitarian needs of the region.
The present crisis is even more serious, as the countries exposed to severe food shortages are also bearing the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Our commitments must be grounded in the reality that for millions of poor people, particularly in Africa, the fundamental basis for sustainable development - a healthy life - has disappeared.
Recurring, serious food crises and the unchecked spread of deadly infectious diseases call in question the progress on sustainable development since Rio.
The threat to the environment continues to grow and economic growth has not been decoupled from environmental degradation. Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption persist in the developed world.
An environment that is compromised affects us all. But the poor are
Our Summit should focus on a number of over-riding priorities. I want
to stress the following:
On a national level Ireland has experienced rapid economic growth from the mid-1990s. We are working towards a fairer and more inclusive society sharing the gains we have made; and levels of consistent poverty have declined.
We attach high priority to environmental management and protection. Despite rapid economic development, our economy is now more environmentally efficient than it was ten years ago.
We are gearing up to meet our Kyoto commitment and prepare for the tougher action that is necessary to tackle climate change.
We remain adamantly opposed to nuclear energy and any expansion of the nuclear industry which in our view have no role in the pursuit of sustainable development.
10 years ago Rio provided us with a vision of sustainable development: our task is to realise that vision.
What we need now, and need urgently, is action.
Johannesburg must initiate the decade of action on sustainable development. We must pick up the pace and act with political vision.
As I said at the outset Johannesburg does matter.
It matters for the many, many millions who are poor and starving.
It matters for our children and for future generations.
Let us not fail in this historic task.