H.E. Mr. Aleksander Kwasniewski 
President of the Republic of Poland 

during the High Level Segment of the World Summit on Sustainable Development

September 3rd, 2002

Mr President,
Mr Secretary-General, 
Ladies and Gentlemen!

Here in Johannesburg, in the Republic of South Africa, which has proved that one can overcome even the most dramatic past, develop new horizons and opportunities, our imagination and will to act must go beyond the borders of the countries we represent since the problems we are facing went beyond these borders a long time ago. Here, we must prove that we are not only the representatives of states, but also the members of the community of mankind, co-responsible inhabitants of Earth.

It has been ten years since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The documents adopted there were the expression of determination of the participants to equal the opportunities of the inhabitants of our globe to access food, goods and services, education and jobs, as well as health care. Regrettably, the efforts taken up to implement these lofty objectives have not been sufficient in the last decade and negative tendencies have not decreased but, on the contrary - they have got stronger. I mean here mainly the deepening division into the "rich North" and the "poor South", which is the result of many factors, but first of all it is the consequence of excessive concentration of production, investment and consumption in the north and too little economic activity and scarce resources in the south of the world. Although many people can enjoy life in comfort and wealth, the vast part of mankind support themselves for less than 2 dollars a day. Children dying of hunger, undernourishment, lack of basic health care - the list is long and sad. This existential and economic tragedy is followed by illiteracy, lack of education and of qualifications. The result of it is on the one hand the hereditary poverty, and on the other hand - the emergence of foundations for hatred, various extremisms, and finally - terrorism. After September 1 I th we all have realised it better than ever before and we understand better also the relations between economic, social, political and environmental factors. Pollution of the environment, poverty, violence as well as social and political conflicts are interwoven in the vicious circle from which it is so difficult to find a way out.

Today, declarations of readiness to counteract these threats jointly do not suffice. It is time for concrete actions. We all realise that it is necessary to take up harmonised and effective efforts all over the globe for the sake of stable economic growth, social progress and environmental protection in all the countries.

Poland bravely takes up such steps, although she herself has to tackle the difficulties connected with the system transformation. Since the breakthrough of 1989 we have done a lot to improve significantly our economy and environment. The centrally-planned economy, often indifferent to the devastation of nature and wasting the natural resources was replaced by the market economy - efficient, and at the same time sensitive to environmental and social challenges. The economic and environmental reviews conducted on cyclical bases by OECD in Poland indicate the sustainable progress of our country in the implementation of the Rio principles. We are a party to all important environmental agreements. We deliver on our commitments. I wish to inform you that a few days ago Poland ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

We support the idea to speed up the pace of the full implementation of the provisions of multilateral international conventions, in particular in the area of environmental protection, and the necessity to introduce the civil and financial liability for the wrong resulting from the violation of the agreements.

Our historical experiences do not let us be indifferent to economic stratification of our planet. The Poles know very well that global problems will not be solved by the erection of a new wall, behind which the rich will be defending themselves from the siege of the poor. Isolation and indifference to the problems of those in need would not only be ineffective, but above all - morally unacceptable.

And neither can these problems be resolved through violence or acts of terror, which must never be justified as a form of claiming the rights of the poor and the forgotten. We must remember that - according to the first principle of the Rio Declaration - it is always the people that are in the centre of the sustainable development policy.

Let us help those in need in such a way that they learn how to help themselves. External assistance has sense only if it mobilises the beneficiaries to generate their own resources for infrastructure, education, environmental protection, development of democratic institutions and civil society, if it lays down enduring foundations for coping with problems and if it serves growth.
A good example of such a constructive help is the foreign debt conversion of a given country into the investments in the area of environment. Poland, together with the countries of the Paris Club, has worked out an efficient system of such conversions. It has improved the condition of environment in our country and new environmentally sound technologies have found their way to the market. It is one of' the solutions that I wish to recommend here, in Johannesburg, as a valuable method of supporting sustainable development. Poland presents her experiences and innovatory solutions, especially in the area of financing environmental protection, to other Central and Eastern European countries. The environmental funds created there play their role effectively. Such solutions could prove to be effective also in developing countries if these countries ensured the institutional and legal frameworks for their adaptation.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

A very important thing is how to manage the globalisation process well. This process has to free its internal positive potential so that its fruits are more equally distributed and serve as many people as possible.

Tackling the problems of a global character requires not only international cooperation but also sagacity in seeing new challenges. Although we already know that catastrophic prophecies will fortunately not fulfil and the Earth is not threatened by overpopulation, we are facing today a new problem of aging societies. It is worthwhile to go beyond the economic perspective that concentrates on pension systems or consumption patterns, and see also the social phenomenon of marginalization of elderly people. Let us think how we could counteract this trend, how in the future we could use the experiences and competencies of elderly people in shaping the sustainable development policy.

In solving social problems, it is worth reaching for the experiences and achievements of many charitable organisations and churches. I would like to draw attention in particular to the thoughts of my great compatriot, Pope John Paul II. During his recent journey to Poland in August this year, he stated, among other things, that "one must not build a happy future of society on human poverty, on the wrong done to a human being, on the suffering of a brother." That is why, he proposed an expansion of the actions based on human charity, on the love for the neighbour. The point is that the structures and institutions aiming at the sustainable development of the world are not sufficient in themselves. We still need to awaken human sensitivity, to shape such civic attitudes that are perceptive of the poverty and deprivation of other people that sometimes live in remote parts of this planet. And, indeed, the attitudes that release the spirit of solidarity among people.

The world expects from the Conference in Johannesburg a practical programme for transforming the commendable intentions and aims into reality. Many words, even the most right ones, but devoid of specific actions, or the will to overcome evil, provoke frustration, radicalism and even aggression. That is why, Johannesburg must send an intelligible signal that

-    to prevent environmental hazards
-    to prevent poverty
-    to prevent starvation
-    to prevent diseases

we know what to do, we want to do it and we shall do it together, in solidarity!

This signal is required not for the success of the Conference, but for the prosperity of all of us - coinhabitants of Earth.