H.E. Mr. Ion Iliescu
President of Romania

at the
World Summit on Sustainable Development 

Johannesburg, South Africa
2 September 2002

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to our generous host, President Thabo Mbeki and to the people and the Government of South Africa for making this World Summit possible and for having worked so hard to bring about a consensus on fundamental issues. Our thanks are also due to the distinguished Secretary General of the United Nations for having masterminded the sequence of events leading to this Summit by practically involving in the process the entire family of UN institutions and agencies. Through you, Mr. President and Mr. Secretary General, Africa proudly raises its head in a demonstration of statesmanship and effective leadership for the benefit of all mankind.

The key-words for our comprehensive and action oriented debate on the dynamics of sustainable development are implementation and partnership. I have a vivid recollection of the businesslike spirit and dedication that inspired our work on the visionary documents of the Earth Summit in Rio ten years ago, and of the enthusiastic response they elicited. Despite the frustration generated by some unfulfilled expectations, we have to admit in all fairness that precious lessons have been learnt since, and actual progress has been made in several important directions, particularly in building the conceptual, legal and institutional instruments for sustainable development world-wide. There is a new sense of realism now, tempered by experience, a better understanding of priorities, and a more pragmatic approach to the tasks in hand. The targets set in Agenda 21, post-Rio conventions, Millennium Declaration, and more recently the Doha Agreements and the Monterrey consensus provide a sound basis for our renewed commitment to specific action in line with the implementation guidelines to be adopted at this Summit. The proposed Earth Charter further offers a moral underpinning for political action. Considering the magnitude and urgency of problems that have been identified on the strength of solid scientific evidence and statistical data, we cannot afford the luxury of further procrastination: we know what needs to be done, we know how to do it, and we also know how to mobilize the required resources. The time for action is now! As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan highlighted the key word for all of us is responsibility. Responsibility for the vulnerable and the oppressed, responsibility for the planet, responsibility for the future. The challenging message of the children at this Summit was very significant in all these respects.

Experience has taught us also that governments alone, no matter how well-meaning, cannot cope successfully with the daunting complexities of the modern world in the era of globalization. National governments bear, of course, primary responsibility for providing good governance combined with rational risk management, and for intervening whenever the operation of purely market forces fails to deliver the expected results. But in order to link together the three fundamental components of sustainable development - economic, social, and environmental - we need a much broader, multistakeholder approach involving also private business, the scientific and academic community, various segments of the civil society, the media, citizens' groups and concerned individuals. In the process of completing the pilot stage of a UNDP-backed Local Agenda 21 programme in 9 Romanian municipalities we have found that the system of public-private partnership really works, and consequently we decided to expand the programme nationwide and to engage also in transboundary joint projects according to that tested methodology. Furthermore, the Summit on Environment and Sustainable Development in the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube River Basin, which we organized last year together with the World Wide Fund for Nature as part of the preparations for this Conference, indicated that there is a real interest to deal with common problems on a wider, regional level.

As a candidate for accession to EU membership, Romania shares and supports the political objectives that have been developed by the European Union for this Summit. I should like to emphasize in particular the wisdom of the proposal to take effective steps toward strengthening the institutional capacity for the implementation of the targets of sustainable development at both national and international levels.

It is gratifying to see that international structures begin to respond to calls from member states to bring more coherence into global action on sustainable development. At a time when humankind still faces enormous challenges, the United Nations provides an appropriate forum for meaningful debate and remedial action. That is why it makes sense to consider a significantly enhanced role for the UN Economic and Social Council, alongside the World Trade Organization and the Bretton Woods institutions in coordinating the main activities, at the outset of the twenty-first century. Their main goal should be a considerable reduction of poverty and of severe economic disparities, as well as the allocation of required resources for the effective implementation of The Johannesburg agenda on sustainable development.

Finally, I trust that the concept and practice of sustainable development should be seen in close correlation with the current concerns about national, regional and international security, as hopelessness and despair often provide the ideal breeding ground for all sorts of extremism and violence.

I share the idea of President Mbeki that the poor should not be condemned to remain forever poor!

The noble goals of sustainable development for all in an increasingly globalized world do not call only for solidarity between the present and the future generations but also for a new sense of solidarity among the people living today.

The peace of the world may depend on that!