His Excellency Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

At The World Summit On Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa.
2 September, 2002

The World Summit on Sustainable Development comes at a significant point in history, as the world embrace the 21s` century. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio in 1992, gave hope for a better future for humanity. At that Summit, world leaders made a solemn commitment not only to improve the quality of life globally, but also to save our ecosystems from further degradation. However, ten years after Rio, it is obvious that the hopes generated by Rio have not been realized and nowhere is this more evident than in Africa, where all the economic and social indices present a picture far more gloomy today than in 1992.

The major objective of this Summit, therefore, should be to undertake a comprehensive review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda-21 and to fashion the way forward. The World Summit On Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation document, which we shall be adopting at the end of this Summit, is an aggregation of our commitments in Agenda-21, the Millennium Summit, Doha and Monterrey.

We hope that the commitments made in these conferences will be matched by action sufficient enough to launch developing countries on a sound path of sustainable development. However, we believe that for as long as the external debt remain a burden, development would remain severely impaired.

Poverty eradication is not only one of the greatest challenges facing humankind today, but is also a pre-requisite for sustainable development. For us in Nigeria, and indeed, many African countries, the first step towards the eradication of poverty is food security. To eradicate poverty, therefore, we should eliminate factors that threaten our agriculture such as drought and desertification.

It is in this regard that we wish to call upon this Summit to urge the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to provide support for the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), by making GEF the Convention's financial mechanism. In the same vein, we call upon this Summit to support the African Process on Development and Protection of the Marine and Coastal Environment in sub-Saharan Africa.

As we gather in the ambience of this great hall, millions of people out there are dying from hunger and disease. Their deaths are preventable and certainly not beyond us to reverse if only we can demonstrate the will to act. HIV/AIDS and Malaria are major causes of these deaths, especially among the active labour force in Africa. The economic and social consequences of this are self-evident. Let us, therefore, renew our commitment to combat these diseases.
I note with satisfaction, that the plan of Implementation document we are about to adopt includes support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), which is anchored on the tripod of ownership, partnership, and responsibility. No doubt, there is a clear symmetry and synergy between NEPAD and the objectives of WSSD. l, therefore, urge the international community as Africa's partners in development, to support the provisions in the Africa section of the WSSD Plan of Implementation document, particularly the targets and time frames contained in the programme of action.

May I, at this juncture, present part of the declaration of the African Ministerial Council on Water adopted in April this year.

After noting various international events on improving the management and care for water resources, from Rio Principle in 1992 through to NEPAD programme, the Ministers express their concern in graphic statistical terms for the dire need for water in Africa.

The Ministers recognise the priority that should be placed and what has to be done nationally and regionally and what resources are required. Then, they resolve to promote action which will translate their goals into reality through local, national, regional and global efforts and partnership in development with enhanced resource flows. They call on the international community to work with Africa on this issue.

Earlier today, I listened attentively to the children of the world and their views on poverty, sustainable development and this Summit. As an African the worst indignity that happen to you is to be publicly criticised by your own children and grandchildren. Today, the children of the world have openly, clearly and strongly condemned the leaders of the world for failure to act collectively and positively in their interest and the interest of the world. We have to talk less and act more so as to earn the commendation of the children of the world.

Today, the whole world is with us here in Johannesburg as a witness to the solemn declaration we are going to make. However, implementation remains the bane of past similar declarations, with incremental gap between words and action in successive conferences. Let our success in Johannesburg be judged in ten years' time, by the action we take to translate the commitments made in this historic city a reality.

I thank you