His Highness Sayyid Assaad bin Tariq Al- Said

Representative of His Majesty of the Sultanate of Oman

at the
World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
3 September 2002

Mr. President,

Your Excellencies and Heads of Delegation, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Omani delegation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, 1 have the honour to convey to this august gathering the cordial greetings of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and his best wishes for the success of its deliberations. He commends the essence of the Summit, with particular regards to securing the welfare of present and future generations.

It is also my great pleasure to reassert His Majesty's call for concerted efforts by the international community to shoulder the responsibility for protecting ecosystems, sustaining natural resources, and eradicating poverty, hunger and deteriorating social and health conditions. These, in his view, are the guarantees for more stable and prosperous life for people all over the world in the beginning of the third millennium.

Sustainable development is not an entirely new concept, for it has been an integral part of cultures dating back to the origins of human civilization. Whether it is in the rationing of scarce water in communal springs or in the sharing of grazing lands, the scarcity or non-renewable form of natural resources demands the human society to judiciously exploit resources for the satisfaction of present and future needs. If any thing, what is new in the concept is the ever increasing challenges of achieving sustainable development in the face of an ever growing human population, the corresponding increase in demand for food, goods, shelter, social services, infrastructure, new production technologies, and the stress on the environment and natural resources.

Thus, more than ever before, governments, corporations and individuals have to find a means of striking a balance between the exploitation of available resources and the realization of national development plans on the one hand and maintaining a sound environment on the other.
It gives me pleasure to report that the Sultanate of Oman is fully committed to the implementation of the basic principles adopted in the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This is in accordance with our belief that such principles constitute a solid framework of global partnership and collaboration towards environmental preservation and the conservation of natural resources, which are central to sustainable development.

Remarkably, sustainable development is the backbone of the philosophy of the Omani renaissance and development plans. It is an imperative dictated by the location of the Sultanate at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, characterised by aridity, water scarcity and sparse vegetation. In this context, the National Conservation Strategy (NCS) for the Sultanate of Oman was designed to ensure that environmental considerations are incorporated in all aspects of development projects beginning from the conceptual to the execution stage. Furthermore, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), which has received cabinet approval represents the basis for the exploitation and consumption of biological resources in a manner that maintains a balance in the ecosystem.

These strategies also constitute the focal point of action related to the protection of the marine environment, prevention of marine pollution, safe handling of hazardous chemicals, combating desertification, protection of groundwater from pollution and effective management of all forms of waste.

In furtherance of the vision of sustainable exploitation of non-renewable resources, the long-range development strategy outlined in `Economic Vision Oman 2020' embodies an action plan that stresses sustainability through the diversification of the economy, so as not to depend entirely on oil reserves, but to strengthen other sources of income, especially agriculture and tourism to satisfy the demands of a growing population and development.

The sixth five-year development plan (2001-2005) of the Sultanate is strongly built upon the foundations of environmental safety, sound economic planning and social equity in the sharing of the benefits of reasonable exploitation of biodiversity One of the core approaches adopted for the realization of this goal is the safeguarding of habitats for rare and endangered plant and animal species, in line with the NBSAP
A second approach deals with involving the various communities in programmes and projects aimed at achieving conservation goals, especially by adopting environment friendly attitudes and sharing in the benefits of sustainable development.

The third approach concentrates on encouraging the private sector to give due consideration to environmental protection by adhering to laws and regulations to prevent pollution and other hazards that endanger the environment.

