THE LEAGUE OF ARAB STATES
 

Statement

by

Mrs. Fatma Salah Al Din Al Mallah
Director of the Department of Environment and Sustainable Development

at the
World Summit for Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
30 August 2002

Mr. President, 
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

      It is a pleasure for me to participate in this important international gathering, which attracts the attention and interest of the whole world. The importance of this summit is derived from the fact that it discusses the destiny of this universe. It ties the past with the present and the future. It aims at evaluating the implementation of Agenda 21 and at presenting the challenges and priorities of the next two decades.

      The participation of this large number of leaders, politicians, officials, technicians, and interested groups from the developing and developed world is an indication of the positive outcome expected from this conference. These leaders are here today to assert their interest and renew their will to continue forward in the implementation of Agenda 21, on the basis of a common view of a plan of implementation to be agreed upon by the countries of the world, that, can equally address the interests of the advanced and developing countries. It should be implemented within an international institutional framework for environment and sustainable development that would lead to an equitable partnership between the developed and developing countries on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities and through enhancing cooperation and building partnership between countries, regions and groups.

      I would like to recall here the declaration of the Arab leaders during the Beirut Summit last March in which they affirmed their commitment to work with the leaders of the developed and developing countries to achieve sustainable development in the framework of common but differentiated responsibilities. The Arab leaders look forward to the World Summit on Sustainable Development to achieve stronger cooperation between the countries of the world to combat poverty and reach comprehensive development, the effect of which is expected to reflect on the different peoples of the world and on improving their standard of living.

      The League of Arab States has worked intensely in preparation for this Summit. The preparatory process was carried out in cooperation with United Nations Organizations, particularly the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), and the Arab Specialized Organizations, and with the participation of all the stakeholders from the governmental and non governmental sectors, parliamentarians, the private sector, and the civil society, including, women, youth and the media. The League of Arab States also endeavoured to promote cooperation with African countries and a ministerial joint Afro-Arab meeting was held to prepare for the Summit. The outcome of this preparatory process is presented amongst the official documents of this Summit.

       Since the Rio Summit, major accomplishments have been made in the Arab Region towards the achievement of sustainable development, particularly in the areas of education, health and improved standard of living. However, a number of obstacles continue to face the Arab countries in the long-term implementation of sustainable development. Examples are the absence of peace and security, the continuation of foreign occupation in some Arab lands, poverty, illiteracy, population growth, the debt burden, the and nature of the region, the scarcity of water resources and limited agricultural land, the moderate capabilities of the academic and research centers, in addition to the relatively recent experience of Civil Society.

       Based on the Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Development issued in Cairo on 25 October 2001, the League of Arab States adopted a comprehensive regional approach, through the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment and other specialized Ministerial Councils and in cooperation with international, regional and Arab organizations. This approach aims at developing a regional program for sustainable development. The League of Arab States looks towards the international community to assist the Arab countries to face the challenges and the obstacles that exist in the region. The League of Arab States welcomes the readiness expressed by the international community to activate the implementation of Agenda 21, the development objectives included in the Millennium Declaration and the outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

      The Arab Initiative for Sustainable Development aims at addressing the challenges faced by the Arab Countries to achieve sustainable development. It asserts the commitment of the Arab countries to implement Agenda 21 and the development objectives included in the Millennium Declaration and the outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, taking into consideration the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. The initiative seeks to enhance the participation of the Arab countries with the aim of strengthening their efforts in realizing sustainable development, particularly in the light of globalization and its impacts, as well as finding a mechanism for financing the programs for environmental protection and sustainable development.

      The Arab Initiative is a framework for the implementation of programs and activities using the available resources in the Arab countries, the relevant Arab regional and international organizations, and Arab regional and international financial institutions. The initiative will also be implemented through building partnerships with other regions, groups and international organizations and institutions, within the international framework for achieving sustainable development, and with the involvement of all the stakeholders at the national and regional levels, particularly the civil society groups, including the media.

          The Arab Initiative covers the following areas:

First: Peace and Security:

        The Arab Initiative aims at the establishment of a suitable environment at the regional level to support the efforts to achieve peace and security, including the termination of occupation and elimination of threats of aggression and interference in the internal affairs of countries, based on the United Nations resolutions, the principle of land for peace and on a just and equitable basis in order to achieve sustainable development. It seeks the protection of the environment and natural resources of the peoples under occupation and building the economic and social structures destroyed by the occupation.

       We call upon the international community to support these efforts and develop a clear definition of the concept of terrorism. In this regard, I would like to clarify that resistance of occupation cannot be considered in any way as terrorism, but as a legitimate action based on the United Nations Charter. We also call upon the international community to intensify efforts to prevent the possession and use of nuclear weapons and other mass destruction weapons and to declare the Middle East as a zone free of these weapons.

Second: Institutional Framework:

          The Arab Initiative aims at supporting and enhancing the institutional framework in Arab countries in the field of sustainable development, including the development and implementation of the necessary policies and legislations. The League of Arab States will endeavour to establish a mechanism for addressing sustainable development at the regional level in cooperation with all the stakeholders and relevant Arab and regional organizations. We call upon the international community to develop an international institutional framework for environment and sustainable development, that, would lead to the realization of a real and equitable partnership between the developed and developing countries, on the basis of the Rio Declaration, particularly the principle of common but differentiated responsibility.

