Hon. Mr. Prem Lal Singh
Minister for Population and Environment
His Majesty's Government of Nepal

at the 
World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
03 September 2002

Mr. President, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

          I express my delegation's profound gratitude to the Government and people of South Africa for the splendid hospitality extended to us here in Johannesburg.

          It is a time to reflect and recommit. Ten years after Rio, though awareness has risen and countries have taken some steps, the commitments of the Earth Summit remain unfulfilled and Agenda 21 remains unimplemented. Meanwhile, the ecology continues to deteriorate at a devastating rate.

          Today, the globe is warming and sea levels are rising, the ozone layer is depleting, many plants and animals are risking extinction, forests are receding, hunger is stalking 800 million people, and pollution-borne diseases are killing 3 million people every year. Both rural and urban areas have been affected. Clearly, this is unacceptable to the civilised world that has collectively had the capacity to change it.

          A few rich countries enjoy unsustainable prosperity built on ravenous use of resources such as water, fossil fuel and forests, producing acid rains and CFC gasses and threatening the very existence of animal and plant species on earth.

          Those people living on the edges of human existence in poverty and lack of alternatives have also contributed their share to environmental degradation. They have to cultivate marginal lands to feed growing populations and cut the forests to meet their energy needs, jeopardising biodiversity and public health.

          A least developed and landlocked country located in the fragile Himalayan Mountains, Nepal is acutely aware of the growing perils of poverty and environmental degradation. Our people have to largely depend on natural resources to make a precarious living; and changed global environment has been causing erratic floods and landslides, and threatening glacial lakes outburst in our part of the world.

          Thus Nepal has an abiding interest in sustainable development, which gives the mother earth a chance to live so she can nurture us, as the only escape route from the environmental nightmare that is sure to visit us if we did not act immediately. Our very survival and well-being is contingent on the sound global environment and healthy mountains.

          Nepal believes the greatest threat to sustainable development is poverty, which has also been a key source of many conflicts. Rich nations must help poor nations in eradicating poverty through capacity building, employment generation, and investment in education, health and drinking water. And they must open their markets by removing the subsidies and barriers inimical to free trade. It will be a worthwhile investment in durable peace for all.

          Poverty eradication is Nepal's top priority. We are engaged in accelerating growth, promoting social development and preserving the environment. Reforms are under way to encourage innovation and investment, to promote social development and to reinforce environmental policy and institutions. We have mobilised civil society and other stakeholders in this process.

          More specifically, the Government has set up a high-level commission on sustainable development headed by the Prime Minister and a separate ministry of population and environment. It has also introduced pollution standards, established several national parks and wild life reserves, expanded afforestation programs and made environmental assessment mandatory for all major development projects.

          Nepal is seeking to develop its huge hydropower potential as a clean source of energy and is promoting community forestry and eco-tourism with some success.

          However, these efforts remain under-funded and potentials untapped due to resources constraints, further compounded now by the imperative to fight the terrorism that is decimating our country. Without increased support and assistance from its development partners, Nepal will not be able to restore peace and implement its sustainable development programs.

          Many other developing countries, too, share in a similar plight. At this defining moment in history, I strongly urge world leaders, particularly from developed countries, to meet the commitments they have made regarding aid, debt and market access at this Summit as well as at the Millennium Summit and the Monterrey and Doha conferences.

          Particular attention must be paid to assisting the least developed countries like Nepal to implement the Brussels Program of Action and the initiatives agreed to at the WSSD process.

          In addition, wealthy nations must pursue sustainable patterns of production and consumption at home by developing environment-friendly technologies and changing their lifestyles. They should also take leadership in joining the Kyoto protocol to strengthen the global environmental regime for the good of our generation as well as of our children.

          South-South co-operation is a cornerstone for sustainable development in developing countries. In South Asia, the SAARC has recently adopted the Thimpu Resolution in this respect and as the current Chair of the regional Group, Nepal has the honour of putting that resolution before you.

          This Summit is a litmus test for world leaders' determination to fulfill their past commitments and to take fresh and innovative steps to ensure sustainable development that gives peoples hope and defeats extremists fomenting conflicts in poor societies.

          Humanity has a common fate today. We must ensure that this meet proves to be a giant step forward in fulfilling the promise it represents for our peoples and for our planet.

          Thank you.