Having mentioned some of the highlights of the Sultanate's achievements in its commitment to the Resolutions of the Earth Summit, it is my privilege once again to call on this distinguished gathering to renew its commitment to addressing the litany of environmental and developmental problems that linger, especially in arid and semi-arid regions, three decades after the Stockholm Conference. They include the following:

First: There is a serious need to protect water resources and to ensure the quality of potable water through the establishment of water purification and wastewater treatment facilities in the developing countries. This is even more acute in and and semi-arid areas with depleting stock of surface and groundwater. These regions should be supported with the extension of international expertise for the provision of demand-driven country and
regional water management strategies in these areas. Moreover, we propose that this Summit include in its proceedings the basic recommendations of the "Muscat Declaration" following the Oman International Conference on the Development and Management of Water Conveyance Systems. The Conference stresses the need to recognize the role of traditional water conveyance systems in the stability of agricultural communities as well as the challenges and difficulties faced by such communities. It therefore urges developed countries to transfer the relevant technology to developing countries so as to assist them to manage and maintain their water resources.

Second: We should all join hands to combat desertification and its consequent degradation of ecosystems and depletion of natural resources. This can be done practically by funding community experimental projects such as the bold reforestation projects recently initiated in the Dhofar mountains in the Sultanate. The project aims at the sustainable restoration of vegetation in the area for agriculture and livestock production in 2002. We hope that this experimental project could be incorporated into the events marking 2002 as the Year of Mountains.

Third: To prevent pollution and the loss of biodiversity, it is essential to implement regulations to ensure that reception facilities are provided for the safe discharge of oil wastes and ballast water and other wastes from tankers and ships in accordance with international conventions. The private sector in the Sultanate, in association with its counterpart in the United Arab Emirates, is in the process of establishing the first of such facilities in the Gulf region, in the Fujairah Coast.

Fourth: Considering the importance of protecting global biodiversity, we call for the expansion of protected areas by 20% by the year 2005, as well as the increasing of vegetation cover, especially in mountain areas, by the same percentage by 2005. This proposal can benefit from the expert supervision and coordination of FAO, UNEP, UNESCO, IUCN, UNCCD and CBD. The strategy should take advantage of the Year of Eco-tourism to also pay attention to the restoration of coral reefs, mangrove vegetation as major tourism destinations, which are capable of generating national income. Again, the Sultanate has taken bold steps towards the rehabilitation of mangrove ecosystems and the protection of coral reefs.

Fifth: It has become essential to deal with the adverse impacts of climate change by fully adopting international conventions and strategies regarding carbon sinks, reforestation, cleaner production technologies and cleaner development mechanisms. In this context, there is also an urgent need to implement the resolutions of the conference of parties in Morocco regarding the provision of support for developing countries towards coping with the impact of climate change on their dwindling economies. In order to support such aspects, it is essential for this Summit to pay special attention to the following proposals:

  • A reconsideration of standards and requirements for funding sustainable development projects in developing nations to ensure that such projects are of benefit to the countries.
  • The adoption of a comprehensive and workable strategy for combating poverty, particularly by encouraging developed countries to commit to fulfill and even exceed the 1992 Rio target of contributing 0.7% of their gross national product to support sustainable developments in developing countries.

  • Encouraging microeconomic initiatives such as banks for the poor, as well as micro loans from commercial banks as a means of empowering women and other minorities in rural and poor communities to participate in both local and emerging global markets.

  • Transfer of modern technology so as to bridge the gap between the developed and developing nations, in particular the preparation of strategies and programmes for capacity building, adaptation of suitable technology and dissemination of environmental awareness in developing countries.
At the end of this historic Summit we shall be looking forward to an era of re-invigorated partnership between industrial and developing nations, for we believe that such partnership is the key to achieving the ideals of global sustainable development. It is also the foundation for ensuring that the 21st century offers all of mankind an opportunity to fulfill their potentials.

Finally, it is my honour to state that the Sultanate of Oman will not relent in its support for joint efforts towards the creation of an atmosphere that is conducive to development, peace and security at national, regional and international levels. Once again, on behalf of my country's delegation, may I salute the organizers of this summit for their vision and hard work. May i also express our appreciation to the friendly government of South Africa for the warm hospitality they have extended to us during this Summit. May God grant us success in our collective endeavours, and may peace and prosperity reign all over the world.