Third: Poverty Alleviation:

        The Arab Initiative aims at supporting the plans of action and programs on the local, national, sub-regional and regional levels, particularly through financing small-sized projects and through technical and institutional cooperation, with the aim of alleviating poverty while giving women due consideration. We call upon the international community to support these efforts through the establishment of a conducive international environment and mechanisms that would alleviate poverty, particularly through the provision of the necessary resources to initiate the establishment of the International Fund for Solidarity against Poverty. Economic embargos on the countries should also be discontinued as they lead to greater deterioration in the living standard of the poor.

Fourth: Population and Health:

         The Arab Initiative aims at enhancing the development of integrated population policies and improving primary health services and enhancing programs of awareness for family planning and motherhood and child care, and supporting the efforts for the development of population health through the provision of clean water, safe food, sanitary services and the control of chemical hazards and all forms of pollution. We call upon the international community to provide the Arab countries with assistance to establish urban development tools in particular, the local programs of Agenda 21.

Fifth: Education, Awareness, Scientific Research, & Technology Transfer:

         The Arab Initiative aims at supporting the development of strategies and national programs for education and illiteracy eradication as a part of the strategy for poverty alleviation and also through support to the implementation of the internationally agreed upon objectives on education, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration. It seeks to encourage the transfer and adaptation of the appropriate technology in' the Arab region and developing the Arab capacities, and those of the institutions of scientific research and technology, to stand up to the challenges faced by the Arab region, as well as benefiting from the technical support provided by international organizations and institutions in this field and calling upon the industrial countries to fulfill their commitments in this regard as stipulated in the relevant international agreements.

        The Arab Initiative endeavours to support the development of a system of information and technology through integrated initiatives and the creation of a conducive environment to attract investments to the Arab Region in this field. It aims at encouraging initiatives to enhance the national and regional capacities in the field of environmental information, such as the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), and encouraging the programs of Arab prizes related to the environment and sustainable development such as 'the International Zayed Prize on Environment' and 'Sultan Qaboos Prize for the Protection of the Environment'. We call upon the international community to support these efforts particularly the development of programs and the capacity building related to Arab research priorities, especially in the area of sea water desalination.

Sixth: Resources Management:

         The Arab Initiative aims at encouraging the integrated management of water resources, including river basins and water catchments, on the basis of international law and existing agreements. This includes the development of legislation and the maximization of benefits on upstream, middle course and the downstream of existing activities. It asserts the need for protecting water resources, supporting the efforts to develop alternative water resources, and supporting the development and implementation of national policies and programs in the field of agricultural research.

         The Arab Initiative also endeavours to support the regional and sub regional implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification through the existing mechanisms in the region. We call upon the international community to support these efforts and the efforts to implement the strategies of the integrated management of coastal zones, to develop a regional program for the protection of biodiversity, and those to achieve sustainable development in mountain areas, to cope with the deterioration of the quality of the air in many Arab cities, to achieve sound management of chemicals, with special emphasis on hazardous chemicals and waste.

        The Arab Initiative endeavours to support the promotion of cleaner and safer production mechanisms and techniques, cleaner and more efficient utilization of oil and natural gas and the development of carbon sinks through aforestation and supporting Arab capabilities to implement the Multilateral Environmental Agreements and their mechanisms, including the provision of technical and financial assistance by the international community.

        We call upon the industrial countries to meet their obligations under international environmental agreements through the abolition of all forms of subsidies to the energy sector in their countries, particularly those directed to nuclear energy and coal and the tax bias against petroleum products, and the support of Arab efforts to strengthen the capacities of the Arab countries, including institutional and human capabilities to effectively manage disasters, including inspection and early warning systems.

Seventh: Production and Consumption:

           The Arab Initiative aims at the promotion of the concept of sustainable production and consumption patterns in the Arab region and encouraging the use of products that contribute to the protection of the natural resources. We call upon the industrial countries to limit the consumption patterns that are destructive to the environmental resources through specific programs for changing these patterns to more sustainable production and consumption forms.

Eighth: Globalization, Trade and Investment:

         The Arab Initiative aims at strengthening the competitiveness of Arab commodities and abolishing all forms of subsidies, assistance and barriers imposed by the industrial countries to impede the access of Arab commodities to the international markets. It seeks to create a suitable investment environment that would be conducive to international and regional institutions to increase the investments directed to the Arab countries.

        We look forward to the acceleration and facilitation of the accession of the Arab countries to the World Trade Organization and to enhance 
international efforts aiming at the diversification of their economic base.

         We call upon the international community to support the efforts of the Arab countries to avoid the negative effects resulting from globalization at the economic, technical, environmental and social levels.

Mr. President, 
Excellencies, 
Ladies and Gentlemen

        The Arab initiative calls for the establishment of an international partnership on the basis of the cultural and moral heritage to achieve the trend which the UN seek to establish, namely; the encouragement of dialogue as a means for reaching international concordance and consensus between civilizations and religions.

        The Arab Initiative calls for the support of partnership initiatives between industrial and developing countries as well as between developing country regions and between the states and the organizations of civil society and the private sector. These partnerships are to be fair and not selective and should not entail political or economic conditions.

        The implementation of Agenda 21 programs and partnership initiatives require the provision of the necessary and adequate funding, particularly through increasing the resources of the Global Environment Facility and in accordance with the results of the Monterrey Summit. We also urge the developed countries and the international donor countries to fulfill their obligations and commitments to increase official assistance to the developing countries.

       In conclusion allow me to convey to the Government of South Africa my gratitude and appreciation for the. facilities and distinguished organization of this Summit, which facilitated our work and which will undoubtedly strongly affect the outcome to be reached by the Conference.

                                                                                                                   Thank you.